A recent study has revealed that vape shops and social media advertising are major factors contributing to the exposure of young individuals to vaping. Health experts are expressing concern over the increasing number of vape stores opening in Australia.
Researchers surveyed over 4,000 individuals between the ages of 15 and 30 in Australia, China, India, and the UK. The survey asked about their usage of e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco, as well as their social circles’ vaping habits and exposure to e-cigarette advertisements.
According to a recent study published in the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases on Wednesday, the top locations where 1,006 Australian participants encountered advertisements were vape shops (45%) and tobacconists (35%).
31% of the participants who took the survey reported seeing advertisements for vaping products on TikTok and Instagram, while 25% said they had seen them on Snapchat. About 24% had come across such ads on Facebook, and one in five had seen them on YouTube.
The study, conducted by the George Institute for Global Health at the University of New South Wales, found that despite limitations on advertising in all four countries, a significant number of young individuals still encountered e-cigarette advertisements.
“Promoting and advertising on social media platforms and in the vicinity of vape shops and other retail establishments seem to be significant areas of exposure.”
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In Australia, the use of nicotine vaping products is only permitted with a prescription and there is a prohibition on advertising them, except for certain cases where pharmacies may share information about prescribed e-cigarettes.
In spite of this, the promotion of vaping is extensive, as numerous items are marketed as being “free of nicotine” despite actually containing significant amounts of nicotine in order to bypass regulations.
The federal government has been urged to implement measures to reduce the accessibility of vapes, leading to proposed reforms. However, a specific start date has not been determined as the creation and approval of new laws are necessary. A different bill is currently being discussed in parliament to address the issue of vapes being advertised on social media platforms.
According to Raglan Maddox, head of the Tobacco Free Program at the Australian National University, physical vaping shops are becoming increasingly common not only in cities, but also in rural areas across Australia.
“When electronic cigarettes are readily accessible at all hours from numerous retail locations, it undermines the message that they are linked to potential negative effects,” he stated.
According to a recent study from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, vaping has been linked to mental health difficulties in teenagers. These include symptoms of depression, anxiety, high levels of perceived stress, and behaviors related to suicide.
According to Maddox, many young individuals are questioning why vapes are readily available and accessible despite their harmful effects.
He stated that there is a pressing need for the government to follow through on their promised reforms for vaping.
He stated that the communities I collaborate with throughout the nation are requesting and need additional assistance in order to reduce the negative effects of vaping, such as being exposed to the industry through physical retail locations.
The World Health Organization advises against any type of e-cigarette and tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
According to Professor Simone Pettigrew, the primary author of the study, the results showed that the more exposure individuals had to vaping advertisements, whether in person or on social media, the higher their chances were of using e-cigarettes.
The speaker suggested that individuals who use e-cigarettes may be more open to advertising compared to those who do not use them. Additionally, it is possible that social media algorithms are specifically targeting ads towards individuals who vape, resulting in higher exposure for current users.
In October, Dr. Sophie Scamps, an independent MP, urged for a prompt investigation by parliament on the impact of advertising from harmful industries, such as vaping, on youth.
A new collaborative study conducted by VicHealth and Quit investigated the digital advertising strategies used by the vaping sector. The research discovered numerous TikTok and Instagram profiles that promote vaping products under the guise of personal accounts, when in reality they are directly associated with an e-cigarette online shop.
The study also discovered that the vaping sector is utilizing social media influencers more and more, with over 18,000 Australian profiles on Instagram solely focused on promoting vaping.
The director of Quit, Rachael Andersen, expressed anticipation for the announcement of legislative changes regarding the supply and advertising of vaping products.
She stated that there is a widespread belief in the public health field that this can be achieved rapidly on a national level in order to decrease the growing occurrence and stop the adoption of vaping.