Industry now using smartphone apps, which kids can easily download, to promote tobacco

October 22, 2012

The tobacco industry is now using smarphone apps - a medium that has global reach, including to children - to promote its products, warn researchers in Tobacco Control.

The availability of pro-smoking content in app stores seems to be violating Article 13 of the on (WHO FCTC), which bans the advertising and promotion of in all media, say the authors.

In February 2012, they searched two of the largest smartphone app stores (Apple and Android Market) for the availability of English language pro-smoking apps, using the keywords: 'smoke,' 'cigarette,' 'cigar,' 'smoking' and 'tobacco.'

Pro-smoking was defined as any app that explicitly provided information about brands of tobacco, where to buy products, images of brands and cigarettes, and any trigger cues for smoking.

They found 107 pro-smoking apps. Some contained explicit images of ; others images that resembled existing brands. Some allowed the user to simulate smoking.

In all, 48 were classed as smoking simulation; 42 as shop/brands; 9 were classed as cigarette battery apps, which depicted a burning cigarette to show the amount of battery left; 6 as background wallpaper; 1 as advocating smoking; and 1 as providing information on roll-ups.

Forty two of the apps were from the Android Market and had been downloaded by 6 million people. The most popular Android apps were those for smoking simulation.

The authors acknowledge that some of the simulation apps claim to aid , although there is no evidence to show that this approach works. But these were included because they either resembled cigarette brands or because they were published under the headings of 'entertainment,' 'games,' or 'lifestyle.'

The authors point out that in 2011, the number of mobile phone subscribers had reached just under 6 billion—2.5 times more than the total number of —and that smartphones account for around one in three handsets in the developed world. Young people are particularly vulnerable, because of the popularity of smartphones among this age group, and the appeal of the apps, say the authors.

They cite the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, which, in 2011, found that almost half of the teens it surveyed owned a smartphone, and an analysis by the Nielsen Company, which showed that in the second quarter of 2010, US teen had increased their download app frequency to 38% from 26% the previous year.

Downloading apps from the Apple store does prompt messages about age restrictions when the content is smoking or classed as 'high maturity,' but there are no such warnings in the Android Market, say the authors.

"Pro-smoking content, including explicit cigarette brand images, is promoted in smartphone apps, which are reaching millions of users, including teenagers and children. App stores need to explore ways of regulating this content," say the authors.

And they add: "App stores have a moral (and arguably) a legal responsibility to ensure they have the infrastructure to comply with WHO FCTC and other laws restricting advertising of tobacco to minors."

Explore further: Plain packets will remove the appeal of smoking for young women, says UWS researcher

More information: Pro-smoking apps for smartphones: the latest vehicle for the tobacco industry? Online First, doi 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050598

Related Stories

Plain packets will remove the appeal of smoking for young women, says UWS researcher

November 10, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- As the world's first tobacco plain packaging legislation is passed through Parliament today, a researcher from the University of Western Sydney says removing the brands from cigarettes is an important ...

Study of cigarette and waterpipe tobacco smoking shows knowledge gap in perceived health risks

September 25, 2012
People who smoke both cigarettes and waterpipes – dual users – lack sufficient knowledge about the risks of tobacco smoking and are at considerable risk for dependence and tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer, heart ...

Mobile users say best apps in life are free: survey

September 11, 2012
Nearly 90 percent of the apps downloaded for use on mobile devices worldwide are free, and most of the paid apps cost $3 or less, a research firm said Tuesday.

Canada orders tougher cigarette warnings

September 27, 2011
Canada's tobacco manufacturers and importers on Tuesday were given until March 2012 to adopt new austere warning labels on cigarette packages featuring a woman dying of lung cancer.

Colombia bans sales of loose cigarettes, tobacco adverts

July 21, 2011
A ban on sales of loose cigarettes and tobacco advertising went into effect Thursday in Colombia, the health ministry said.

Recommended for you

Concern with potential rise in super-potent cannabis concentrates

July 21, 2017
University of Queensland researchers are concerned the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia may give rise to super-potent cannabis concentrates with associated harmful effects.

Findings link aldosterone with alcohol use disorder

July 18, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, demonstrates that aldosterone, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, may contribute ...

Depression among young teens linked to cannabis use at 18

July 17, 2017
A study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth, found that young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence.

Why does prenatal alcohol exposure increase the likelihood of addiction?

July 7, 2017
One of the many negative consequences when fetuses are exposed to alcohol in the womb is an increased risk for drug addiction later in life. Neuroscientists in the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions are ...

Researchers say U.S. policies on drugs and addiction could use a dose of neuroscience

June 23, 2017
Tens of thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses every year – around 50,000 in 2015 – and the number has been steadily climbing for at least the last decade and a half, according to the National Institute on Drug ...

Study provides further support for genetic factors underlying addictions

June 13, 2017
Impairment of a particular gene raises increases susceptibility to opioid addiction liability as well as vulnerability to binge eating according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.