WHAT WILL BE COVERED IN THIS ARTICLE
TIK TOK BECOMES POPULAR WITH YOUNG PEOPLE
ASH’s 2022 SURVEY ON VAPING AND YOUNG PEOPLE
THE UNDERHANDED PROMOTION OF VAPING ON TIK TOK
Tik Tok statistics | ASH’s survey on Vaping among young people | Promotion of vaping on Tik Tok | Social media and Vaping
Is the promotion of Vaping on TikTok the cause of the teen vaping problem in the UK?
The rising number of underage teens now Vaping in the UK has started to reach concerning numbers, with the number sitting at the highest it’s ever been. I’ve written an article about this topic previously which you can read HERE. In this article I’m going to look at what the possible cause of this could be.
The use and promotion of E-Cigarettes on social media is rife, with TikTok currently having over 700 videos amassing millions of views of people using E-Cigarettes, primarily Disposable Vapes, promoting vaping, and even illicitly distributing vaping products using black market methods, promising discreet packaging and fast shipping to entice young people to buy. Let’s go into some more detail about the social media platform:
Tik Tok dominates the App market
Tik Tok first floated on to the App market back in 2016, and it took a while to gain some traction and get off the ground. It’s popularity reached peak status during 2020, with the app being downloaded by millions upon millions worldwide as a source of entertainment while people were stuck at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And the popularity of the app seems to not have slowed down since, with reports stating the app has been downloaded 3 BILLION times.
TikTok celebrated the milestone in 2021 of reaching one billion active users of the App, and the number of active users in the UK shooting up from 9.8 million in 2020 to 13.3 million in 2021. The popularity and growth of this social network behemoth is not to be scoffed at that’s for sure.
Young people and Tik Tok
Statistics show that roughly 25% of Tik Tok users in the UK are aged between 15-25 as of 2021, that’s the second largest group in the age demographic studies of the users of the platform. Unfortunately, I cannot find any concrete statistical data on the amount of children younger than 15 using the platform, but it is reported children as young as 8 years old upwards have accounts on the platform, with no solid policing of the platform done on the age verification of profiles being made.
Tik Tok is one of the most popular social media platforms amongst young people, and the content uploaded on to the platform is exposing them to all sorts of things, especially what we are here to discuss today which is the promotion of Vaping. The numbers of Tik Tok users are always increasing, and sadly so is the rate of young people who are underage starting to use a vape. Let’s look at the statistics of that:
Action on Smoking and Health’s Youth Vaping Survey 2022
ASH are a public health charity set up by a team from the Royal College of Physicians in a bid to create awareness and promote tobacco harm prevention. I’ve referenced their survey results in so many of my previous articles as they are a reliable and reputable source, and their work deserves to be acknowledged.
Every year they conduct a survey on the attitudes and behaviours of Vaping amongst young people (11-17 year olds) and publish the results on their website for public access.
This year’s survey results provided some very interesting reading, and the results of some of the questions asked gave alarmingly high percentage rates.
The number of children aged 11 to 17 year olds that have tried vaping was 15.8%, compared to 11.2% reported in 2021, a 4% increase. The more alarming result was the amount of 11–17-year-olds who were currently active vapers which was reported at 7%, a big jump from the 3.3% reported in the year previous.
But the most alarming jump from the years previous survey results, was the results of the question of which vaping device is the most commonly used amongst 11–17-year-old users, which came out as 52% used a Disposable Vape, where this number sat at just 7% in 2021. This year’s result being over 7 times more than what it was the year prior which is crazy. Users report that either Elf Bar or Geek Bar are their favoured brand of Disposable Vapes to use.
So, there has been a definite spike in underage users of E-Cigs, specifically Disposable Vapes, but why is this? Peer pressure? Keeping up with current trends? Or is it the dominant presence of Vaping and promotion of vaping on social media outlets where young people make up a large part of the demographic? Allow me to go into more detail on this:
The underhanded promotion of vaping on Tik Tok
As I’ve already spoken about above, the number of young people using Tik Tok make up a large portion of the total users in the UK and the exposure to content which may influence them is alarmingly high, due to the lack of policing and control by the management of the social media platform.
