Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cigarette Advertising and Web 2.0

Unlike other industries, cigarette firms have engaged in very little--if any--advertising on the internet. In fact, most cigarette manufacturers do not even have websites for their cigarette brands. The official Philip Morris website, for instance, explicitly states that "[i]t is not intended to market, advertise, promote or offer coupons for [its] cigarette brands." This is not surprising, since the Ciagrette Labeling and Advertising Act (15 U.S.C. § 1335) makes it "unlawful to advertise cigarettes... on any medium of electronic communication subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission," which includes the internet.

But then came YouTube:

Of course, it's unlikely that uploading a decades-old black and white cigarette commercial to YouTube will have any impact whatsoever on anyone's smoking behavior. But what about the following example of user-generated marketing:

Are such YouTube videos unlawful under the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act? If not, should the act be amended? Would the analysis change if a cigarette company offered these YouTube users gifts (such as an all-expense paid trip to the Marlboro Ranch) without explicitly requiring or encouraging the bloggers to promote their brand online (a la Microsoft's laptop giveaway to bloggers)?

I will address these issues in my essay Joe Camel Meets YouTube: Cigarette Advertising Regulations and User-Generated Marketing
(forthcoming in the University of Toledo Law Review), and potentially on this blog as well.

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