October 28, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids today along with 179 organizations from 62 countries called on Google to adopt a new policy prohibiting applications that encourage the purchase or consumption of smoking and vaping products in the Google Play store and to remove all current apps promoting smoking or vaping from Google Play.
Apple, Amazon and many other companies have already adopted similar policies that prohibit the promotion of tobacco or vaping products. Following a November 2019 announcement by Apple that the company would prohibit and remove apps promoting use of tobacco and e-cigarette products, nearly 200 related apps were removed from the Apple Store.
In a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the groups stated, “In recent years, tobacco companies have increasingly used technology platforms to target young people. Over the last few months, tobacco and nicotine companies have exploited the COVID-19 crisis to market and promote special online and mobile delivery application offers for their harmful products. Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco have flooded Instagram and Facebook with ads for cigarettes like Marlboro and Lucky Strike and heated cigarettes like IQOS and Glo. Similarly, Juul has fueled a youth e-cigarette epidemic in the U.S., driven by the company’s “patently youth-oriented” social media advertising.”
“Time is truly of the essence to protect the next generation from the global tobacco epidemic and we urge you to act immediately,” the letter concludes.
The letter highlights several of the apps currently available in the Google Play store that promote smoking and vaping. These include apps that provide users with directions to create vape liquids, as well as apps produced by Altria that promote coupons for Marlboro cigarettes.
“Google has already acknowledged its responsibility not to promote the use of tobacco products by youth when it prohibited ads for tobacco and e-cigarettes in its search engine, but it has left open a loophole that is undermining this goal,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Google needs to remove the remaining apps that encourage purchase and use of tobacco products by youth.”
Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death and kills eight million people worldwide each year. Without urgent action, tobacco use will kill one billion people this century.