NEW YORK: In the same week that the partners in a global tobacco industry watchdog group were announced, studies have highlighted how smoking and media depictions of smoking continue to be common in countries as diverse as Indonesia and the UK.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation set up by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, will invest $20m over three years to fund the work of STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products).

With partners based in the UK, Thailand and France, this body will publish investigative reports detailing the tobacco industry’s lobbying tactics and marketing strategies, and will provide tools and training materials for low- and middle-income countries to push back against the industry’s influence.

“STOP will protect consumers by shining a spotlight on the tobacco industry’s underhanded tactics, including marketing directed at children,” said Bloomberg.

The move comes as a team from Nottingham University in the UK found that depictions of tobacco use appeared in a third of all programmes and trailers shown on UK terrestrial channels between 6pm and 10 pm in 2015, much the same level as a similar study conducted in 2010.

“Audiovisual tobacco content remains common in prime-time UK television programmes and is likely to be a significant driver of smoking uptake in young people,” the researchers wrote.

“Guidelines on tobacco content need to be revised and more carefully enforced to protect children from exposure to tobacco imagery and the consequent risk of smoking initiation.”

In Indonesia, where almost 20% of Indonesian 13-15 year-olds smoke, there are far fewer restrictions on tobacco advertising, which can still be promoted on television after 9.30pm; The Conversation noted how PT HM Sampoerna/Philip Morris International (PMI) spent US$94m on television advertising in 2016.

It also reported recent academic research showing how the Sampoerna A brand leveraged company websites and popular social media channels to reach and engage young people in a way that the researchers claimed “evaded current tobacco advertising regulations”.

Sourced from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Brinkwire, The Conversation; additional content by WARC staff