TikTok is being urged by a public health charity to take a “responsible approach” towards content relating to vapes and e-cigarettes on the platform.
It comes as ITV News found pages on the platform dedicated to demonstrating how vapes are made, and accounts that link to websites to buy the cigarette alternatives in bulk.
It is illegal for under-18s to buy vapes. If you were buying vapes in a shop, you would be asked for identification to prove you are old enough to buy them.
In contrast, the age verification process on the websites advertised on TikTok are a simple tick box.
TikTok says it does “not allow the depiction, promotion, or trade of drugs or other controlled substances” or “the trade of tobacco”. But these pages seem to be getting around that.
Data shows a small rise in the number of 11-17s vaping since 2020 – but charities are worried about the products being too heavily promoted on social media.
Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive at Action on Smoking and Health, said: “The way in which we’ve seen these products [vapes] on social media is really inappropriate, particularly as this seems to be among very youth orientated videos and influencers.
“[Taking action on this content] is totally within the bounds of what the platforms themselves can be doing… They could take action themselves and take a responsible approach to the way the products are being promoted on their site.”
ASH has recently released guidance to public health officials, as well as councillors, schools, parents and retailers, offering helpful information around the issue of youth vaping.
While e-cigarettes don’t have the main harmful elements found in tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide and tar, they still have some potentially harmful chemicals and contain nicotine – which is addictive.
After ITV News flagged these accounts to TikTok, they said: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our community, and especially our teenage users.
“We strictly prohibit content that depicts or promotes the sale, trade or offer of tobacco, including vaping products, and we do not allow ads for these products. We have removed the flagged account and multiple other accounts for violating our Community Guidelines.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country