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PLoS One. 2014 Jun 10;9(6):e99336. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099336. eCollection 2014.

Chinese tobacco industry promotional activity on the microblog Weibo.

Author information

1
Key Laboratory of Public Health Safety, Ministry of Education, School of Public Health, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
2
School of Statistics and Management, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China.
3
School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Although China ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC] in 2005, the partial ban on tobacco advertising does not cover the internet. Weibo is one of the most important social media channels in China, using a format similar to its global counterpart, Twitter. The Weibo homepage is a platform to present products, brands and corporate culture. There is great potential for the tobacco industry to exploit Weibo to promote products.

METHODS:

Seven tobacco industry Weibo accounts that each had more than 5000 fans were selected to examine the content of Weibos established by tobacco companies or their advertising agents.

RESULTS:

Of the 12073 posts found on the seven accounts, 92.3% (11143) could be classified into six main themes: traditional culture, popular culture, social and business affairs, advertisement, public relations and tobacco culture. Posts under the theme of popular culture accounted for about half of total posts (49%), followed by 'advertisement' and 'tobacco culture' (both at 12%), 'traditional culture' and 'public relations' (both at 11%), and finally 'social and business affairs' (5%). 33% of posts included the words 'cigarette' or 'smoking' and 53% of posts included the tobacco brand name, indicating that tobacco companies carefully construct the topic and content of posts.

CONCLUSIONS:

Weibo is an important new online marketing tool for the Chinese tobacco industry. Tobacco industry use of Weibo to promote brands and normalize smoking subverts China's ratification of the WHO FCTC. Policy to control tobacco promotion needs reforming to address this widespread circumvention of China's tobacco advertising ban.

PMID:
24914739
PMCID:
PMC4051696
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0099336
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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