New report reveals 28% of music videos contained tobacco imagery in 2022

Discover how tobacco imagery in popular music videos can influence youth smoking and vaping behaviours

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Recent data from the Truth Initiative’s sixth annual review highlights a concerning trend: the portrayal of tobacco in music videos has significantly increased.

Rising trend in the depiction of tobacco in music videos

In 2022, 28% of top Billboard music videos contained tobacco imagery, a sharp rise from 12.8% in the previous year.

This equates to 462 occurrences in these videos, which collectively amassed nearly 7 billion views on YouTube by October 2023.

“Smokin Out the Window” by Silk Sonic duo Anderso.Paak & Bruno Mars, and “El Incomprendido” by Farruko, Victor Cardenas, and DJ Adoni featured 109 and 55 instances of tobacco use, respectively.

Genre-specific trends and the dominance of cigarettes

The prevalence of tobacco imagery is particularly pronounced in the R&B/Hip-Hop genre, where it appeared in 45% of videos.

This genre remains a significant concern due to its popularity and influence among youngsters.

While cigarettes continue to be the most common form of tobacco use shown, there was also a notable increase in the depiction of e-cigarettes in 2022.

The role of social media in tobacco exposure

Platforms like YouTube, which lack strict age restrictions and are easily accessible on mobile devices, play a crucial role in how young people encounter these music videos.

The pervasive nature of these platforms calls for more rigorous research to understand the full impact of tobacco exposure through these mediums.

Initial studies indicate a significant portion of teens and young adults report seeing tobacco-related content on popular platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch.

The need for stringent measures

The persistence of tobacco imagery in media that is popular among youth highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to reduce these exposures.

Proposed measures include developing policies to limit tobacco depictions in youth-rated media, integrating anti-smoking messages in such entertainment, and encouraging celebrities and influencers to reject on-screen tobacco use.

Engaging the community and industry

To combat the influence of tobacco imagery, it is crucial for policymakers, social media leaders, and entertainment industry professionals to take a stand.

Increasing awareness and modifying rating systems to reflect the risks associated with tobacco portrayal can also play pivotal roles.

Comment from Allen Carr’s Easyway

Smoking and vaping in music videos and movies can have a profound impact on how youngsters view nicotine addiction.

We have been warning of the risks and dangers of this kind of depiction in the entertainment industry for over forty years and more recently with Big Tobacco & Big Vape using the same marketing strategies that were used for cigarettes in the 1960s & 1970s.

It’s natural to want media creators and platforms to steer clear of glorifying tobacco use.

Those who call for action on this hope that by fostering environments that discourage tobacco depiction and promote healthier alternatives, it can help safeguard the next generation from the grips of nicotine addiction.

On the other hand, trying to steer youth culture away from certain messaging and towards another can not only be impossible but also counter productive.

Instead, everything should be done to highlight how there’s an organised attempt, by huge corporations to influence the behaviour of our youngsters.

The more young people realise they’re being targeted in an exploitative fashion, the more resistant they will be to falling for it. The arts need to have freedom to move in whichever direction it wishes.

All we need to do is prevent huge corporations that seek to addict our youngsters from being able to influence that direction.

Engage with us in the comments below or participate in our online forums to discuss further the impact of media on smoking habits and what more can be done.

If you or someone is looking to quit smoking, read more information on our top tips to stop smoking guide, along with our stop smoking programmes.