Researchers in New Zealand have found an extensive use of leading tobacco brand names and brand images on YouTube that is associated with pro-smoking content or smoking imagery. This is despite the obligation of 168 countries under a World Health Organization agreement to ban the advertising of tobacco. The study has been published in the journal Tobacco Control.

The researchers found that the YouTube videos contain tobacco brands that appeal to youth and normalize smoking. In addition, the videos featured the use of celebrities, movies, sports, and music, a tactic used by tobacco companies worldwide to market to youth, according to the researchers.

The study looked at 163 videos found in a YouTube search for five leading brand names. At least 71% of these videos had content which was supportive of smoking. While YouTube provides for the removal of material it defines as offensive, it does not currently consider pro-tobacco content as grounds for removal of specific video clips.

While tobacco companies deny advertising on the Internet, the significant brand presence on YouTube is consistent with indirect marketing actively by tobacco companies or their proxies, according to Lucy Elkin, lead study researcher from the University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.

“The Internet is ideal for tobacco marketing, being largely unregulated and viewed by millions of people world-wide every day. However, public and health organizations can request that YouTube at least removes pro-tobacco videos containing material defined as offensive under its present rules,” says Elkin.

Source: University of Otago