October 23, 2012

Health experts uncover pro-smoking smartphone apps

Young-woman-smoking-cigar-005.jpeg Researchers fear apps are a new way for tobacco companies to exploit loopholes in restrictions on their marketing activities. The Guardian reports.

quotemarksright.jpgHealth experts are warning that pro-smoking smartphone apps could tempt young people to start using cigarettes after new research found that dozens of them have been downloaded millions of times.

Researchers who uncovered the existence of such apps, some of which use cartoons, fear it is a new way for tobacco companies to exploit loopholes in restrictions on their marketing activities in order to promote their products.

Australian researchers, writing in the medical journal Tobacco Control, say they came across 107 apps that promoted smoking in some way when they checked the Apple and Android Market app stores in February, Sixty-five were in the Apple App Store and the other 42 in Android Market's equivalent. By that month a total of about 11m people used the 42 such apps held by Android Market.

Their paper "identifies a new trend of promoting tobacco products in a new medium with global reach, a huge consumer base of various age groups and less strict regulation policies", they write. The apps included images of particular brands, told users where they could buy tobacco products, provided cigarette brands' packaging to use as wallpaper on their smartphone and let smokers simulate smoking behaviour.

Others replace a phone's battery icon to an image of a burning cigarette, detail how to roll a cigarette or defend smokers' rights.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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