After 30 years of steady decline in the U.S., tobacco usage has suddenly become more common yet again. Lately, there seems to be a smoke shop on every corner selling everything from regular cigarettes to electronic vaporizers in every flavor imaginable. And these products are often essential to have for every young person in the U.S. Even famous celebrities like Doja Cat, who has millions of followers, goes live on social media touting a colorful vaporizer that lights up with each drag. It is clear that social media plays a large role in this sudden trend, and big tobacco companies will benefit from this and further exacerbate the problem.
TikTok has been the main culprit when it comes to creating fads and influencing young people, so it’s no surprise that this platform is where making cigarettes fashionable likely began. It was as if cigarettes got famous overnight 一 whether it began with a glamorous Parisian woman dancing on camera and sparking up a cigarette or a teenager smoking in a video paying homage to the 2014 “grunge tumblr” aesthetic, tobacco products became cool again. The pandemic gave people an opportunity to get sucked into the internet, and as a result, smoking became a habit picked up by many young adults.
Big media companies quickly took note of this and began showcasing cigarette smoking in their content once more that include celebrities who are popular amongst a younger generation. For instance, in a Kacey Musgraves music video for her song “simple times,” famous actress Victoria Pedretti is shown smoking a cigarette at the beginning of the music video in head-to-toe pink alongside Symone and Princess Nokia. Additionally, in hit shows like “Euphoria,” Sophia Rose Wilson portrays the character “BB” who is often seen taking drags from her electronic cigarette alongside actresses Zendaya and Sydney Sweeny. This new direction that media companies are taking cigarettes in is a direct response to the trends happening in social media.
It is a well-known fact that young adults and teenagers are highly susceptible to peer pressure and often get in the habit of doing things that aren’t healthy. Though some attempt to make light of the habit, the fact is smoking is here and it is here to stay. Teens zone out and mindlessly scroll through TikTok for inspiration on how to fit in and be cool constantly, so it is no surprise that cigarettes have weasled their way into the minds of our youth.
This issue will only be prolonged and exacerbated by big tobacco companies. It is highly likely that marketing teams for these companies are paying attention to this recent spike in product usage, and they will use this to their advantage. Many young people are abandoning their health fears in the name of fashion and in order to maintain their smoking lifestyle.
While the increase in smoking is concerning, it’s unlikely that cigarettes and nicotine products will fade away any time soon. Vape products keep evolving and have come out in different shapes and colors dating back to when juuls were trendy. It’s obvious that these, alongside cigarettes, will continue to gain popularity unless being healthy becomes trendy again.