Pro-smoking apps for smartphones: the latest vehicle for the tobacco industry?
- 1School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
- 2Ministry of Higher Education, Saudi Arabia
- Correspondence to Nasser F BinDhim, School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, Rm 125, Lvl 1, Edward Ford Building A27, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia;
- Received 10 May 2012
- Accepted 29 August 2012
- Published Online First 22 October 2012
Background Smartphone use is growing exponentially and will soon become the only mobile phone handset for about 6 billion users. Smartphones are ideal marketing targets as consumers can be reached anytime, anywhere. Smartphone application (app) stores are global shops that sell apps to users all around the world. Although smartphone stores have a wide collection of health-related apps they also have a wide set of harmful apps. In this study, the availability of ‘pro-smoking’ apps in two of the largest smartphone app stores (Apple App store and Android Market) was examined.
Method In February 2012, we searched the Apple App Store and Android Market for pro-smoking apps, using the keywords Smoke, Cigarette, Cigar, Smoking and Tobacco. We excluded apps that were not tobacco-related and then assessed the tobacco-related apps against our inclusion criteria.
Result 107 pro-smoking apps were identified and classified into six categories based on functionality. 42 of these apps were from the Android Market and downloaded by over 6 million users. Some apps have explicit images of cigarette brands.
Conclusions 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 paper also provides two examples of app store responses to country-specific laws and regulations that could be used to control the harmful contents in the app stores for individual countries.