App Stores Might Accidentally Promote Pro-Smoking Apps, and Some Apps Are Intentionally Released in Kids' Related App-Categories

Practice seems to violate WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and legislation restricting tobacco advertising.


Sydney, Australia -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/18/2013 -- Apple and Android (Google Play) app stores feature some pro-smoking apps, some of which are offered in categories intended for children such “Educational Games”. App stores may be in violation of tobacco control laws, warn Sydney University researchers in Tobacco Control.

Pro-smoking apps have gained global popularity, with 58 ranked in the top 25 (in both specific categories and overall) in one or more of 49 countries during the study period.

Apps that rank among the top 10 – 25 in the USA, an app needed between 45 000 and 80 000 downloads per day. To rank among the top 10 or 25 in Australia, the UK, Germany, France and Italy, an app required only 4000 to 18 000 daily downloads.

In this study the lifetime popularity of the previously identified 107 pro-smoking apps was investigated, using a third-party app metrics service that aggregates data from app stores about app download popularity by country. Apps were deemed popular if at any time in their lifespan they achieved a top 25 ranking.

Two pro-smoking apps in the Apple Store were extremely popular in the ‘Educational Games’ and ‘Kids’ Games’ categories in many countries including Italy, Germany, and the United States.

In November 2012, the Apple App Store featured five pro-smoking apps, including at least one in 12 countries, including Denmark and Canada. The Google Play however, featured two pro-smoking apps in 23 countries including United Kingdom and Australia.

The authors point out “We found that the pro-smoking apps were equally popular in countries with strict tobacco control regulations, such as a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisements (e.g., Australia, United Kingdom, Thailand, and Turkey), and countries with fewer tobacco control regulations (i.e., Indonesia).[10] We found no relationship between smoking prevalence and the popularity of pro-smoking apps.”

The authors concluded “Although we could not find sufficient information about the selection process for the featured apps in either the Apple App Store or the Android Market, both featured some pro-smoking apps in November 2012. App stores may violate Article 13 of the WHO FCTC, which bans advertising and promotion of tobacco products in all media including the Internet. Our analysis of the featured apps was only for a selected month; more apps could have been featured before or after that period.”

For more information about this study please contact Nasser Dhim at by Email.