Social media is an incredibly useful resources to help stay connected with friends and family members. This is especially true during a time when the only social interactions among adolescents may be from using a social media platform. This also means that there is more opportunity for information to be shared between adolescents that is not monitored. This might lead to the question about what that has to do with substance use as targeted advertising is not something new. Big Tobacco has been a force to be reckoned with as they have continuously lied about targeting children, manipulating their products to increase the addictiveness of nicotine, and the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.1 People have become increasingly aware of targeted advertisements by Big Tobacco including false statements about “light” or “natural” products and using appealing flavors.2 Nevertheless, tobacco, marijuana and alcohol messages have changed dramatically through social media. While it is true that Big Tobacco and marijuana companies spend copious amounts of funding on advertising, that is not necessarily the biggest threat. Social media provides a platform for adolescents and young adults to get information from sources they know and trust. This can include traditional tactics such as paid influences and marketing campaigns, but it can also include peer-to-peer influences.3 Different platforms can promote different tactics. For example, adolescents felt that Instagram was a place where they could buy or sell tobacco and marijuana products and Snapchat was a way for them to learn about the specific products from their friends. Most of the interaction occurs through direct messaging because it allows for the most privacy. Another way that adolescents gained information was through their friends tagging them in a post that involved tobacco or marijuana messaging.
One of the best ways to help adolescents is to encourage parents and family members to have frequent and open conversations about substance use. One of the first steps in engaging in those conversations is learning the facts. Numerous resources are available including:
-Tobacco Use Prevention and Education (TUPE)
Colusa County Office of Education
530-473-1350 x 10305