Becky Freeman, a researcher in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, is investigating how the tobacco industry is using online marketing, and wants your help.

She writes:

“Simon Chapman and I are researching how online social media (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter etc.)  is being exploited by the tobacco industry to promote its products. We are also investigating how these same media can be used to beat the industry at its own game and advance public health.

This is where you come in. We have created a facebook page to monitor the advertising tactics of the global tobacco industry and we’d like you to help us.

Please join our page and share any example – no matter how small – that you come across that promotes tobacco products. Perhaps a youtube video, an invite to an event, a blog posting, a txt message, a flashy new pack design or even supposed good works like the industry sponsoring litter clean up days. Anything at all that promotes tobacco use –  no item is too small!!!

Action 1: Become a fan of our page by clicking here
If you’re not on Facebook yet – here’s your perfect excuse to get on board and join.

Action 2: Encourage your friends around the globe to join too.
Effective monitoring means we need as many eyes and ears on the ground as possible – and not just tobacco control experts: we need smokers, young people, parents, and concerned citizens to be part of this global monitoring effort.

Many of you already forward us tobacco marketing memorabilia – which is hugely appreciated! – this is your chance to contribute to a wider public health initiative and to put an end to tobacco advertising. Even if you don’t think you’ll have anything to contribute, please join and invite others to join – the greater the number involved the more likely it is that governments will be moved to act to ban tobacco advertising completely, once and for all.

If you are interested in further reading, we have published some research in this area:

Freeman B, Chapman S. Open source marketing: Camel Signature Blends as a case study in how tobacco companies are using the collective spirit of Web 2.0 to build brands. Tob Control11 February 2009.

Freeman B, Chapman S. Gone viral? Heard the buzz? A guide for public health practitioners and researchers on how Web 2.0 can subvert advertising restrictions and spread health information. J Epidemiol Comm Health 2008; 62: 778-782.

Freeman B, Chapman S. Is YouTube telling or selling you something? Tobacco content on the YouTube video sharing website. Tob Control 2007;16:207-10

We also have a paper about to come out on how BAT staffers are all over Facebook promoting BAT brands.”