“My favorite must be the Ruby berry flavor. What’s your? âAsks GW Harrison, an Instagram influencer with 35,000 followers, holding out BIKEâA brand of flavored nicotine sachets â to the camera. He is one of the 26 influences that alone have 2.2 million followers, employed by British American Tobacco (BAT) to promote and help sell their nicotine products.
Harrison is joined by people like Bru-C, an MC and rapper who likes to brag to his audience of 156,000 that nicotine products have “phosphorescent technology,” as well as the Made in Chelsea Star Alex mytton which has already published a VELO-themed video with which its 391,000 subscribers can interact.
This is a marketing tactic often used by brands to target a generally quite young audience, which makes them harder to reach through traditional advertising channels. As television, print and radio marketing continues to lose its grip on young people, forward-thinking entrepreneurs are turning to influencer marketing to sell their products.
Love or hate the influencer industry, data shows it’s here to stay – ready to reach $ 13.8 billion by 2022. It’s fair to say that the industry is not mankind’s proudest accomplishment. Even when they market “normal” products, influencers are often criticized for their materialism, their promotion. toxic beauty standards, which can have a negative impact on the mental well-being social network users.
However, this type of influencer (those content creators who withhold addictive and harmful substances to the news feeds of impressionable social media users) has far more sinister consequences. They are called ânicotinfluencersâ and unfortunately they are on the increase. Let me explain.
The harmful rise of nicotoinfluencers
This isn’t the first time that nicotine companies have dipped their toes into the influencer pool, with little to no remorse over who will be the targets of these ads. Earlier in 2021, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism noted that BAT had bet about 1 billion pounds on harnessing the popularity of influencers on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook to reach young people in countries like Pakistan, Sweden and Spain.
To counter the inevitable backlash from BIKE campaigns, British American Tobacco (BAT) claims it markets its products as a way to “pass” cigarettes. Despite these claims, not a single post or video created by these influencers actually mentioned the shutdown in their content. Should we even be surprised? The big tobacco companies have a proven track record in screening the general public for smoke (literally and figuratively) for their own benefit. As late as the 90s, the same people who profited from tobacco were the same who supported cigarettes are not addictive in class.
An addictive substance promoted by addictive means
The toxicity of this trend is compounded when you take into account that social media can be just as addicting as nicotine itself. Compared to traditional media, social media marketing can feel more intimate, a way to communicate products through parasocial relationships. Yes, the influencer community is not directly damaging, but when misused it can have a negative impact, especially on young users. As a doctor Jess maddox, expert in Internet culture at University of Alabama, shared with Screen Shot, “It’s important that kids and teens who use social media understand that what they’re seeing could be a paying performance.”
Unfortunately, social media has blurred the lines between paid content and genuine content. Maddox continued, âSocial media platforms bring us closer to content creators than television, film and billboards never have. This perceived proximity allows users to build trust and fandom towards creators – this perceived proximity could make them feel more inclined to adopt a harmful product. “
Maddox “absolutely” thinks there should be more regulations on how these products are marketed to children through influencers. She made similarities between nico-influencers and The Kim Kardashian / FDA pharmaceutical debacle, in which the celebrity misled her followers by promoting a drug she said cured her morning sickness while failing to communicate its many side effects. As a result, social media platforms have changed their requirements so that any sponsored post needs an #ad or # sponsored tag to express its insensitivity. But is it really enough?
âSocial media regulation regarding the tobacco / nicotine industry’s shift to the marketing of alternative forms of smoking will be one of the pressing issues of the next decade. [in the social media space]”Maddox argued.” The rapidly evolving nature of social media platforms and digital culture has made it difficult to monitor regulations, but the response and ethical values ââshould rest with brands and companies. “
Trusting tobacco companies to deliver ‘ethical’ values ââis about as redundant as trusting Boris Johnson and his pals for not breaking lockdown rules. In other words, they are crooks: Their marketing tactics blatantly encourage young people to adopt a potentially fatal smoking habit which the WHO, still kills more than 8 million people per year. The sad reality is that until precious and strict regulations are put in place, countless impressionist teens will be manipulated into thinking vaping is cool because their favorite DJ once said it on TikTok. Fortunately, those at the top of the Big Tech food chain – the people who run the social media ship and decide what content is good or not for us – have our well-being as their number one priorityâ¦ Oh, wait.