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The findings were published online and detailed in a petition sent to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), by nine leading public health and medical groups. Netnografica LLC, a US-based consumer research and consulting firm specializing in online research, conducted interviews with young social media influencers who claim that tobacco companies have been paying them to advertise cigarettes on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

These campaigns are violating the social media platforms’ own regulations, which forbid paid advertising for tobacco products.
These social media campaigns have been documented in countries where advertising tobacco is banned, and of course such campaigns are bypassing these social media platforms’ own regulations which forbid paid advertising for tobacco products.

The investigation documents over 100 social media campaigns by multinational tobacco giants Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Imperial Brands.

These reports will certainly be a blow to the tobacco companies who have been doing their best to promote themselves as in favour of harm reduction. In fact in recent months, leading cigarette manufacturer PMI, has been famously claiming that it wants to eradicate smoking, setting the date for phasing out its cigarettes from the UK market at 2030.

The world’s major tobacco companies caught violating their own internal standards

The interviewed influencers said that they are trained on what cigarette brands to promote, when to post pictures for maximum exposure, how to take photos that seem natural and non-staged, and what hashtags to use.
On the other hand, the interviewed social media influencers said that they are trained on what cigarette brands to promote, when to post pictures for maximum exposure, how to take photos that seem natural and non-staged, and what hashtags to use. An article on Marketing, pointed out that the investigation also indicated that the world’s four major tobacco companies are violating their own marketing standards.

“These standards state that the companies will not engage in viral marketing (British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands) or covert marketing where it is not explicitly clear that cigarettes are being advertised (British American Tobacco), require age verification in online ads (Japan Tobacco International), and will engage in marketing that is “honest and accurate” (Philip Morris International),“ explained the piece.

Several health entities sign petition against Big Tobacco

The petition sent to the FTC was filed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Truth Initiative and Vital Strategies.

“Tobacco companies proclaim that they don’t target kids, but this investigation shows they are doing the exact opposite – and doing so with a level of sophistication that threatens to addict a new generation and set back progress in reducing smoking around the world,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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