Tobacco companies accused of promoting cigarette brands online

Leading health organisations have expressed alarm at how the internet is being used to promote smoking. Tobacco companies deny using the online world to market their brands, but there is mounting concern that social networking sites are glamorising smoking, especially among young people. British American Tobacco (BAT) has been forced to conduct a damage limitation exercise after it emerged that several of its employees had established fan sites on Facebook for the company’s Lucky Strike and Dunhill brands, apparently without the company’s knowledge. Ash, the anti-smoking group, has also established that BAT hired an online marketing firm, iKineo, to promote the Lucky Strike brand in South Africa. Other tobacco companies have also looked to the internet. Thousands of smokers ā€“ who had to confirm they were over 18 simply by clicking on an online box ā€“ have accessed a website allowing them to design packets for new blends of Camel cigarettes, manufactured by the American firm RJ Reynolds (RJR). The resulting exercise saw the launch of a range of new packets that extended the Camel brand and saw it climb up internet search engine rankings. CYouTube also carries old cigarette adverts that would fall foul of the comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, recognised by 168 countries if they were aired on television. An analysis of 163 YouTube tobacco brand-related videos, carried out by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand, found that 71 percent featured “pro-tobacco content”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/oct/10/cigarette-firms-accused-promoting-online

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