UK & World News
Apps 'May Encourage Teens To Start Smoking'
Pro-smoking apps which are free to download could increase teenagers' risk of starting smoking, researchers have warned.
Researchers from the University of Sydney found that tobacco products are being promoted through 107 apps available at the Apple App Store and on the Android market.
They include images of tobacco and cigarette brands, and information on where to buy tobacco products, all of which may encourage smoking behaviour.
The researchers said the content violates the World Health Organisation convention on tobacco control, which bans advertising and promotion of tobacco products across all media.
One app, called Puff Puff Pass, is a cartoon game where the user must click on the characters to order them to smoke and pass the cigarette to the other characters.
"Pro-smoking apps that show that smoking is cool in a cartoon game, and provide a chance to explore the available cigarette brands and even simulate the smoking experience with high quality, free apps could potentially increase teens' risk of smoking initiation," the authors wrote in an article published in Tobacco Control.
Another app, called MyAshtray, simulates an ashtray and lets the user pretend they are depositing ash into it. After a few drops of ash, the app displays messages such as "Would be even better with a beer in your hand!".
The apps, which were identified in February this year, were available under the retail categories health and fitness, entertainment and games and lifestyle.
"These apps could also easily attract teens and children due to their high quality graphics and availability under the Game and Entertainment categories in the app stores," the researchers said.
They added that app store bosses need to explore ways to regulate content.
"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 authors conclude.
The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act bans press, poster and most advertising on the internet for tobacco products across the UK.