Anti-smoking campaigners unveiled plans today to use social networking and cinema ads to try to stop big tobacco firms luring in young smokers.
The Irish Cancer Society has created a fictional character representing cigarette companies to run the Teens Are Stupid initiative.
The campaign’s Corporate Tobacco Man is to appear on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Flickr from today with teens also urged to upload their own responses to the ads and their views on smoking.
He will also appear on his own website and in cinema ads.
Jane Curtin, the society’s spokeswoman, said the new-media drive would show how big tobacco firms need to attract young smokers to stay in business.
“In Ireland, the tobacco industry needs over 50 young people to start smoking every day to remain viable,” she said.
Statistics from the Irish Cancer Society estimate 15% of 12-17-year-olds smoke and about 29% of the population. More than half of all smokers start before the age of 15, and 83% start before they turn 18, the charity said.
The main focus of the campaign is to stop teens taking up the habit or encourage those who have to quit.
Ms Curtin said the ad campaign will show how young people can take up a dangerous and expensive addiction to nicotine and a lifelong habit that often leads to ill-health and premature death.
The new drive also includes special art installations one of which features a teenage girl mannequin that will appear in shopping centres from tomorrow. She is trapped in a glass box full of smoke, with a handle on the inside of the box allowing her to free herself but she doesn’t – like many people who continue to smoke, the society said.
The charity said it is placing a major focus on reducing the number of teenagers starting to smoke.