November 4, 2012
Researchers Discover Over 100 Pro Smoking Apps Available
A new study by public health researchers in Australia discovered that there are over 100 different mobile applications that could end up hooking smokers who have quitted in the past or bring in new smokers.
According to the Toronto Star, the study stated that the apps show pro-smoking content and cigarette images. This content can be seen by millions of users, some of which may be children and teens. The findings of the study were recently published in the British Medical Journal.
“Some of these apps are trying to deliver the message of ‘If you are new in this world, we are here to guide you,’ ” commented the study’s lead researcher Nasser BinDihm, a member at the University of Sydney in Australia, in an article by the Toronto Star.
The scientists searched through the Apple App Store and the Android Market for pro-smoking apps during the project, which was conducted in February 2012. They utilized key words like “cigarette,” “cigar,” “smoke,” “smoking,” and “tobacco.” Through the study, the team of investigators discovered that here were 107 pro-smoking apps. They categorized these apps into six different groups based on their functionality. Of the 107 apps, 42 were from the Android Market and were downloaded by more than six million users.
The apps have different features. Some apps include virtual cigarettes for users to utilize by blowing on a cell phone’s microphone or provide a virtual ashtray, while other include games and explanations of different cigarette brands. One of the apps even helps individuals find nearby tobacco stores.
“There is now well-established evidence from many studies that children’s exposure to pro-smoking messages and images is linked to increasing the likelihood to initiate smoking in adulthood,” continued BinDihm in the Toronto Star article. “For smokers who are attempting to quit, the exposure is linked to initiate craving to smoke.”
The study comes at a crucial time as more and more people are using mobile devices. According to the Australian researchers, smartphone use is exponentially growing and currently includes 6 billion users. With such a wide amount of use, cell phones act as the perfect marketing vehicles for consumers at any location, at any hour of the day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the cigarette industry spends billions annually on advertising and promotions. In 2008, the industry spent $9.94 billion, which equals to $27 million spent per day.
Furthermore, thousands of young people begin smoking every day; 3,800 individuals younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette every day. Along with the number of people who pick up smoking, there are those who want to quit as well; approximately 592 percent of smokers tried to quite the habit in 2010.
“Tobacco products are being promoted in the new ‘Smartphone app’ medium which has global reach, a huge consumer base of various age groups and underdeveloped regulation. The paper also provides two examples of app store responses to country-specific laws and regulations that could be used to control the harmful contents in the app stores for individual countries,” concluded the authors in the article.
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