Postings, videos or advertising with tobacco on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube etc. significantly increase the likelihood that users will become smokers themselves. A study found that.
In a meta-study, the Keck School of Medicine of USC (the medical school of the University of Southern California) examined whether and to what extent tobacco-related content in social networks tempted users to smoke tobacco. For the meta-study, the researchers evaluated 29 individual studies with data from 139,624 participants. It is said to be the largest study on tobacco content in social networks to date.
structure of the study
Study participants were from the United States, India, Australia and Indonesia. Adolescents made up 72% of the participants, while young adults and adults made up 15% and 13%, respectively. The “tobacco content” included both posts by friends on social media (e.g. videos showing friends smoking) and advertisements. Tobacco products in the study are cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, water pipes and smokeless tobacco products. The social networks evaluated include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, Pinterest and Tumblr. TikTok, on the other hand, was not evaluated.
Those who have seen tobacco content on social media are twice as likely to use tobacco as those who have not seen any tobacco content. Those who have never used tobacco before are also more likely to try tobacco in the future. In non-smokers, tobacco-related content on social networks can therefore cause them to use tobacco for the first time. Vulnerability to tobacco use also increases when viewing tobacco content across multiple platforms.
The researchers believe the results are robust and the results “have public health implications at the population level.” The study results would provide a compelling argument that online tobacco content can influence users’ offline tobacco consumption.
Social media would offer tobacco companies new advertising opportunities and the companies would not let this pass them by. The companies from the tobacco industry would reach young people and young adults in particular on the social media platforms. Now the study makers hope that “political decision-makers and other actors can use the study as a basis for decisions and measures”.
This is what the researchers advise
The researchers advise that young people should be informed about how the tobacco industry “secretly” brings its products to young people. The operators of the social media platforms should also take security precautions to protect users and young people in particular from tobacco content. For example, through warnings. In addition, legal requirements could restrict advertising for tobacco in social networks.