Tobacco companies are reaching out to kids via YouTube, study says

Posted: 8/26/2010

From LA Times:

Tobacco advertising are strictly regulated on TV, and portrayals of smoking in movies continue to decline. Where can tobacco companies go to get their brands and products in front of kids?

YouTube, of course.

And apparently they are, according to a study published online Thursday by the journal Tobacco Control.

Researchers from New Zealand identified the 163 most popular and relevant YouTube videos linked to five global cigarette brands -- Marlboro, L&M, Benson and Hedges, Winston and Mild Seven. They found that 71% were pro-tobacco, compared with 4% that were anti-tobacco. (The rest were either neutral, contained a mixture of positive and negative messages or had no clear message about tobacco whatsoever.)

In addition, 71% of the videos analyzed showed people smoking a particular brand of cigarettes. About 18% of the videos included archival footage of old cigarette TV commercials (one 1961 ad featuring Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble smoking Winston cigarettes was especially popular). The next most popular categories were "celebrities/movies," "sports" and "music" -- all themes that tobacco companies have used in the past to appeal to children and teens, the researchers noted.

Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and other cigarette makers "vehemently deny advertising on the Internet," according to the study, and there's no way to verify whether they are responsible -- either directly or indirectly -- for the proliferation of smoking-related videos on YouTube. But there is some circumstantial evidence that the researchers found "disturbing:" Many of the videos appeared to be professionally made, and some included songs and images for which tobacco companies own the copyright, the authors wrote.

Original here