Briefing: China CDC identifies thousands of covert tobacco ads on social sites

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Sneaky tobacco ads show smoking as chic lifestyle – China Daily

What happened: A report by the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control released Monday revealed 51,800 tobacco promotions spread out across 14 online platforms in the first half of 2018. Many of them circumvented a 2016 law against online tobacco ads by integrating the content into lifestyle posts. Social shopping review site Xiaohongshu alone contained 90,000 references to tobacco, some of which referred to specific products or purchase methods. Microblogging site Weibo, however, had the most disguised tobacco ads by far, making up 80% of all uncovered posts.

Why it’s important: The deputy director of Beijing’s CDC pointed out that the majority of users for certain platforms, including Xiaohongshu, are women, potentially putting female online users at more risk of targeted advertising. Notably, of all ads discovered, 15% were part of stories related to family or relationships. Xiaohongshu has also faced criticism in the past for allowing fraudulent posts to interfere with its function as a hub for non-promotional, fairly ranked product reviews. More broadly, the CDC’s study also shows the difficulty of maintaining online order amid marketing innovations and massive user platforms. Weibo alone gained 28 million more daily active users in 2018, reaching 200 million as of December.