Background: The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) bans all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The comprehensiveness of this ban has yet to be tested by online social networking media such as Facebook. In this paper, the activities of employees of the transnational tobacco company, British American Tobacco, (BAT) on Facebook and the type of content associated with two globally popular BAT brands (Dunhill and Lucky Strike) are mapped.
Methods: BAT employees on Facebook were identified and then the term 'British American Tobacco' was searched for in the Facebook search engine and results recorded, including titles, descriptions, names and the number of Facebook participants involved for each search result. To further detail any potential promotional activities, a search for two of BAT's global brands, 'Dunhill' and 'Lucky Strike', was conducted.
Results: Each of the 3 search terms generated more than 500 items across a variety of Facebook subsections.
Discussion: Some BAT employees are energetically promoting BAT and BAT brands on Facebook through joining and administrating groups, joining pages as fans and posting photographs of BAT events, products and promotional items. BAT employees undertaking these actions are from countries that have ratified the WHO FCTC, which requires signatories to ban all forms of tobacco advertising, including online and crossborder exposure from countries that are not enforcing advertising restrictions. The results of the present research could be used to test the comprehensiveness of the advertising ban by requesting that governments mandate the removal of this promotional material from Facebook.