Children who spend just one hour a day on Instagram and TikTok are up to four times more


  • Youngsters addicted to social media are more likely to vape and smoke
  • ‘Compelling evidence’ vape firms use online influencers to market to children 

Children who spend a lot of time on Instagram and TikTok are more likely to vape and smoke cigarettes, according to a new study.

Experts have discovered that the more time youngsters spend on social media, the more likely they are to pick up the habits.

This was particularly apparent at higher levels of use, with those on social media more than seven hours a day almost four times more likely to vape than non-users, and eight times more likely to smoke.

The study, published in the journal Thorax, included data for 10,808 people aged 10 to 25 in the UK.

Analysis revealed that 0.8 per cent of those not using social media vaped, rising to 2.4 per cent among those using it for one to three hours a day.

Youngsters who spend a long time on social media are more likely to take up vaping and smoking, researchers found

Youngsters who spend a long time on social media are more likely to take up vaping and smoking, researchers found

Vape companies are using social media sites like TikTok and YouTube to market addictive vapes to children

Vape companies are using social media sites like TikTok and YouTube to market addictive vapes to children

This rose to 3.8 per cent for those using social media four to six hours a day and 4 per cent for those using social media for more than seven hours a day.

Meanwhile, for smoking, 2 per cent of those who said they did not use social media reported current cigarette smoking, compared with 9.2 per cent who used social media for one to three hours a day.

This rose to 12.2 per cent of people smoking who used social media for four to six hours a day and 15.7 per cent for those who spent seven or more hours per weekday on it.

The researchers, including from Imperial College London School of Public Health, said there was ‘compelling evidence that vape companies are using social media to market their products’.

They added: ‘Social media may be driving cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use through both direct, targeted advertisements and the use of paid influencers by the tobacco industry.’

The researchers said companies that own social media platforms have ‘substantial power’ to modify exposure to material that promotes smoking and vaping if they choose to or are compelled to.

It comes after research earlier this week showed children’s exposure to vape marketing is at an all-time high, with youngsters overwhelmingly opting for fruit and dessert-flavoured vapes.

Annual survey results from Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) found children in Great Britain are increasingly aware of vape marketing, including in shops and via social media sites such as TikTok and YouTube.

The 2024 poll of 2,587 children aged 11 to 17 found that 7.6 per cent currently vape, the same proportion as last year, but up from 2.8 per cent in 2017 and 0.8 per cent in 2013.

Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of Ash, said of the new study: ‘Getting rid of children’s exposure to tobacco promotion has been important to reducing rates of smoking among teenagers.

‘This new study adds to the evidence that online promotions are contributing to children’s likelihood of trying vaping.

‘Young people deserve to be just as well protected in online spaces as they are in physical spaces and Government must look at what can be done to secure this.’



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