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Dossier #3


The tobacco and nicotine industry is utilising social networks to circumvent advertising bans and tap new markets

In a presentation aimed at influencers enlisted to help promote its new smoke-free products, Philip Morris warns: “Since the law is set up to prevent tobacco companies from promoting their products on social media, […], you’ll always be walking through a minefield of sorts.” This study explores the many new marketing methods, including the vast social network field, which offer the tobacco corporations countless opportunities to promote their products while aiming them at everyone – adolescents and non-smokers included. The manufacturers are utilising such platforms to circumvent the law in countries which prohibit tobacco advertising of any kind. It’s hazy and hazardous territory, though. Anyone caught promoting such products to an excessively obvious degree will be doing so at their own risk: the tobacco industry has long been adept at passing its responsibilities on to others.

Pascal Diethelm
OxySuisse President
Pascal Diethelm - OxySuisse President
Briefing paper

Briefing paper

Social networks: a whole new world for the tobacco industry to conquer

Young people are the prime target audience of the tobacco industry. Turning them into consumers is, quite simply, essential to the business’s survival. The barely disguised objective of every tobacco company is to lure young non-smokers (which they refer to as ‘pre-smokers’) onto one of their brands as early as possible, before their competitors do so. It is then a matter of turning these ‘apprentice smokers’ into regular consumers, addicted to a product and loyal to a brand. The tobacco industry makes use of all the marketing channels available to it to achieve these aims. In addition to the classic advertising media, social networks have now also emerged as new land to conquer. This virtual space, open, borderless and intrusive, is not subject to the usual regulations concerning targeted marketing. So as long as this regulatory vagueness remains, and the virtual communities continue to attract new and ever younger members, all the industry needs to do is fire off a few arrows to hit its target audience.

A campaign to expose the tobacco industry's manipulative tactics

To expose the tobacco industry's manipulative tactics, Transparency and Truth is launching a campaign on TikTok from May 31, 2024 (in French and German). Aimed at young people, the campaign highlights the absurdity of selling tobacco products with attractive aromas, despite their addictive nature and harmfulness to health. To illustrate this paradox, a captivating game of similarities is used, featuring, for example, a donut covered in nail varnish.

On the website, anyone can create personalized, funny and absurd videos to share on social networks.

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