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Experts Concerned About Smoking Social Media

December 9, 2011, 6:15 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Experts Concerned About Smoking Social Media
Health experts trying to lower the number of teen smokers are concerned about tobacco companies using social media to advertise.

Tobacco advertising is one of the most highly regulated forms of marketing, but there are no guidelines when it comes to social media.

The T.V. has been turned off for tobacco companies seeking to advertise for years, but now they have a new way to promote their business.

9:40 "I definitely have Twitter, Facebook. I have a Tumbler. I use social media pretty frequently, several times a day," Bryce Christopherson, with Prairie view Prevention, said.

In fact, you don't have to look far on Augustana College's campus to find teens using social media. That's why tobacco companies have started advertising on those sites.

"That's one way they can still reach teens that they can't through other forms of media and advertising," Darcy Jensen with Prairie View Prevention said.

With 75 percent of teens ages 13 through 17 having a cell phone and access to computers and Facebook, Jensen says social media can be a great way to advertise.

"If we want to reach teens, we have to know how we reach them, and it's through Facebook, Tweets, and the cell phone. And if we're not willing to go there and reach them, we need to go where they're at," Jensen said.

That's why groups like the National Cancer Institute are fighting back against tobacco companies with their own Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and soon a phone app. Jensen says maybe the government should also look into regulating tobacco companies on social media.

"Because some of this is so new, the generation that created and lobbied for the original changes needs to catch up, and some of the new media and technology we have is much more user friendly for the under 20 crowd than for those adults who really lobbied in the beginning," Jensen said.

As a former smoker himself, 18-year-old Christopherson knows how easily teens can be influenced.

"I was a young kid, hanging out at the skate park and stuff like that. A lot of the older kids smoked. It seemed like the cool thing to do," Christopherson said.

Jensen says the most recent statistics on teen smoking in South Dakota are also concerning because they show the number of teens who are trying to quit smoking decreasing, as well as the number of teens who know the dangers of it lighting up.

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