The world’s third largest multinational tobacco company has been running disguised adverts for its brands on Facebook and Instagram, enabling it to bypass social media site rules and national laws in order to assist the marketing of cigarettes to teenagers and young people, the Bureau can reveal.
Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has set up social media pages that adopt the appearance of lifestyle groups, allowing the company to run adverts on social media platforms in Germany, where directly marketing tobacco to teenagers is illegal.
On first impression, the pages appear to centre around events, travel and music. In fact, the pages have been used to assist in the promotion of three brands of JTI cigarettes: Camel, Winston and American Spirit.
The pages using the Camel brand are called Let’s CML and those for American Spirit are named Full of Spirit. Pages supporting the Winston brand are called Ganz Genau, which translates as “exactly” and is a slogan used to advertise the brand in Germany.
The pages have promoted competitions for prizes such as earphones and festival tickets. Some of the competitions required a user to visit a website owned by JTI that explicitly promotes cigarettes in order to enter. Others simply ask the user to “like” a certain post or follow a certain account in order to be entered into the draw.
These pages – which are listed under “festival” and “community” in Facebook’s transparency section – use the…