Study Reveals The Tobacco Industry Turns to Social Media to Hook New Consumers
Facebook and Instagram are the platforms most used by this sector to promote electronic cigarettes and tobacco heaters as “healthier” or “life-saving” tools.
This contravenes article 13 of the Framework Convention of the World Health Organization for Tobacco Control, which recommends prohibiting all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
Despite being prohibited by the General Law for Tobacco Control approved by the Mexican Congress, as well as by the World Health Organization (WHO), the tobacco industry has intensified its presence on social networks to advertise, promote and sponsor its products, especially electronic cigarettes by presenting them as "healthier" than traditional cigarettes, in order to hook new consumers.
This is revealed by the Tobacco Enforcement and Reporting Movement (TERM) study by Vital Strategies, the global organization that works with more than 40 governments around the world in the design of policies to protect public health, and whose document specifies that more than two-thirds of tobacco marketing were observed on Facebook (68%), which is the most popular and actively used platform in Mexico, followed by Instagram (30%)
Benjamín González Rubio, Communications Manager of Vital Strategies, expressed in this regard that when people, especially young people, are exposed to tobacco advertising, they are more likely to start consuming it. Therefore, he stressed that it is essential to monitor online tobacco advertising to identify when and how the tobacco industry evades existing regulations on this matter.
About the TERM report, he said that 498 cases of tobacco advertising were observed; most of it was for e-cigarettes. The rest went to cigars, with some going to Philip Morris's heated tobacco product, IQOS.
“This issue is delicate if we consider that in Mexico more than 63,000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases; that is, more than 170 a day. In our country there are more than 14 million smokers, and the most unfortunate thing is that 6 percent of those consumers, almost a million, are adolescents," he said and reported that treating smoking-related diseases has a cost for the public treasury. 116 billion pesos annually.
In the aforementioned study, it was observed that the main players in the tobacco industry in social networks are the accounts of online electronic cigarette stores, such as eicg_depot, Kapital Smoke & Vapor, and La Vaperia Vape Shop, which sell many brands of electronic cigarettes. imported.
While the cigar brands Te-Amo and A. Turrent, both from the family business Nueva Matacapan de Tabacos S.A. de C.V., were actively marketed through the official accounts of the brand. Meanwhile, Philip Morris International's IQOS was the only brand of heated tobacco products actively marketed.
Regarding the marketing tactics they use, the report finds that the majority of tobacco products (91%) were directly marketed with clear images of the product and few attempts to hide the intent of the ad.
This was more common for heated tobacco products (100% direct marketing) and traditional products (96% direct marketing) than for e-cigarettes (90%), which were also often marketed. through sales promotions that coincided with holidays (11%)
Regarding the messages used by the industry to position their products, since most of the marketing had the explicit intention of promoting tobacco sales, most of the messages promoted characteristics such as the taste of the product (71%)
Informative messages about how to use the products (electronic cigarettes) or about the company (cigars) were also popular (10%). Posts about e-cigarettes often used the hashtag #elvapeosalvavida and included claims that they are healthier than cigarettes because they do not produce secondhand smoke, and suggested that they are “lifesaving cessation tools”.