Experts highlight that the reason why TikTok struggles to curb the promotion of vapes is that relies heavily on users reporting content, rather than doing so themselves. “TikTok emphasises automated methods, stating [in their policy] that it then ‘enables our team to focus more time on reviewing contextual or nuanced content, such as hate speech, bullying and harassment, and misinformation’,” Andrew Childs, a criminology and criminal justice lecturer at Griffith University, as quoted by VICE.
The social media effect
Meanwhile, a review of 29 previously published peer reviewed studies, non surprisingly found that exposure to tobacco and vaping products on social media leads to increased consumption.
Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the study consisted of an analysis of surveys from over 139,000 participants across a number of studies, who belonged to different age groups, nationalities and social media platforms. The analysed responses indicated that people who viewed social media with tobacco content were more likely to report consuming the products.
“We [cast] a wide net across the tobacco and social media literature and synthesized everything into a single association summarizing the relationship between social media exposure and tobacco use,” said study author Scott Donaldson, a senior research associate at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “What we found is that these associations are robust and have public health implications at the population level.”
Similarly, a UK survey of under-18s has found a significant rise in the use of certain vapes which are popular on social media, leading to the suspicion that watching glamorous influencers promoting the products on TikTok and Instagram, is drawing many youth to try the products.