“If smokers or vapers choose to share their social activity,” he added, “it is completely their choice.”
Simon Evans, a spokesman for Imperial Brands, acknowledged that the company paid “public opinion formers” to attend and post social media content about promotional events.
“Where this is the case, however, we make it clear to them they are not to post branded content,” Mr. Evans said.
Some posts use hashtags that are closely connected to the brands: #lus or #likeus for Lucky Strikes, for example. Other posts are more subtle, featuring cigarettes but no brand name, or appealing hashtags that signal autonomy or independence: #YouDecide, #DecideTonight and #RedIsHere are popular ones affiliated with Marlboro as is #FreedomMusic for Winston.
Sometimes the posts omit the cigarettes altogether, but mention upcoming parties and other events where cigarettes are promoted in giant displays and given away. The party décor colors often match those of a specific brand.