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Tobacco Company Denies YouTube Stealth Marketing

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Tobacco Company Denies YouTube Stealth Marketing

By Adam Roberts for NZPA

Wellington, Aug 26, NZPA - British American Tobacco (BAT) has denied claims it uses video-sharing website YouTube to market its products, as research released today from Otago University claimed.

The study examined the video results for a YouTube search for five leading cigarette brands and found at least 71 percent of the videos had content which was supportive of smoking.

This was despite the obligation in 168 countries to ban all mainstream tobacco advertising, under a World Health Organisation (WHO) agreement which went into effect in 2005.

These videos included content and themes that would appeal to youth, including the use of celebrities, movies, sports and music.

The videos also normalised smoking, researchers said.

In a statement released this afternoon, BAT head of corporate and regulatory affairs Susan Jones said using social media in this way would breach the Smokefree Environments Act and its own International Marketing Standards, which apply to British American Tobacco companies worldwide, including New Zealand.

"We have a policy in place which stipulates that employees cannot use social networking sites to promote our brands and this policy has been widely communicated to our staff. We are not aware of any issues of non compliance with these rules."

Commenting on results of the study, lead researcher Lucy Elkin had said that while tobacco companies denied advertising on the internet, the significant brand presence on YouTube was consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies.

"The internet is ideal for tobacco marketing, being largely unregulated and viewed by millions of people world-wide every day," she said.

The study also found that 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.

However, public and health organisations could request that YouTube removes pro-tobacco videos containing material considered offensive under present rules, Ms Elkin said.

Governments could also implement the WHO's 'Framework Convention on Tobacco Control' requirements on controlling tobacco marketing on the internet.

The study was supported by funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand,

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