You may have seen news reports this week about a petition to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from major public health groups to stop 4 major tobacco companies from using deceptive social media ads to target young people. An international team of researchers, led by a professor from the University of Southern California found evidence of highly sophisticated and deceptive campaigns using social media posts on Instagram and Facebook to influence young people to smoke.
The study finds that posts and hashtags connected with tobacco industry products have been viewed 8.8 billion times in the U.S. The companies use paid and unpaid ‘influencers’ and ‘public opinion formers’ to deceptively market their products. The petition asserts that tobacco companies are violating federal law. The practices certainly belie the industry’s promises to stop inducing young people to smoke and their claims that ‘We’ve changed’.
More than 1,000 people under the age of 18 begin smoking every day, and many of them will become addicted to tobacco. The tobacco industry knows that if they can get people to start smoking their brand while young, they will have a customer for life. And, despite promises to the contrary, they don’t show any real concern that the young smokers’ lives may well be plagued by the many dreadful illnesses caused by their products. Let’s hope the FTC takes the steps needed to protect our children. If not, I plan to write the FTC and make my feelings known. How about you?
Mike Burke, Ed.D