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Social media adverts impact vaping behaviours among young people, study shows

Posted on 8 February 2024

Viewing e-cigarette adverts and content on social media - often endorsed by celebrities and social media influencers - is fueling the popularity of vaping among young users, according to a study from researchers at the University of York.

The researchers recommend that any measures to reduce underage access should include restricting vaping products on social media

In their review, which included 11 research studies looking at social media networks such as Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, the researchers found evidence that commonly used marking strategies for e-cigarettes resulted in more users and more intentions to use the products among young people. 

They also found they resulted in more young people starting to vape and increased how much vaping took place overall.


Some of these marketing strategies included celebrity and social media influencer sponsorship, and a focus on the appeal of e-liquids, including flavours and nicotine levels, were observed. 

Lead author of the study, Luana Chacon Santos from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said: “It’s becoming clear that the normalisation of e-cigarettes among young people could lead to a repeat of the harmful pattern we saw in the old tobacco industry. Social media platforms have become a strong marketplace for the sale of e-cigarettes, and stricter laws to tackle this area are needed urgently.” 

Lung injury

The researchers looked at studies analysing the effects of social media promotion of e-cigarettes on individuals over the age of 10 years-old from English speaking countries. 

Most of the studies included in the review were conducted in the United States, where there has been a rise in vaping research, possibly linked to a 2019 outbreak of hospitalisations and deaths from lung injury associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping. 

Dr Su Golder, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said: “In a scoping review, it’s common to see several different sub-stories emerging – but it was notable that all of our studies said the same thing. Seeing this type of promotion does affect young people; as a result, they are more likely to experiment with, start or even increase vaping habits. While it’s tempting to say more research is needed, we’ve already got a very clear indication here of what is happening, and action is needed sooner rather than later.” 


The UK Government has recently announced it will bring in measures to ban disposable vapes, as well as they ways they are marketed to children in shops. However these do not include targeting social media campaigns. 

Luana Santos added: “Any measures to reduce underage access should include restricting these products online on social media.” 

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