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What to do when tobacco advertisers exploit antitobacco social media campaigns to sell tobacco
  1. Eric Craig Leas1,
  2. Judith J Prochaska2,
  3. John Ayers3,
  4. Alicia L Nobles3,
  5. Lisa Henriksen2
  1. 1 Division of Health Policy, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  2. 2 Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  3. 3 Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, Department of Medicine, University of California: San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Eric Craig Leas, Division of Global Health, Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California, La Jolla, CA 90095, USA; ecleas{at}

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Public health antitobacco campaigns on social media reach a broad audience and can foster public engagement in active conversations that are not possible with traditional media channels such as television or radio.1 This new level of engagement, however, brings added challenges, chiefly the potential to lose control of a message. For instance, antitobacco campaigns can be attacked by counter-campaigns that can dilute and overwhelm a public health campaign’s message,2 with perhaps the most notable counter-campaign being Not Blowing Smoke which attacked the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) campaign Still Blowing Smoke.3

In some cases, however, social media comments on public health campaigns can go beyond just a clash of opposing viewpoints and seek to exploit the targeted advertising exposure purchased by the health department to advertise tobacco. In a recent example, a hookah and vape lounge owner used an antihookah campaign on Facebook …

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  • Contributors Concept and design: ECL; Acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data; drafting of the manuscript and critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors. Obtained funding: JA. Supervision: ECL.

  • Funding JWA, ECL and ALN were supported by grant 28KT-0004 from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Programme. ALN was also supported by grant T32DA023356 from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse.

  • Competing interests JJP has provided consultation to pharmaceutical and technology companies that make medications and other treatments for quitting smoking and has served as an expert witness in lawsuits against the tobacco companies.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.