Five Smartphone Apps That Promote Smoking

Marketing cigarettes ain't what it used to be. But Big Tobacco hasn't given up on getting its message out.

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Marketing cigarettes ain’t what it used to be. Gone are the days of Joe Camel billboards and T-shirts or caps branded with cigarette makers’ logos. But Big Tobacco hasn’t given up on getting its message out.

A 1999 settlement banned tobacco companies from advertising outdoors or at stadiums but there’s another grey zone where the definition of an ad remains fuzzy — smartphone apps. According to the latest research from Australia, apps are loosely regulated, sold worldwide, and increasingly popular—all appealing features for cigarette makers. They’re even open to kids.

In their report, published in the journal Tobacco Control, researchers at the University of Sydney searched the Apple and Android app stores with keywords like “smoke,” “cigarette,” and “tobacco,” to see how many promotional apps they could find. They tallied up anything that looked to be pro-smoking — apps showing branded images or info about where to buy tobacco products — even if the product claimed to be an aid for quitting. The final count? More than 100 different mobile-phone applications that appear to promote smoking.

(MORE: And the World’s Top Smokers Are…)

It’s doubtful all the promos come straight from tobacco companies. The researchers, however, believe that some may. Speaking to Bloomberg earlier this week, author Nasser BinDhim said he finds it “suspicious” that smoking apps are typically released by developers who work under nicknames rather than business names, unlike in other industries. TIME selected five of the most creative pro-smoking apps described in the study, so you can judge for yourself:

1) myAshtray

Screenshot from iTunes

Most apps identified by the Sydney researchers were tools to simulate or mimic the act of smoking. In this one, users click on the screen to drop ash into the virtual ashtray.

Although the app’s download page claims it can be used to help to quit smoking, BinDhim and colleagues felt the messages that users receive when they drop ash into the ashtray might actually encourage smoking behavior. One such message: “Would be even better with a beer in your hand!” The scientists also say there is no evidence that simulated smoking can prevent cigarette cravings.

Screenshot from Android Zoom

2) Cigarettes

This app for Android gives tar and nicotine specs, photos of packaging, and a list of global availability for major cigarette brands from all over the world. Helpful, perhaps, if you’re visiting Estonia and trying to figure out which smokes to buy.

Don’t underestimate how global the market for smartphone apps has become. Today there are more than 6 billion mobile phones worldwide and while most of those are not smartphones, the number of smartphone users continues to rise. In rich countries, like the U.S., the U.K, and Australia, more than one third of mobile phones are already app-ready, according to the new study.

3) Puff Puff Pass

Screenshot from iTunes

In this cartoon game, players click on a character to make the virtual person smoke. You win points for passing the cigarette (or the pipe, or the cigar — you choose) quickly between characters in a designated order.

There’s strong evidence that smoking in movies can encourage kids to smoke more. A cartoon game with lots of smoking may have the same effect.

Screenshot from Android Pit

4) Cigarette Battery Widget

This app uses a cigarette icon to show you how much battery power remains on your smartphone. It’s simple and requires very little engagement from users. But it can still be a constant reminder of cigarettes, and smoking. So far, this app has been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

5) CRA — Cigar Rights of America

Screenshot from iTunes

Cigar Rights of America is an advocacy group that will petition various local, state, and federal governments to “protect the freedoms of cigar enthusiasts,” according to the group’s website. This app lets users stream audio and video related to cigar regulation, and gives updates on news, events, and ways to get involved with the group.

Given this latest research on the number of smoking promotions now available in app stores, it may not be long before CRA finds itself with a new legal battle to address: the rights of the virtual cigar smoker.

MORE: Largest-Ever Survey on Global Tobacco Use Issues Dire Warnings

11 comments
alyosha.chan
alyosha.chan

The one whom is promoting cigarettes should beware of the last few years of their life!  The inflict and incur health damage to millions of people.  I hope that the cigarettes industry people will in the last few years of their life, suffer a slow and painful death.

MikeMorgan
MikeMorgan

Cigarettes were still legal tobacco products producing billions in big government tax revenue last time I checked. Electronic cigarettesare the future of avoiding tobacco, nicotine & odor, so see http://ecigwerks.blogspot.com/ for more.

DuranMancini
DuranMancini

Heather said I am dazzled that a stay at home mom can make $8350 in one month on the network. did you look at this(Click on menu Home)

K.J.
K.J.

What a ridiculous article and summation. It does demonstrate how long a bow someone will draw to convince us that such menial pieces such as the Apps will induce people to smoke absolute bias , prejudice and the promotion of a one sided argument.

JohnDavidson
JohnDavidson

JOINT STATEMENT ON THE RE-ASSESSMENT OF THE TOXICOLOGICAL TESTING OF TOBACCOPRODUCTS" 7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18November 2004.http://cot.food.gov.uk/pdfs/cotstatementtobacco0409"5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complexchemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (suchas cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) wasunknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were notestablished. The best information related to tobacco smoke - induced lungcancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. TheCommittees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would bevery difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoringapproach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-pointsdetermined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden oftobacco-induced adverse disease."In other words ... our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can't evendesign a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact ... we don't even know howtobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the firsthand theory.

JohnDavidson
JohnDavidson

If you’re afraid of second-hand smoke, you should also avoid cars,restaurants…and don’t even think of barbecuing.here are just some of the chemicals present in tobacco smoke and what elsecontains them:Arsenic, Benzine, Formaldehyde.Arsenic- 8 glasses of water = 200 cigarettes worth of arsenicBenzine- Grilling of one burger = 250 cigarettesFormaldehyde – cooking a vegetarian meal = 100 cigarettesWhen you drink your 8 glasses of tap water (64 ounces) a day, you're safelydrinking up to 18,000 ng of arsenic by government safety standards of 10nanograms/gram (10 ng/gm = 18,000ng/64oz) for daily consumption.Am I "poisoning" you with the arsenic from my cigarette smoke? Actually, withthe average cigarette putting out 32 ng of arsenic into the air which is thendiluted by normal room ventilation for an individual exposure of .032 ng/hour,you would have to hang out in a smoky bar for literally 660,000 hours every day(yeah, a bit hard, right?) to get the same dose of arsenic that the governmenttells you is safe to drink.So you can see why claims that smokers are "poisoning" people are simplysilly.You can stay at home all day long if you don’t want all those“deadly” chemicals around you, but in fact, those alleged 4000-7000 theorizedchemicals in cigarettes are present in many foods, paints etc. in much largerquantities. And as they are present in cigarettes in very small doses, they areharmless. Sorry, no matter how much you like the notion of harmful ETS, it’s amyth.

JohnDavidson
JohnDavidson

The use of the term RESEARCHERS is used very loosely when it comes to TobaccoControl.....................Its use is not only misleading but deceptive asthese so called researchers arent actually researchers but Tobacco controlunderlings creating Propaganda for the headlines. Time would do well toinvestigate the entire second hand smoke scam and the Tobacco controlprohibitionist movement instead of just rubber stamping any claims theymake!