Current Weather
The Spy FM

‘Addictive’ Cigarette Smoking Games On Smartphones Target Kids

Filed by KOSU News in Health.
October 23, 2012

You can do just about anything with your phone these days. Take an electrocardiogram. Confess your sins. Even smoke a cigarette

Yup, you read that correctly. Android and Apple offer apps that let you light and smoke a virtual cigarette. You simply blow into the microphone, or onto the screen, and an image of a cigarette glows red and “burns.”

Some apps time how long it takes to puff the whole fag, while others have a virtual ashtray that pops up messages like, “Would be even better with a beer in your hand!”

Public health researchers at the University of Sydney have found 107 apps on iPhones and Androids with pro-smoking messages, including these so-called smoking simulators.

Many of the apps are free to download and target children or teens by using cartoons, games and celebrities.

The researchers, who describe the apps this week in the journal Tobacco Control, say these games violate the World Health Organization’s bans on smoking advertisements. They call for more regulation of the apps’ content and distribution.

It has been clear for a while that cigarette ads have a dramatic effect on kids. So much so, that tobacco companies are forbidden from advertising directly to them. In the U.S., the tobacco industry can’t sponsor sports teams, give away t-shirts or even advertise on TV.

But now it looks like tobacco companies have found a loophole in these regulations through the smartphone apps.

Besides the simulators, there are also photo galleries of cigarettes for wallpapering your phone, instructions for rolling cigarettes into various shapes and tobacco “shops” where you can build your own cigarettes.

By far, the smoking simulators are the most popular, at least in terms of downloads. The researchers found 36 simulators on the iPhone and 10 on Android. At least 6 million users downloaded the Android simulators by February 2012, accounting for nearly 99 percent of the pro-smoking downloads.

Another iPhone app, called Puff Puff Pass, depicts a virtual smoking sessions with friends, allowing you to pass a cigar or cigarette around the room. “Addictive gameplay, almost as addictive as smoking for real,” the app’s description reads at the iPhone Store.

Such interactive games may be worse for kids than billboards and magazine ads, says Barbara Loken, a consumer psychologist at the University of Minnesota. “They increase the involvement or engagement of the participant, even more than advertisements,” Loken tells Shots in an email. This “may make the participant even more likely to take up smoking.”

Ironically, some of pro-smoking Android apps landed in the Health and Fitness category because they claim to help stop smoking.

But Loken says that an app would have to depict smoking in negative light for it to facilitate quitting. “If anything, [the apps] normalize smoking,” Loken says. “Kidsare at a stage where their forming their identity. The apps can provide … a way of making smoking normal among peer groups.”

There’s plenty of research out there showing how smoking in movies impacts tobacco use in teens, Loken says. Most studies have found that the greater number of movies viewed, the more likely a person will uptake smoking.

A similar effect may occur with these smartphone apps, Loken says. So she thinks they should be restricted, too.

The only regulation right now is a warning of mature content when you download some apps on the iPhone. And, users must enter their birthdays for apps distributed by Marlboro. But for many smoking simulators and games, finding and installing them is as easy for kids as playing Angry Birds. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

2 Responses to “‘Addictive’ Cigarette Smoking Games On Smartphones Target Kids”

  1. Not one for the kiddies that.

  2. Android Lover says:

    Yes its crucial, they are targeting the kids. We can’t blame the game developers but the parents should ensure that their children aren’t affected by such kind of games.

Leave a Reply

6PM to 6:30PM Marketplace

Marketplace

Hosted by Kai Ryssdal, award-winning Marketplace is public radio's daily magazine of business and economics.

Listen Live Now!

6:30PM to 7PM All Things Considered

All Things Considered

For two hours every weekday, All Things Considered hosts Robert Siegel, Michele Norris and Melissa Block present the program's trademark mix of news, interviews, commentaries, reviews, and offbeat features.

View the program guide!

7PM to 9PM The Oklahoma Rock Show

The Oklahoma Rock Show

The Oklahoma Rock Show filters through dozens of submissions a week to find the best in new local music. Ryan LaCroix is the host and mastermind behind the show and teaches at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO).

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center