Following a new research report published by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), thirty (30) notable social media influencers converged at a sensitization and learning event organized by CAPPA in FCT Abuja, on June 21, 2022, to discuss the increasing operations of the tobacco industry on virtual platforms, and strategies for ending the visibility activities of the tobacco industry on virtual platforms that promote tobacco products and its consumption in Nigeria.[spacer height=”25px”]
The event exposed the influencers to the activities of the tobacco industry in Nigeria on the internet, applicable laws in Nigeria that regulate tobacco use, and ways to demand accountability from the tobacco industry and national tobacco control authorities.[spacer height=”25px”]
According to Phillip Jakpor, Director of Programmes, CAPPA, who spoke on the findings contained in the report, with the strict enforcement of the ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) on television, radio, and newspapers, the tobacco industry in Nigeria and its allies have stealthily infiltrated the virtual space which is largely unregulated and are cleverly exploiting social networking platforms to promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) activities and circumvent Nigeria’s National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and its regulations. The report identified violators of tobacco control regulations in Nigeria such as Dasmokehub and Smokeboxng who utilize their social media platforms to blatantly sell tobacco products and promote a smoke culture by updating photographs and videos of entertainment icons smoking and advertising tobacco products.[spacer height=”25px”]
CAPPA’s Martin Ogunlade and Zikora Ibeh whilst speaking on the research methodology and findings also warned the influencers to guard their platforms against the infiltration of the tobacco industry. As the industry devises new methods of promoting its products and brand images on internet platforms, social media influencers just like entertainment icons are likely to become the targets of tobacco brands because of the huge followership base and popularity they command online. According to research studies, the tobacco industry is increasingly investing in influencer campaigns that pay digital influencers who have large social media followings to subtly post photos and videos featuring cigarette brands on social media to engage their audience.[spacer height=”25px”]
The meeting sparked interesting reactions from the influencers including a plan to develop a long-term anti-tobacco promotion campaign on social media. The event concluded with a call to establish a Whatsapp group to house the social media influencers who will work alongside a network of tobacco control advocates to defend the virtual space against the illicit activities of the tobacco industry. Participants unanimously adopted this call.