August 26, 2010 - The tobacco industry may be using websites such as YouTube to get around a ban on advertising cigarettes, a study finds. Researchers in New Zealand studied the video-sharing site and found a number of pro-tobacco videos "consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies".
PAPER: Connecting world youth with tobacco brands: YouTube and the internet policy vacuum on Web 2.0, Lucy Elkin, George Thomson (firstname.lastname@example.org), Nick Wilson, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand, Tob Control doi:10.1136/tc.2010.035949, ABSTRACT..
The researchers searched for five tobacco brands and analysed the first 20 pages of video clips containing any reference to the firms. The content studied had been uploaded by users.
The authors analysed 163 clips. Almost three-quarters of the content studied was classified as "pro-tobacco" with less than 4% classified as "anti-tobacco". The dominant brand on YouTube was Marlboro, they said. Ken Garcia, spokesman for Marlboro-makers Philip Morris USA, said the firm did not "post cigarette brand marketing on YouTube".
Dr George Thomson, one of the authors of the study told BBC News, "We can see no functional difference between exposure to tobacco in movies outside the internet, and exposure to video and film material on the internet. Generally, the more tobacco is normalised, the more kids will take it up."
Amanda Sandford, research manager at the UK anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said the study's findings were "disturbing but fairly typical of tobacco industry activity". "As soon as one avenue of promotion is closed, companies will seek out alternative means of promoting their product and will do anything to get round advertising restrictions," she told BBC News. "It indicates that their key audience is young people. There is a need for much stronger control over what appears on the internet."
References: YouTube clips push tobacco: study,Agence France-Presse (AFP), StraitsTimes.com, 8/26/2010; , Tobacco firms' use of YouTube probed, International Union Against Cancer, UICC.org, 8/26/2010.
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