The time spent on social media influences young adults to foster the habits of smoking and vaping, a study has revealed.

While spending as little as one hour on social media could double the risk of smoking and vaping, those likely to be glued to social media with more than seven hours of daily use could face triple the risk, according to the findings of the study published in the BMJ journal Thorax.

Researchers evaluated the normal weekday social media use, cigarette smoking, and vaping activity of 10,808 participants from the UK Household Longitudinal Study 2015–21. There were more than 8.5% cigarette smokers, 2.5% vapers, and over 1% who used both.

Analysis showed that cigarette smoking, vaping, and using both were more common among those who reported heavy social media usage.

"Those who said they spent less than 1 hour/day on social media were 92% more likely to be current smokers than those who said they spent no time on it, while those clocking up 7 or more hours/day were more than 3.5 times as likely to be current smokers," the news release stated.

"Those who said they spent 1–3 hours a day on social media were 92% more likely to report current vaping than those who said they spent no time on it. And those spending 7 or more hours/day on social media were nearly 3 times as likely to report current vaping than those who said they didn't spend any time on these platforms," it said.

The researchers believe that the increased risk of smoking among social media users stems from increased exposure to advertisements and promotions of such products. This involves targeted advertising based on algorithms along with advertising by paid social media influencers who may depict smoking and vaping as a fashionable and desirable activity.

Social media also provides a form of addiction that has certain common features with other addictive behaviors. High social media use raises the susceptibility to addictive behaviors such as smoking. Since social media is a largely unsupervised area out of control from parents/caregivers, it may encourage transgressive behaviors in children, the researchers noted.

"In general, we think that algorithms should not be promoting products to individuals that they cannot legally buy. Legislation and enforcement around this and other corporate determinants of health concerns should be considered a core part of online safety and child protection," the researchers concluded.