Tobacco and Cannabis Product Placement in Music Videos Questioned in New Study

Tobacco and Cannabis Product Placement in Music Videos Questioned

Can music be to blamed for the minority individual’s use of tobacco and cannabis products? That’s what one report recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine claims is happening.

Big Tobacco has long been accused of targeting minorities through various advertising platforms but in the study conducted by Kristin Knutzen, M.P.H. of the Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy and Clinical Practice, the unregulated practice of product placement of tobacco and cannabis in music videos could be the latest way minorities are being targeted. Knutzen and her team tracked how often combustible products like cigarettes, cigars and joints were appearing in rap and hip-hop music videos. The group chose those videos associated with songs that were on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop list. As they tracked the appearance of these products in music video, they saw a increase from zero to 9.9 percent. That percentage was much higher for branded electronic products which increased from 25 to 87.5 percent. Over 769 music videos were analyzed in this study.

The group chose the R&B and hip-hop genres due to their popularity with minorities “and the historic targeting of minority groups by big tobacco companies,” Knutzen revealed to Inverse. Knutzen noted that brand placement of tobacco and cannabis products are unregulated and give the tobacco and cannabis industry a new and modern way to reach minority consumers. Knutzen uses DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” video featuring Quavo, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber as an example of combustible brand placement with Kandypen vape appearing at the 1:22 point in the video.

Another example is the music video for Jennifer Lopez’s “Dinero” which features an Mig Vapor vape pen at the 0:27 mark and Lopez smoking a cigar at the 0:59 mark.

Big Tobacco has long been accused of singling out minorities, leading to federal laws that ban tobacco companies from advertising on television and radio. Tobacco signage in convenience stores within neighborhoods dominated by minorities has also been called out and targeted by local governments, leaving tobacco companies with fewer outlets to advertise and market. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter prohibited any advertising from tobacco and other combustible products, leaving few options for those companies operating within that space. According to Knutzen, however, music videos are now being used by tobacco and cannabis companies to target minorities, especially teenagers.

Knutzen says her research can be used to help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent claims that the e-cigarette industry is illegally marketing its products to youth. With the ability for a seemingly harmless music video to reach millions of individuals–including youth–through social media and platforms like YouTube, Knutzen believes more regulation on how covered tobacco and cannabis products are advertised in today’s world is necessary.

Vaping and smoking in music videos are considered to be creative expressions that are protected by the First Amendment. The question, however, is if these products are indeed paid product placements and if so, they would have to display a surgeon’s general warning statement about the risks associated with tobacco use.

To read more of Knutzen’s research findings, click here.