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Tobacco continues to play a starring role on screen – fueling youth e-cigarette public health crisis in the process

(BPT) - Tobacco’s Starring Role,Truth Initiative’s fifth annual “While You Were Streaming” study of the most popular 2021 onscreen entertainment among 15- to 24-year-olds released on March 7 has found that this content continued to normalize and glamorize tobacco usage which research shows drives youth vaping initiation. The report identified that 25 million young people were exposed to tobacco imagery by top streaming shows, with a separate 25 million through box office movies. The report also analyzed chart-topping music videos featuring tobacco depictions, which were collectively viewed over 2 billion times on YouTube.

As youth vaping persists with over 2.5 million middle and high school students using e-cigarettes, research shows on-screen exposure to smoking imagery makes young people three times more likely to start vaping nicotine. Even more concerning is that tobacco is often depicted as a stress reliever, which sends a particularly harmful message in the wake of youth depression and anxiety rates spiking in recent years resulting in the Surgeon General issuing a youth mental health crisis advisory. Nicotine can amplify feelings of anxiety and depression while increasing stress, establishing a worrisome link to the growing youth mental health crisis.

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