The results of this study, along with research in a total of 40 countries, led the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and other public health groups to file a petition on Friday with the Federal Trade Commission against four tobacco companies.
The petition claims that Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands are targeting young American consumers with deceptive social media marketing in violation of federal law. The petition calls on the F.T.C. to stop the practices.
Several of the tobacco companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the petition. A spokesman for Philip Morris International said on Friday afternoon that the company had yet to review the documents and therefore could not comment.
According to Caroline Renzulli, who oversaw the project for the campaign, 123 hashtags associated with these companies’ tobacco products have been viewed 8.8 billion times in the United States alone and 25 billion times around the world.
Representatives of some of the companies said they market only to adult smokers and comply with the laws of countries where they sell their products. Jonathan Duce, a spokesman for Japan Tobacco, said company-involved events were intended “to switch existing adult smokers to our brands from those of our competitors.”