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Strengthened Guidance on Social Media Marketing Will Help Countries to Curb Online Advertising of Tobacco and E-cigarettes

Statement of Yolonda C. Richardson, President and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 13, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly every country in the world has agreed to newly strengthened guidelines on the marketing of tobacco and nicotine products to significantly limit how the world’s largest tobacco companies can target young people online. At the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), 183 Parties adopted measures that will help governments limit tobacco and e-cigarette marketing on social media and other forms of digital media that cross borders.

The decision is a significant step in the global fight against tobacco use, which kills more than 8 million people globally each year, and a blow to the world’s largest tobacco companies that have increasingly turned to social media to advertise their harmful and addictive products. A recent report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that advertisements for just three brands sold by British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International had been viewed more than 3.4 billion times on social media, with the majority of views happening on Instagram. More than 40 percent of the audience reached by the two tobacco giants is under the age of 25.

For years, tobacco giants like Philip Morris and British American Tobacco have abused the lax enforcement of advertising policies on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter to reach a global audience of young people. Tobacco companies have amassed a vast network of influencers to market products online, despite policies from platforms like Facebook and Instagram banning this form of marketing.

The decision from COP10 provides guidance to governments on swiftly addressing emerging trends in tobacco marketing and sends a strong signal to social media platforms that governments are paying attention to the content on these platforms. For too long, social media companies like Facebook and Instagram have been complicit in the egregious marketing tactics of tobacco companies.

Unsurprisingly, governments aligned with tobacco industry interests tried to hinder the adoption of these important guidelines. Tobacco companies have a long history of undermining the work of the COP and these attempts should remind all governments that the tobacco industry will stop at nothing to fight the measures it knows work to drive down rates of tobacco use and impact their bottom line.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids welcomes the significant actions taken by governments at COP10 and stands ready to support the implementation of these life-saving measures.