Seeing a post about tobacco on social media doubles a person’s chance of smoking, says study

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People who view tobacco-related content on social media are about twice as likely to consume tobacco-containing products as those not exposed to such posts, according to research published in the scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The study consists of a review of 29 surveys related to the use of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and smokeless tobacco, encompassing 100,666 adolescents (under 18 years of age), 20,710 young adults (18 to 25 years of age) and 18,248 adults ( over 25 years old) from the United States, India, Australia and Indonesia.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and the American Cancer Society analyzed both user posts about tobacco and content sponsored by tobacco companies.

The conclusion is that those who see this type of material are more likely to smoke throughout their lives, as well as to have consumed tobacco in the last 30 days. In addition, people who have never tried a cigarette and seen the posts were more likely to use it for the first time.

“People who have never used tobacco, especially teenagers and young adults, are more likely to use tobacco in the future if they are exposed to tobacco content on social media. This is a public health threat and immediate prevention efforts are needed to reduce exposure.” , says Scott Donaldson, lead author of the article.

In Brazil, the average age of those who try tobacco among young people is 16 years old, according to the Observatory of the National Policy for Tobacco Control.

“Traditional advertising, with Hollywood actors, already had a huge impact on this audience. Imagine now with influencers and models, with the cigarette being placed as a gadget”, says pulmonologist Paulo César Corrêa, coordinator of the SBPT Tobacco Commission ( Brazilian Society of Pulmonology and Tisiology) and professor at Ufop (Federal University of Ouro Preto).

Brazilian law prohibits the advertising of smoking products in any means of communication, but it is possible to find pages on the internet where users make reviews of this type of material, including traditional cigarettes are also available.

“While the announcements were made in traditional media, it was possible to exercise greater control. In digital media, no matter how much the authorities try, control is difficult”, says Denise Fabretti, professor of ethics and legislation at ESPM (Escola Superior of Advertising and Marketing).

In this sense, the researchers advocate new measures. “You can build more protections by using machine learning software to flag posts and videos. Regulators can consider strategies such as social media literacy, addressing tobacco prevention in schools, and offering programs to educate parents about the dangers of media.” in relation to tobacco use”, exemplifies Donaldson.

Corrêa agrees and recommends that parents include conversations about drugs in their daily lives. “The best people to deliver prevention messages are the parents. They talk, the teenager stomps away, slamming the door, but listens,” she says.

YouTube informs that its policy does not allow the publication of content intended for the direct or indirect sale of nicotine, including e-cigarettes, and advises the reporting of content that violates its guidelines.

Meta, responsible for Facebook and Instagram, prohibits in its policies that individuals, manufacturers and retailers try to buy, sell or deal in non-medical drugs, but there are exceptions, such as in the case of alcohol or tobacco content that will be consumed at an event. , bar or party. It also points out that it restricts the viewing of content about tobacco to people over 18 years of age.

The main tobacco manufacturers stated that they follow Brazilian legislation, and therefore do not advertise in the country.

JTI (Japan Tobacco International) informed that it does not promote marketing actions aimed at the final consumer. According to the company, the materials are aimed only at business partners, sellers and distributors and, for that, the company “does not use the internet, campaigns on social networks, nor does it partner with digital influencers to promote its cigarette brands”.

Philip Morris Brasil stated that “it fully complies with Law 9294/1996 and its subsequent amendments, which prohibit the commercial advertising of cigarettes in Brazil, except for their exposure at points of sale. Therefore, the legalized tobacco industry is not authorized to form partnerships with influencers and PMB strictly adheres to this standard”.

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