UK Influencers Face Ban on Promoting Vaping on TikTok and Instagram
The alarming increase in videos promoting vaping on TikTok and Instagram has led to discussions about potentially banning social media influencers from endorsing vaping products to teenagers. Government officials are currently investigating how to tackle teen vaping, as the growing concern that young people are becoming addicted to nicotine through these products intensifies.
TikTok and Instagram Policies
While TikTok prohibits advertisements promoting vapes or other tobacco products on its platform, the widespread use of e-cigarettes among influencers on both TikTok and Instagram has become a cause for concern. A ban on fruit flavorings and packaging designed to appeal to children is already under consideration.
The Role of Social Media in Vaping Promotion
Professor Andrew Bush from Imperial College London’s National Heart and Lung Institute has urged ministers to consider a ban on colorful, appealing packaging for vapes. He also encouraged them to investigate how these devices are promoted on social media platforms. Professor Bush expressed his concern that children are being exposed to vape advertisements on social media by influencers who have a significant impact on their behavior.
The Industry’s Push for Vaping
Professor Bush argues that the industry is funding influencers to promote vaping, as they are aware that tobacco is losing popularity and they want vaping to become the next big trend. This aggressive marketing strategy contrasts with the more subtle advertising of nicotine gum in the past.
The Rise of Underage Vaping
A recent investigation by the Mirror found that shops are illegally selling nicotine vapes to children. A 13-year-old undercover shopper was able to purchase vapes containing as much nicotine as 100 cigarettes in a single day. This revelation has led to Health Minister Neil O’Brien announcing that the Government will be seeking evidence on youth vaping, exploring issues such as regulatory compliance, vape appearance and characteristics, marketing and promotion, the role of social media, and the pricing of low-cost products and disposables.
The Need for a Multi-Pronged Attack on Teen Vaping
Tory MP Caroline Johnson, also a consultant pediatrician, believes that the advertising rules for vaping should align with those for smoking. She also emphasizes the importance of monitoring the influence of social media on teen vaping. Striking the right balance when designing regulations to stop this form of marketing is crucial.
The Worrying Increase in Underage Vaping and Illegal Vapes
Evidence suggests that underage vaping rates doubled in the last year, with 7% of 11- to 17-year-olds surveyed being current users in 2022, up from 3.3% the previous year. The rise of illegal-sized black market vapes has also caused concern, with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute warning that around one in three vape products on shelves break UK laws. Organized crime gangs are believed to be smuggling £500 million worth of illegal vapes into the UK annually, primarily produced in China and intended for markets with more lenient vape regulations, such as the US.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is there a growing concern about influencers promoting vaping on TikTok and Instagram?
There is an alarming increase in videos promoting vaping on these platforms, leading to discussions about potentially banning influencers from endorsing vaping products to teenagers.
- What is being done to tackle teen vaping?
Government officials are investigating how to address teen vaping and are considering bans on fruit flavorings, appealing packaging, and further regulation of social media promotion.
- What is the role of social media in promoting vaping?
Influencers on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram have a significant impact on their followers’ behavior and are being funded by the industry to promote vaping as the next big trend.
- How has underage vaping increased recently?
Underage vaping rates have doubled in the last year, with 7% of 11- to 17-year-olds surveyed being current users in 2022, up from 3.3% the previous year.
- What are the concerns surrounding illegal vapes?
There is a rise in illegal-sized black market vapes, with around one in three vape products on shelves breaking UK laws. Organized crime gangs are smuggling £500 million worth of illegal vapes into the UK annually, primarily produced in China for markets with more lenient regulations.