WA researchers examine how state laws can be used to prevent influencers from promoting vaping on social media

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Researchers in Western Australia hope laws can be put in place to ‘protect’ teens from social media influencers who promote vaping on their platforms, amid growing fears young people are embracing e-cigarettes.

On social media platforms, some influencers and adverts portray vaping as “cool” and “stylish” – the same way cigarette manufacturers marketed their products 50 years ago.

Despite laws banning the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes in Australia, they are becoming more common among young people and it has health experts worried.

Marilyn Bromberg of the University of Washington is part of a team of researchers who will examine ways to change state laws to prevent people from seeing ads, videos and images about vapers on social media.

“There are studies that have shown this link between seeing this ad on social media and young people using e-cigarettes,” she said.

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Vaping tricks are going wild on social media, amassing thousands of likes and shares

She said that while there are laws in place to control the marketing of e-cigarettes in Australia, much of the harmful content comes from overseas.

“The fact that social media is global and ubiquitous is unique and we’ll really have to look at that quite rigorously.”

“There are all these ads on social media and [we are] trying to protect our young people from the negative health repercussions that can result from their vaping.”

Health fears for the next generation

With e-cigarette use common among young people, the WA Cancer Council’s director of prevention and research, Melissa Ledger, said she was concerned about the health of the next generation.

“E-cigarettes are harmful, the evidence has become much clearer in recent months,” she said.

“We know that nicotine is very, very addictive and there is certainly evidence that young people are becoming addicted to nicotine.

“[E-cigarettes] can also lead to nicotine poisoning, they can lead to acute lung disease and the long term effects at this stage are not known.

“We just don’t want another generation to end up not being healthier than they can be.”

Young people are likely to imitate online behavior

Digital wellbeing researcher Kristy Goodwin hailed moves to curb the unhealthy habits people were seeing online and said young people are easily influenced by social media content, especially if shared by their peers .

A woman with blond hair and a pink jacket looks at the camera
Kristy Goodwin, a digital wellbeing researcher, says young people are likely to mimic behaviors they see online to try to fit in.(Provided: Kristy Goodwin)

“If their peers are consuming and sharing content on social media that promotes, you know, vaping and other unhealthy practices, that means they’re very vulnerable to imitating and copying those kinds of behaviors for the purpose of to seek that social validation and that social acceptance. that they so desperately dream of at that age,” she said.

“I think we need to do everything we can within our control to protect young people from some of the unsavory and inappropriate content they consume online.”

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