During our Center Team retreat held last week, we discussed our latest assessment survey where we found that 34% of LLA’s are not permitted to access social media sites. This had been weighing heavily on my mind when Vanessa sent me a link to this article from CnnHealth.com about how YouTube is being used to push tobacco. The article was pretty interesting and got me to immediately drop what I was doing to go to YouTube to check out some of these videos.
As the CNN article reports, not all of the videos are professionally produced, but some are. There are a wide variety of videos – some from the 1950’s, some from the days of the Marlboro man and some from today, many of which are in languages other than English. All in all, it is impossible to say that they have all been posted by the tobacco industry – but does it really matter?
Hundreds upon hundreds of pro-tobacco videos are floating around in cyber space for teens to view at their leisure.
And what about Facebook? I thought I would check that out too – with more than 500 million active users, I wouldn’t be surprised to find pro tobacco pages there.
I was right. Altria is on Facebook, recruiting new employees to their “Altria family of companies.” Marlboro Reds is an interest category on Facebook with over 2,000 “likes”. There is a Marlboro page that won’t let me view it unless I give them access to my account so I can send “Marlboro gifts” to my Facebook friends, as well as a Marlboro product page with pictures of scantily clad women in Marlboro gear.
It’s pretty clear after just a few minutes of looking around; the tobacco companies have a huge presence on social media sites where youth and adults alike are spending more and more of their time.
Ironic considering that many LLA’s are either blocked from using most social media sites or they are hesitant to begin using social media in their current work.
Just think what the tobacco control movement could be doing on YouTube and Facebook to advance their message, if only they had the access and the know-how.