Social media plays role in youth smoking in some countries

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Social media now becomes a marketing tool. Even cigarette companies aim to exploit it. Targeting people on an individual level, social media allows organizations and companies to be much more specific and precise in accessing their audiences.

A sociologist from the University of Indonesia (UI), Roby Muhamad, said “technology had enabled companies to enter the personal scope of consumers. Due to its characteristics, which are personal in nature, social media allows an increased affinity, closeness or familiarity between audiences and ideas or messages contained in advertisements.”

Roby also told in a recent interview, that “With social media, advertisements or any kind of persuasion will become more natural. A person can be persuaded without feeling that he or she has been persuaded,”

Tobacco advertising is not yet prohibited in Indonesia, but it is limited by regulations. To prevent negative impacts of such advertising, the government has issued a regulation on tobacco control, which puts tougher restrictions on tobacco advertising in all forms of media. However, social media has created new methods for marketing campaigns. Through social media, people may think they are doing something of their own choice, not because of outside pressure, including that from advertisements and other media. In addition, social media is a system, which is intentionally built to convey corporate messages, in this example messages from cigarette companies. Therefore, any decision based on information it conveys is much closer to emotions, not something rational.

In such a situation, if someone decides to consume something, it has nothing to do with the rational calculation of profit and loss. But it relates to a social calculus, which means people do something not because this thing is beneficial to them or can inflict a loss, but more because other people like them will do this thing.

The widespread exposure of cigarette advertisements has become one of the main concerns of the government in its efforts to prevent a growing pattern of youth smoking in the country. The Indonesia National Commission on Tobacco Control said around 95 million people (around 38 percent of Indonesia’s population) are smokers and 20 percent of youth are using tobacco. Youth now start smoking younger.

Cigarette advertisements dressed up in various forms, from television advertisements, music and sports event sponsorships and marketing activities through to corporate social responsibility (CSR) events, have bombarded Indonesian youth. “It was since the very beginning that the tobacco industry was really aware that tobacco advertising was an effective tool to ensure that the industry could continue to run its business,” said the commission.

Cigarette advertisements are deemed to have played a big role in the establishment of consumerism. A psychologist from the University of Pancasila expressed“Many studies have proven that there is a significant relationship between influences that can be felt from cigarette advertisements and prosmoking information, and social environment exposure and smoking susceptibility,”

With such huge exposure to ads, people may not be able to determine whether they consume a product because they really need it or just because they want to keep up their image. This is because commercials convey a set of ideas that structure the way people look at the world, influencing people’s concept of reality.

The commission mentioned“It is proven that the cigarette industry has exploited children to become replacement smokers to ensure the continuity of its business, as has been written in their internal documents.”

Therefore, Teens must be aware that every person is prone to the tobacco industry’s strategies so they must be equipped with skills to reject prosmoking advertisements.

This article talks about the situation in Indonesia. As I know, there isn’t any cigarette advertisement on traditional media and social media in China. Also, I didn’t see any in the U.S. But all in all, this is a serious problem. Sometimes, teenagers are still too young to discern between right and wrong. Then, parents and schools have the responsibility to teach them how to reject the bad things, especially on social media.


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One Response to Social media plays role in youth smoking in some countries

  1. sydhavely says:

    You’ve put your finger on a highly relevant health issue as well as moral obligation of social media platforms and advertisers. Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer in the world. Let’s hope Indonesian authorities recognize the threat to public health such online advertising encourages and does something about it. Great post, Xingyun.

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