Big Tobacco’s Global Reach on Social Media
New York Times
It’s been years since the tobacco industry promised to stop luring young people to smoke cigarettes.
Philip Morris International says it is “designing a smoke-free future.” British American Tobacco, likewise, claims to be “transforming tobacco” into a safer product.
But while the Food and Drug Administration weighs plans to cut nicotine in cigarettes, making them less addictive, Big Tobacco has been making the most of the time it still has using social networks to promote its brands around the world.
Most countries, like the United States, imposed rules back in the 1970s against marketing tobacco to youths; many have banned cigarette commercials on television and radio.
So the industry that brought the world the Marlboro Man, Joe Camel and slogans like “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” has latched onto the selfie generation’s screens in a highly adaptive way that skirts the advertising rules of old.
“What they are doing is a really effective way to get around existing laws to restrict advertising to young people,” said Robert V. Kozinets, a public relations professor at the University of Southern California, who led an international team of researchers examining the tobacco industry’s use of social media.