The American Legacy Foundation’s ’truth’ youth smoking-prevention campaign saved far more money than it cost and was credited with preventing nearly half a million teens from starting to smoke, according to a new study.

Researcher Matthew Farrelly, Ph.D., and colleagues from the RTI International’s Public Health Policy Research Program estimated that the $245 million spent on ’truth’ television ads saved up to $5.4 billion in tobacco-related health costs by preventing 450,000 people ages 15 to 24 from smoking. “Given the substantial lifetime health and economic burden of smoking, preventing adolescents and young adults from beginning to smoke is a smart investment in public health,” Farrelly said.

The authors also calculated that for every $544 spent on the campaign, one fewer adolescent started smoking. “It is indeed gratifying to know that a growing body of research continues to prove that, even over time, the campaign remains remarkably relevant to teens’ lives and effective in promoting healthy, educated choices when it comes to tobacco use,” said Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation.

The study, funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was published in the online edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.