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Social Media Helps Smokers Quit?

In a new tobacco use study by Niel B. Baskerville and colleagues, researchers looked to expand on recent studies investigating connections between social media use in young adults and behavioural changes. With numerous studies already detailing the drastic impacts that frequent social media use can have on one’s social and physical habits, they set out to find if it could be used to help smokers drop their cigs for good. 

For the study, they recruited 238 young adult smokers from Canada who were interested in quitting. While 136 participants were exposed to a more traditional helpline program for smoking cessation, 102 were supplied with a social media-based program.  

The campaign compared the habit of smoking to the grieving process following a breakup with a previous partner; campaign sayings alligned the effects of cigarettes with those of an abusive lover. 

It encourages users to “stay split up” and “move on with your life, because you’re worth it”.  

Overall, researchers found that this method was highly successful. Participants in the social media group were 205% as likely to quit smoking, and 214% more likely to be able to remain smoke-free over a period of 30 days.  

However, since the participants were required to self-report their smoking habits, the reported results may not have been completely accurate. 

This is one of very few studies that highlights possible positive effects of social media use. Another example of one such study recorded the success of a social media campaign in reducing stigma against those with disabilities.  

However, studies linking social media use to negative outcomes are significantly more common. Previous investigations have found connections between social media use and depression in young adults, and an article from Pew Research Center suggests that adult usage rates of top sites such as Facebook and Twitter remain unchanged since 2018 despite the storm of controversial information uncovered about those sites that year. Such controversies included claims that Facebook and Twitter were employing algorithms to discreetly prevent users’ posts from being seen by other users, and some felt that the algorithm’s keywords were unfairly targeting republicans, leading to a tense discussion over a possible case of politically-motivated censorship. 

But this is not to say that the social media campaign used to aid these smokers quit will nessesarily lead to an addiction, or even that social media addictions hold anywhere near the level of physical risk factors than a smoking addiction.  

Written by Joseph Detrano, CAS Science Writer
Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies.