Don't Be Fooled -- Even Your Phone App Could Be Advertising

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A phone with apps around it.

As more and more people use smartphones, a world of virtual games, social networking, and fun apps are at their fingertips 24/7. Photo-sharing and exercise-tracking apps can be useful and fun. Others, though, may have devious intentions, like trying to get you hooked on smoking.

Cigarette advertising was banned from TV and sports stadiums because of the terrible health risks of smoking and because it was an easy and effective way to market cigarettes to youth. But with each technological advance, tobacco companies and other advertisers are looking for new ways to reach teens—even if that means developing games and free apps for your phone.

A study of available apps on Apple and Google Play during a single month in 2012 found 107 phone apps that promoted smoking! Some of these let users smoke virtual cigarettes while others compare cigarette prices.

Many of the virtual smoking apps allow you to “smoke with friends,” and they use catchy animations that make them seem like a game. Don’t be fooled.

Next time you download an app, pause a moment to ask: “Is this app just a game or is there a hidden message?”

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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