In Effects of Social Media on Adolescents’ Willingness and Intention to Use E-Cigarettes: An Experimental Investigation, Vogel et. al argues that increased social media use and exposure to advertisements about e-cigarettes cause adolescents to be at greater use for e-cigarette use.
The aim of the study explained was to test the relationship between adolescents use of social media and their thoughts surrounding e-cigarette use, and the effects of exposure to e-cigarettes on social media on their subsequent thoughts. The study consisted of participants aged 13-18 in California. In the experiment, the teens saw posts on instagram split into 4 different conditions: peer-generated or advertisement and light or heavy e-cigarette exposure. The participants then answered a series of questions about their willingness to use e-cigarettes, intention to use e-cigarettes, attitudes about using e-cigarettes and norm perceptions. The results of the study showed that regardless of the post surge, participants exposed to heavy e-cigarette use had more positive attitudes and intentions about e-cigarette use. Additionally, regardless of exposure level, participants who viewed e-cigarette advertisements had greater intentions and willingness to use e-cigarettes. Participants who had higher reported social media use also had more positive attitudes and perceptions of e-cigarettes as normative.
I find the results of this study a bit alarming, and I think future research should be done on whether there is anything that can be done to limit the normalization of substances like this (and substances even more potentially harmful). The participants in the study were aged 13-18, which is a very formative period of time for many. With this being said, should there be filters on the types of advertisements people of this age can see? For example, would filtering advertisements for drugs and alcohol for users under a certain age allow them to create their own views surrounding substance use, rather than them believing it is normal based on what is being advertised on social media?