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Children exposed to increasing number of TikTok vaping videos

School‐aged children are being exposed to an increasing number of vaping and e‐cigarette videos on TikTok, prompting calls for more regulation of the social media platform.

University of Queensland researchers analysed more than 800 videos featuring the modern smoking practice.

As well as being viewed more than 1.1 billion times, 63 per cent portrayed vaping and e‐cigarettes in a positive light.

Lead author and PhD student Tianze Sun said there had been a massive increase in the number of young people using vapes and e‐cigarettes in recent years.

“This could partly be due to exposure from friends and influencers on social media,” she said.

The hashtag #vape has had more than five billion views on TikTok alone.

Ms Sun said while plenty of research had examined the impact of other platforms like Facebook and Twitter, there was little on this emerging social media platform.

Co-author Dr Gary Chan said most of the videos included in the study were of a light-hearted manner and contained little reference to the health consequences.

“Videos that showed vaping tricks had a significantly higher number of views at 487 million, compared to videos about nicotine and addiction at only 195 million,” he said.

“Adolescents are susceptible to peer influence, increasingly via social media, and this is a concern when emerging evidence suggests vaping has detrimental effects on the developing brain, lungs and heart.”

Dr Chan said even more concerningly was the fact TikTok’s algorithm was such that users will be recommended videos similar to ones they’ve already watched.

“They’re actively promoting this content to young people,” he said.

Ms Sun, Dr Chan and the study’s other authors are hoping the research will lead to increased regulation, to prevent children from accessing videos that show smoking in a positive light.

The study was published in Tobacco Control on Tuesday.

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