Health groups push tech firms to police tobacco marketing

Health groups push tech firms to police tobacco marketing (Reuters)

  • In a call to action against social media advertising of tobacco and e-cigarettes, more than 100 health, health advocacy, and anti-tobacco groups have co-written an open letter to the heads of popular social media platforms,
  • The letter follows (and cites) reports from Reuters and the New York Times on tobacco companies using young social media influencers to advertise their products online.
  • Philipp Morris defended the suspended marketing campaign, arguing that the letter was “trying to pressure us (…) to effectively block these channels” and was “in effect perpetuating the consumption of tobacco in its most harmful form: combustible cigarettes.”

Analysis & Comments

  • While social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat already have a policy prohibiting the promotion of tobacco products, influencer content is not covered by it.
  • However, regulating entertainment and social media channels is challenging. There is after all only a fine line between someone voicing their opinion online and someone promoting a products (one of the reasons the medium is so powerful in the first place).
  • As acknowledged by the WHO in a report on tobacco promotion on such channels, the ability to share posts “has blurred the lines between consumer and brand owner and poses a challenge to controlling cross border TAPS [tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship].”
  • This creates a loophole that has lead to e-cigarette products being promoted via (young) influencers online in the past, despite the FDA’s explicit requirement that the advertisements are targeted towards adults.

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