Switzerland's Youth in the Crosshairs of Big Tobacco's Social Media Onslaught

An innovative report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has highlighted aggressive social media marketing tactics employed by tobacco giants like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, also significantly impacting Swiss youth.

The #SponsoredbyBigTobacco report details an alarming 3.4 billion views of tobacco and nicotine product promotions across major platforms like Instagram, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and TikTok, with campaigns for products like Velo, Vuse, and IQOS having reached more than 385 million people globally. Out of those, a staggering 150 million were youth under 25 and 16 million teens under 18. Examples of social media marketing by BAT Switzerland and Velo Switzerland are shown in the report as well.

Strikingly, 37% of influencers peddling these tobacco products are from creative sectors, like music and art, followed by fashion and lifestyle creators, extending the industry’s reach into the very heart of youth culture. These efforts blatantly violate Facebook and Instagram's policies against tobacco advertising, raising questions about the enforcement of these rules by Meta.


Yolonda C. Richardson, president, and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, emphasizes the need for urgent government intervention to curb online tobacco marketing, holding social media companies accountable for the content on their platforms. She states, "Tobacco companies are among the most sophisticated advertisers in the world – marketing that reaches millions of kids does not happen by accident."

“The findings of this report are a wake-up call,” asserts Yolonda C. Richardson. “It’s evident that Big Tobacco’s sophisticated advertising machine is in full swing on social media, deliberately targeting millions of young people. This demands immediate and robust action from governments and social media firms alike.”


Summary of brand marketing on social media platforms from January 2018 to October 2023

As the global community brace for the upcoming WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in February 2024 meeting in Panama, there is an urgent need for decisive action. The convention presents an opportunity to establish stringent guidelines against cross-border digital advertising, a crucial step in safeguarding youth from the pervasive reach of tobacco and nicotine marketing on social media. Unfortunately, in Switzerland, we lack precise data on the scope of online marketing to fully understand and tackle the tactics applied by tobacco companies.

For a comprehensive understanding of these pressing issues and their impact on young Swiss lives, the full report can be accessed at: tfk.org/2023socialmediareport

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