Tobacco industry's use of social media "requires global plan"

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Member States in support of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are preparing to meet in New Delhi. Photo: WHO/S. Volkov

The use of the internet to promote cigarettes has been identified as one of the biggest challenges to global efforts to reduce smoking, UN health experts said Monday.

In a call for action ahead of an international meeting on tobacco control, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that countries should work more closely together to regulate cross-border advertising on the world wide web.

The issue is just one of those up for discussion by supporters of WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), who are preparing to meet in a week's time in New Delhi.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) says the tobacco industry is "searching for loop-holes and cracks" in internet advertising regulations so it can sell its products.

Here's Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, from the Convention – an international treaty which came into force in 2005:

"Nowadays you can simply download a film from the internet and watch people smoking …and showing it as a regular normal social behaviour totally changes the landscape from the advertisement of tobacco products…"

For Dr Silva, the continuing growth of social media has made it possible for the tobacco industry to target new young audiences.

She believes that only a unified, international approach on regulating how multinational cigarette companies market their products online will limit tobacco consumption.

Such collective action could be decided next week in New Delhi, when all 180 parties to the tobacco control treaty discuss how to implement measures at a country level.

Measures to restrict the use of so-called water-pipes and flavoured tobaccos are also likely to be discussed in the Indian capital, as evidence shows that they are up to 100 times more harmful than regular cigarettes.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'21"


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