The lives of teens and young adults are heavily influenced by social media. The things they see online affect many of the choices they make and the decision of whether to use nicotine products or not is one of them.
As young people scroll through their feeds on their favorite social media platform, it is likely that they will encounter a post about vaping at some point. Between flashy ads from vape and electronic cigarette companies, posts from sponsored social media influencers of them using these products or memes and “funny” videos of people indulging in the act of vaping, vaping is a common topic in the social media world.
The amount of exposure to vaping that young people experience can be dangerous. The things that people see online can creep into their everyday lives. This is especially true with impressionable high school- and college-age people.
Cabrini social media professor Dr. Nune Grigoryan believes that exposure to anything online can have an effect on their outside lives.
“I think there is some sort of correlation probably between what we see on social media platforms and how we behave offline,” she said.
“We constantly see teenagers looking at images and photos and videos where vaping is shown as this ‘cool’ activity that make you look cool,” Grigoryan went on to say. “They are going to be impacted by that.”
Ellen Ford, a sophomore biology pre-med major, is an active social media user on various platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, VSCO and Snapchat. Ford has seen lots of vaping-related posts on social media, although she says that they have somewhat died down in recent months other than memes that more make fun of vaping rather than endorse it.
Ford does not use nicotine products herself and has not been influenced by social media to try using them.
Despite this, Ford acknowledges that certain posts could have a negative effect on young people, especially those in their early teenage years.
“I feel like younger teenagers see that stuff and say, ‘Oh well this person is so cool. They have so many followers and they’re doing that. It’s not harmful so maybe I should do that,'” Ford said.
Social media has put the message that young people need to use these vaping products to be relevant into their minds. Companies and influencers use the “coolness” factor to pressure the public into thinking they need to start vaping themselves.
Grigoryan suggests that in order to solve the problem of how social media influences young people to vape, the idea of “coolness” has to be eliminated. Young people have to see that vaping is not cool and it is a harmful action.
“The counter to [this influence] would be to educate people on how they can still be cool without the smoking,” she said.
“The counter is to show other ways that young people can have fun and not having to use vaping products in those things.”