TikTok Bans Influencer Promoting Nicotine Pouches: Is It Enough?

TikTok Bans Influencer Promoting Nicotine Pouches: Is It Enough?

TikTok has cracked down on influencers promoting nicotine pouches, but is it enough to curb the trend of showcasing these controversial products? Let's delve into the recent developments and what they mean for the platform and its users.

In early February, Guardian Australia revealed the concerning trend of influencers, like Australian bodybuilder Stefan Kohut, promoting flavored nicotine pouches on TikTok. These pouches, resembling snus popular in Scandinavia, contain nicotine but are marketed as tobacco-free. However, despite their claims, these products require a prescription to be legally supplied in Australia.

Following the expose, TikTok swiftly took action, banning Kohut's account for violating its community guidelines, which strictly prohibit the promotion of tobacco and vaping products. But the question remains: Are other influencers still able to skirt around these rules and promote nicotine pouches?

It seems so. Despite TikTok's efforts, other accounts continue to showcase these products, raising concerns about the platform's ability to effectively police such content. While TikTok claims to actively remove content that violates its guidelines, it's evident that some slip through the cracks.

One fitness influencer even boldly shared a video of himself indulging in what he called "the heaviest snus you can get in Melbourne," reaching an audience of over 70,000 people. This begs the question: How many more influencers are promoting these products under the radar?

In response to inquiries from Guardian Australia, some influencers have taken down their videos or altered their approach to discussing nicotine pouches. However, this doesn't address the larger issue at hand: the potential harm caused by the promotion of these products, especially to young audiences.

Experts, like Prof Becky Freeman from the University of Sydney, argue that stronger laws are needed to prohibit harmful advertising, particularly when targeted at impressionable young people. She emphasizes that allowing platforms to self-police has proven ineffective, calling for more robust enforcement of existing regulations.

Marian-Andrei Rizoiu, leading the Behavioral Data Science lab at the University of Technology Sydney, sheds light on the challenge of regulating influencers whose relationship with brands may not always be clear. This raises concerns about the authenticity of content and its potential to influence audiences without proper disclosure.

Dr. James Kite, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health, emphasizes the prevalence of harmful content on social media platforms, ranging from nicotine pouches to gambling and alcohol. He highlights the need for platforms to prioritize the well-being of their users over profit motives.

Despite TikTok's ban on accounts promoting nicotine pouches, the issue persists, underscoring the complex nature of regulating influencer-driven content. As users, it's crucial to remain vigilant and critically evaluate the content we encounter online, especially when it comes to products that could impact our health.

In conclusion, while TikTok's actions are a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to effectively curb the promotion of harmful substances on the platform. By advocating for stronger regulations and holding influencers and platforms accountable, we can strive for a safer and more responsible online environment for all users.

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