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Smoking on TV shows and social media causes problems for young adults

TV stars and social media influencers still show a lot of tobacco use, despite rules against the advertising of tobacco products.
Smoking on TV shows and social media causes problems for young adults
Posted at 6:22 PM, Sep 28, 2023

Series aimed at teenagers and young adults, like "Shameless," "The Simpsons,'" "American Horror Story" and "Big Mouth" featured 425 depictions of people using tobacco in 2021, according to the tobacco control nonprofit Truth Initiative.  

The organization says that imagery reaches millions of young people. 

And beyond those depictions on television, smoking is further glamorized by young celebrities and influencers posting on social media.  

"We have these very well-known, very famous young people in the entertainment industry who are becoming unpaid spokespeople for big tobacco," said Robin Koval, CEO of Truth Initiative.

Koval says any depiction of somebody using tobacco — from cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and vape pens — makes young people more likely to use nicotine. 

Celebrities known for their smoking habits include musicians like Nick Jonas, Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus, as well as actors like Lily Rose Depp — whose recent show "The Idol" was jokingly dubbed a "cigarette commercial" for its excessive depictions of smoking.  

"There are, of course, restrictions on what advertisers and manufacturers can do, but the way that I think they get around it often is by basically riding on the coattails of what some individual might choose to post on their personal social accounts," Koval said.

SEE MORE: Millions of Americans have nicotine in their body and don't know it

Platforms like Instagram and TikTok ban the explicit advertising of tobacco products, but experts say that promotional posts from influencers fly under the radar — with misinformation downplaying the health risks about smoking making its way into social media feeds as well.  

"We talk to young people all the time, we ask them about it. And they say, 'I didn't realize I was gonna get addicted, I really don't like the way I feel.' And so what's really important to know is that there are tools to help you quit," Koval said.

While some celebrities continue to smoke publicly, others — like musician Dua Lipa, models Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner — are publicly quitting. 

Dua Lipa says she quit in 2021 to protect her singing voice and health while she toured. 

Experts estimate between 30%-50% of all U.S. smokers attempt to quit every year.  

The Truth Initiative has a text message hotline to help people quit vaping nicotine, and Koval says the service has been used by more than 630,000 people. 

If you too are trying to quit smoking or vaping, you can reach the hotline by texting “ditchvape” to 88709.  

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