It appears very coincidental that the rate of under 18 year olds using Tik Tok reached it’s all time high for numbers, in the same time that the volume of underage children were using Disposable Vapes, and this is down to channels and content creators using the platform as an underhand way to promote Vaping, which is against the T&C’s of Tik Tok.
“Tik Tok strictly prohibit content that depicts or promotes the sale, trade or offer of tobacco, including vaping products, and we do not allow ads for these products.”
But still, its happening. ALOT.
The amount of videos of people using E-cigarettes, primarily disposable vapes, is huge. There’s a mix of content relating to vaping, people doing vape tricks, people misinforming others of the “dangers” of vaping, people going crazy over how good a specific flavour is, and also videos of people advertising disposable vapes for sale.
I’m a user of Tik Tok myself (Sadly, I make up the percentage of the 30 years old and upwards demographic) and I thought I would see how easy it would be to purchase a disposable vape through the social media platform. And not to my surprise in the slightest, it was really really easy.
I searched some keywords surrounding the topic in question, and within 5 videos, I found a video showing off hundreds of different Disposables and with one message I could buy myself a “3000 Puff 50mg” disposable vape, that I could pay with Paypal for, and promised it would be sent in discreet packaging so “nobody would know what it is”
There is so much wrong with that, I struggle to know where to start. The vapes being solicited for sale on this persons channel are ILLEGAL to be sold in the UK as they do not meet TPD regulations, as they contain more than 2ml of vape juice and also a 50mg nicotine content, which is 2.5 times more than the legal limit of 20mg. And the fact they’re promising to send “discreetly so nobody would know” it’s just an absolute haven for young people who may want to purchase a vape without their parents knowing.
Influencers being encouraged to promote vaping brands
Earlier this year, Elfbar came under serious fire for their underhanded tactic of promoting their products on Tiktok and other social media, by sending out “gifted” parcels to Influencers who have a large number of followers.
They found themselves banned from Tik Tok after their most recent stunt of sending out a large gifted parcel to a TikTok Influencer who did an unboxing video on a live video post, thanking Elfbar for their gift and promoting the brand in their video. The backlash for this was enormous, and Tiktok listened to complaints and in turn, banned Elfbar from the platform.
This was good to see as it showed Tiktok taking action and to not allow ads for vaping products on the platform. But this policing seems to have slowed down, as there is still channels out there promoting vaping, and selling illicit products to tiktok users with no age verification checks in place. Thus in turn, adding to the problem that is underage vaping in the UK.
Social Media is hurting the Vaping industry
The portrayal of Vaping on social media is not one that is good, and in turn it’s hurting the legitimacy of Vaping, and the vaping industry as a whole.
People are creating content and making posts based on the misinformation that they’ve read, and posting it for their followers to see and be influenced by.
These videos that are created get latched on to by the mainstream media and press, who take this information as gospel and starts printing it en masse and even more people are then mislead and misinformed by it.
Recently, videos were created on Tik Tok by medical professionals stating that using Disposable Vapes are rotting peoples teeth and can cause gum decay and so on and so forth. These videos were published with no evidence to back them up, and the Vapes in question that they documented within their content were the illicit Disposables that contain crazy amounts of nicotine and shouldn’t be being sold in this country.
These videos got covered by well known Daily news websites, and spread out to their hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of readers declaring how unsafe Vaping is for you, which just isn’t true and things like this is what is harming the vaping industry, and potentially putting off adults who may want to start vaping as they’re being fed misinformation.
To conclude this article, I do believe that the influence of social media is playing a huge part on the numbers of underage children using vaping devices increasing year on year. We are in a digital age now where social media rules the roost, and people are now paid to influence others, and that’s exactly what is happening, and not just with Vaping but with everything.
More awareness and action needs to happen to combat content being created and watched in the millions about obtaining and using vapes if you’re underage, as well as the platforms spreading fake news and false information about Vaping which is harming the legitimacy and potential longevity of the vaping industry.
One website which stands out is VapeWatch that has recently been created to raise awareness over youth vaping, as well as the sale of counterfeit vaping devices. You can read my article on this by clicking this link
Best TikTok Statistics UK Edition for 2022 (cybercrew.uk)
Action on Smoking and Health – ASH