Targeting on TikTok
The youth vaping crisis is raging — and now, vape retailers and influencers are storming the TikTok feeds of young users.
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the US, with around 100 million active users – over one-third of TikTok’s daily users are 14 or younger.
According to TikTok’s user policy, marketing tobacco products to underage users is prohibited. Despite this policy, an illicit — and profitable — market has emerged to bring vapes to our kids.
How They Reach Kids
Tagging videos with the right hashtags delivers maximum exposure for social media content – and vape retailers know it.
Hashtags like #puffbar, #njoy, #vuse and #juul, have racked up hundreds of millions of views. Vape retailers use those popular hashtags to drive viewers to their content and have found another trick to maximize views: use unrelated, yet wildly popular hashtags like #kids.
#Kids. Let that sink in.
The ripple effect continues. TikTok wants to keep users on their app for as long as possible — just like other social apps. They do this by cataloging user data, including the type of content they engage with most. Then, TikTok’s algorithm serves users a personalized mix of new content predicted to further engage the user.
TikTok’s rise in popularity is meteoric. A 2019 study found, on average, users spend 52 minutes on it per day. Now, TikTok use is up 325% year-over-year, which means it is beating Facebook.
What does this mean?
When hashtags like #kids are included alongside hashtags like #vapetricks, TikTok’s algorithm takes note. It thinks users who engage with #kids may now be interested in seeing more posts related to #vapes and #vapetricks.
When retailers trick the algorithm, it serves millions of underage TikTok users vape content when they aren’t even seeking it. Research shows that tobacco-related social media content normalizes tobacco use to youngsters. It paints tobacco products in a more positive light — making kids curious about the products and opening the door to future use.
Our kids are being aggressively targeted, tempting them to experiment with vapes. In other words, they’re right where vape retailers want them.
No Age Verification
To purchase tobacco products online, retailers must have an age verification system. Some vape retailers on TikTok, however, completely ignore those requirements and often guide buyers to websites with one-click age consent — or no age confirmation at all.
This is illegal.
Vapes in Disguise
Retailers even post videos demonstrating how they carefully and discreetly package each vape to ensure parents are none the wiser. One video shows a retailer hiding vapes inside fuzzy pink slippers. More commonly, retailers pack vapes inside boxes of candy or makeup.
All to steer clear of prying parental eyes.
Tobacco Stops With Me
What can you do to protect your kids? Talk to them about the dangers of vaping today. Explain the dangers of vaping products along with the lifelong effects of nicotine addiction. Get age-specific tips for talking about vapes.
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My Life, My Quit
For teens struggling with nicotine addiction, help is here. Now, 13-17-year-olds can access proven methods to quit vaping, smoking or chewing tobacco. To get started, text Start My Quit to 36072 or visit MyLifeMyQuit.com.