Big Tobacco goes App

Dec 19, 2012

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Tobacco companies never rest. After being banned from advertising to kids by traditional methods, some companies are getting around the ban by developing smartphone apps that glorify smoking in an attempt to encourage kids to smoke.

A study by Australian researchers found 107 pro-smoking apps which feature cartoon characters and simple games that are attractive to kids. Some apps are simply pitches for certain brands, including information on where to buy. And even more ironic, some of these apps have been misleadingly classified under the category of health and fitness.

Armando Peruga, program manager for the World Health Organization’s Tobacco-Free Initiative, said this: “I was taken aback by a game that’s called ‘Puff, Puff, Pass,’ which is an application that’s a cartoon game where the user must click on game characters to order them to smoke and pass the cigarette to the other characters. And the user collects points if he or she continues passing
cigarettes in the same sequence at a fast pace.  Obviously, that can only be directed at younger kids.”

The World Health Organization Convention on Tobacco Control bans all advertising and promotion of tobacco products in the media in countries that have signed the treaty. The authors of the study believe that these apps violate that ban.

Tobacco companies need to act responsibly.  This is a blatant attempt to glorify smoking. Parents might not look closely at the content of such apps before buying them since they are disguised as a game.

We understand that parents can’t (and shouldn’t) hover over their kids 24/7. That’s why we made the App Manager for Android, which lets parents block all app downloads until they’ve had a chance to review them.

I work for Net Nanny. The opinions expressed here are my own.