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Tobacco industry influence on the video game industry

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Patricia McDaniel, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2017 (Cycle 26) Grant #: 26IP-0048 Award: $299,582
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: High Impact Pilot Award

Initial Award Abstract

Research demonstrates that viewing smoking scenes in movies is causally related to smoking initiation among adolescents and that the tobacco industry has played a key role in assuring that tobacco imagery is present in movies that appeal to adolescents and young adults. Less is known about the relationship between viewing smoking imagery in video games and smoking initiation; however, recent research demonstrates that tobacco imagery, including tobacco brands, is present in a substantial subset of games played by adolescents. Players and game designers agree that insertion of tobacco content allows messages to be rapidly conveyed about characters, including such tobacco-industry tropes as “coolness” and “rebelliousness.” Our preliminary analysis of internal tobacco industry documents suggests that tobacco companies have long understood the potential for video games to serve as promotional vehicles for their products among youth, and have cultivated relationships with video game makers. This project will fully explore these relationships, including examining tobacco company payments to video game makers and video arcade trade groups, and tobacco industry involvement in promoting the use of cigarette imagery and logos in video games. It will develop knowledge essential for creating policies to counter tobacco industry influence on the video game industry.

Specific aim: Retrieve and analyze tobacco industry documents in order to describe the relationship between the tobacco industry and the video game industry. Ours will be the first study to address the relationship between the tobacco industry and the video game industry. As such, it will provide valuable knowledge that can be used to inform policies to minimize the use of video games as promotional vehicles for tobacco products.