A study by researchers at the University of Sydney, and published in Tobacco Control, provides evidence that smartphone apps are a growing means of marketing cigarettes to children. Researchers found cartoons and games were usually associated with free pro-smoking apps, making them popular among children. In some instances researchers found explicit images of cigarette brands, such as Marlboro, used in the apps.

“It is deeply troubling that such a powerful and rapidly expanding marketing tool, one that reaches kids easily and cost-effectively, is being used to promote smoking,” said Matthew L. Meyers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The study states that providing children with the chance to explore cigarette brands and simulate the smoking experience with high quality apps could increase teens’ risk of smoking initiation.

Of most concern are smoking simulation apps, such as “Puff Puff Pass.” Users of these apps are encouraged to click on game characters to make them smoke and then pass the cigarette on to other characters. Another popular app allows users to smoke a cigarette virtually by holding the phone near the mouth and using the microphone.

The Apple App Store offers 65 pro-smoking apps, while 42 were found in the Android Market and downloaded by over six million people. The app stores, considered the world’s largest, offer many of the pro-smoking apps for free.

Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids