In an article published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, APPC researchers found that from 2013 to 2019, different kinds of popular tobacco-themed YouTube videos saw “dramatic increases in views per day, especially for tutorials about vaping products.”
The research follows up on a 2013 content analysis done by APPC which identified five major categories of pro-tobacco videos on YouTube. For example, among instructional or “how-to” videos, the highest-performing video in 2013 was on how to use a pipe, with just over 62,000 total views or 47 views per day. But in 2019, the most-viewed instructional video was on “the art of vape,” which had logged over 40 million total views or over 68,000 per day.
Another category is managing risk, in which videos claim that the risks of tobacco use can be managed by various fixes, without offering scientific evidence. In this category, the top-performing 2013 video concerned cigarette smoking, with 85,000 total views or 63 views per day. In 2019, the top-viewed video in this category was on vaping, which had over 3.5 million views or over 1,600 per day.
“The easy access of such material suggests that YouTube is a fertile environment for the promotion of tobacco products despite its banning of tobacco advertising,” the researchers said.
YouTube, tobacco videos, and adolescents