October 07, 2015 08:21 UTC

Science & Technology

Are Smartphone Apps Encouraging Young Smokers?

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Some of the apps even simulate smokingSome of the apps even simulate smoking
Some of the apps even simulate smoking
Some of the apps even simulate smoking


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From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report in Special English.
Public health officials say tobacco companies are avoiding a worldwide ban on advertising tobacco products to young people by using smartphone applications, or “apps.” The officials say some of the apps are designed to persuade young people to start smoking.

Armando Peruga works for the World Health Organization’s Tobacco-Free Initiative. He recently discovered one such pro-smoking app online.
“I was taken aback by a game that is called ‘Puff, Puff, Pass,’ which is (an) application that’s a cartoon game where the user must click on game characters to order them to smoke and pass the cigarette to the other characters. And the user collects points if he or she continues passing the cigarette in the same sequence at a fast pace. Obviously, that can only be directed at very young kids.”
Millions of people around the world now have smartphones, and many of them are children.
Researchers in Australia searched the Apple and Android app stores using words like “smoke,” “smoking,” “cigar,” “cigarette,” and “tobacco.” They found more than one hundred apps linked to those words. The apps included not only games and social utilities, but advertisements for tobacco products, and information about where the products could be purchased.
Forty-two of the apps were from the Android store. Together, they had been downloaded six million times.  

The most popular Android apps were those that simulate smoking. The apps let users smoke a virtual cigarette and produce visual effects of the cigarette being burned and smoked. Some of the simulation apps claim to aid in quiting smoking. 
Armando Peruga said the names of some of the apps are very misleading.
“These apps -- which are, the study identified about a hundred seven of these pro-smoking apps -- are classified under names such as health and fitness and just…games which are very misleading, and anyone can access, especially young kids.”
The Australian researchers believe these pro-smoking smartphone applications violate the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The convention bans all advertising and promotion of tobacco products in the media, in countries that have signed the treaty. The researchers say the app stores have a moral -- and possibly legal -- responsibility to honor the convention and other laws that ban the advertising of tobacco products to young people.
The report on pro-tobacco smartphone applications was published in the journal Tobacco Control.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Tanet Sin from: Thailand
11/18/2012 5:09 AM
The children who under 18 year should not play this app . Becuase those app will be activate children for smoking .

by: Yang from: Canada
11/09/2012 3:52 PM
It's true that young people are easy to be misleading so the ads about tobacco products should be banned on anywhere.

by: kika from: spain
11/07/2012 9:17 PM
It´s almost imposible" to erase "tobacco of the world.In Spain you can´t smoke everywhere, even next to a child park.But the rate of smokers is the same

by: Shige from: Japan
11/07/2012 6:59 AM
It is obvious these pro-smoking apps have effect on young kids. On the other hand, it is useful for a person who is quitting smoking as a aid.

I think not all pro-smoking apps is bad. But, I cannot decide what is bad thing.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
11/05/2012 8:24 AM
Regulation and violation is ususally a cat-and-mouse game.I think it would be impossible for anyone to compel both tobacco companies and online stores to give up selling tobacco-related apps even something to persuade kids to smoke because there exists golden principle of freedom of expression for anyone in our democratic society. So what we can do is at best only ask them not to sell such pro-smoking apps relying on their moral with no punishment. I'm sure it's important to search these kinds of apps against pubric benefits and inform the public.

In Response

by: Mahmoud Dahroug from: Portsaid, Egypt
11/08/2012 2:59 PM
I partly agree with you Yoshi. Yes, for sure we can not stop a malpractice entirely. But we can regulate strictly and cancel the license of those lawbreakers. And it is NOT against the "golden principle of freedom." For freedom must not be a violation of morality.

In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
11/13/2012 1:02 PM
Hi Mahmond Dahroung, thank you very much for your kind comment all the way from Egypt. It's great honor for me to have attention from far a way from mid east. I sincerely appreciate VOA for offering us to contact colleagues across the world. I completely agree with you, freedom must not be a violation of morality. And yet, may ask you what means morality in your country, Egypt, possibly Islamic? I have no clue to imagine it because Egypt is a far country from Japan. I think, probably, freedom is for the sake of individuals and morality is for the sake of society of others. The problembs seem which we regard more important freedom or morality, in other words, myself or others. It seems too difficult for me to answer it easily. I would love to ask you which do you make place more importance in individuals or others in Egypt.

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