MABR Researcher: Pro-smoking Videos, Often Sexual, Prominent on YouTube

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MABR Researcher: Hye-Jin Paek (view larger image)

Pro-smoking videos, including many that are sexual in nature, are prominent on the online video site YouTube and very accessible to young people, says an MABR scientist whose study of the issue was published in the journal Health Communication.

“The high frequency of smoking fetish videos concerns me,” said Hye-Jin Paek, MABR advertising, public relations and retailing researcher. ┬ôSmoking fetish” videos combine smoking and sexuality. “Also, the fact that we can see the videos and analyze their content means that teenagers can see them, too.”

By simply doing a search on the YouTube site using the words “smoking fetish” and “smoking fetishism,” Paek and colleagues found more than 2,200 such videos. That compares with only 1,480 anti-smoking videos.

Despite efforts by YouTube to keep what’s considered inappropriate material from young people, Paek’s study found that 85 percent of smoking fetish videos were completely accessible to adolescents.

Paek hopes that the study will alerttobacco control experts to carefully monitor YouTube along with other Internet Web sites and lead YouTube to strengthen its regulatory system.

“YouTube doesn’t use the same guidelines as the movies do to regulate the videos,” Paek said. “But why not, when YouTube is arguably more accessible to youth than movies are? I hope YouTube strengthens its system, but I also hope tobacco control experts will pay more attention to the Internet and new media as potential channels for both risky and healthy messages.”

The majority of smoking fetish videos studied explicitly portrayed smoking behaviors, such as lighting up, inhaling, exhaling and holding the tobacco product. More than half were rated PG-13 or R.

More than 21 percent of the videos contained at least one of the five traditional fetish elements defined in the paper: gloves, high heels, boots, stockings, and leather or latex clothes.

YouTube’s regulation policy is carried out by the site’s users, Paek said. Viewers can flag a video if they judge its content as inappropriate. Within 48 hours, YouTube staff members review the video, although that does not guarantee the video will be deleted. To watch flagged videos that remain on the site, a user must verify that he/she is 18 or older by creating a YouTube account to view the video.

Paper co-authors are Kyongseok Kim and Jordan Lynn from the University of Georgia.

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