*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on StudyFinds.
Content portraying vaping as cool and in a positive light is rampant on the popular social media platform TikTok, according to a new study. Researchers from Queensland University say that if an adolescent spends too much time on TikTok it may reinforce positive attitudes toward vaping and e-cigarettes.
Of the 808 videos in our sample, we found that positive portrayals of e-cigarette use were viewed over 1.1 billion times, accounting for 63 percent of the total sample,” says lead study author and Ph.D. student Tianze Sun, from Queensland’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research, in a university release. “Videos negatively depicting vaping and e-cigarettes only counted for 13 percent of the total sample, while 27 percent portrayed vaping and e-cigarettes neutrally.”
Making matters worse is the fact that there are currently no age restrictions in place for vaping content. As such, the study authors stress the importance of implementing stricter control over such content on TikTok. Meanwhile, more and more studies are linking vaping with brain, lung, and heart damage. Unfortunately, vape use among teens has exploded in popularity in recent years. In 2014, estimates showed that about nine percent of U.S. high schoolers vaped. By 2019, that figure increased to 27 percent.
TikTok enjoys over 800 million monthly users and a third of its U.S. users are younger than 14 years old.
“Considering accessibility of these videos and previous studies showing exposure to vaping-related content is associated with increased likelihood of future e-cigarette use, consideration of age restrictions on social media platforms is recommended,” Sun adds.
These findings are ultimately observational and can not establish causality. Still, study authors write “experimental and longitudinal data suggest that viewing other young people, friends, acquaintances or influencers vaping in fun and entertaining contexts, is likely to normalize e-cigarette use and make it a behavior to emulate.”