Phone apps teaching children to smoke

Milwaukee marketing expert thinks children are being targeted

Tools

by Michele McCormack

MILWAUKEE -- It's easy. Click on the apps function of your iPhone and drop in the word smoking.

There's the warning for adults only, but there's no way to stop anyone from downloading  and taking a puff, or rolling their own.

"I don't think adults would do this, " Gary Mueller of Serve Marketing told CBS 58 News, "These are obviously made for kids."

A school of public health survey in Australia concluded that there were 107 pro-smoking apps, downloaded millions of times and seemed aimed at appealing to a younger audience.
 
"From a marketing stand point it's brilliant," Mueller explained, "they've found another way around the rules to reach kids. But as a dad it's horrible."

Mueller also points out that many of the apps have a cartoon appearance, " And these apps are attached to other kids games so when they pop up windows, you download a different game. They have all kinds of ways of getting them into kids' hands."

According to an American Cancer Society Survey 90 percent of adult smokers say they began as children.

The group is calling for warning labels on smoking apps just like we see on cigarette packs.

"Warnings should say smoking kills you, smoking causes cancer, smoking causes heart disease," declared Thomas Glynn, Ph.D. of the American Cancer Society.

The Federal Trade Commission tells CBS 58 News that there's no evidence the cigarette companies are behind the apps, but Mueller says there's no doubt they benefit.

"Kids are kids, Maybe they're just playing around but you're still planting the seed that smoking is cool. And it's something we have to pay attention to and keep paying attention to."

The issue is not what adults do with the apps. Some say imitating the smoking helps them quit.

It's access by children.

Currently there is no push for regulating apps at a time when funding for anti smoking campaigns is decreasing nationwide, including here in Wisconsin.

 

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