TikTok – Potential Impact on the Use of Smokeless Tobacco and Betel Quid by Young People

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Centre for Research in Oral Cancer, Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

2 Department of Oral Medicine and Periodontology, Faculty of Dental sciences, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

3 Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, King’s College, London, UK.


Introduction: TikTok has gained increasing popularity over the past year. The social media may affect awareness and perceptions of betel quid (BQ) and smokeless tobacco (SLT) by utilizing content generated by TikTok users. The purpose of this study is to examine how BQ and SLT are portrayed on TikTok. Methods: The 28 most viewed hashtag-based keywords were used to identify popular BQ and SLT-related videos on TikTok (n=513) from June 2018 to September 2021. Two researchers independently coded the number of likes, shares, views, user category and themes. Results: A final sample of 513 videos containing BQ and SLT that met the study criteria were included. Collectively, these videos were viewed over 725 million times, with a median ‘view’ count of 17,300 (range 152–155,000,000) and a median ‘likes’ count of 831 (range 4–2,400,000) and a median ‘share’ count of 21 (range 0–48,400). Majority of the videos showed BQ and SLT use positively i.e promoting the product (390/513; 76%) and these had more than 686 million times views. Neutral depictions of BQ and SLT use were viewed 15 million times (72/513; 14%) and negative portrayals of BQ and SLT have been viewed 193 million times (105/808; 13%). The video themes included ‘life style’ (349/513; 68.0%), ‘marketing’ (62/513; 12.09%), ‘comedy’ (44/513; 8.6%), ‘warning’ (25/513; 4.87%), ‘awareness’ (12/513; 2.3%), ‘sports and other’ (12/513; 2.3%) and social events or culture (9/513; 1.75%). Conclusion: Our results demonstrated that video clips related to BQ and SLT on TikTok, a fast-growing, popular video-sharing platform among teens, which is available with no age restrictions has been viewed multiple times. Majority (76%) promoted these two products, that could be detrimental to oral health. Therefore, the age restrictions especially for the videos containing BQ and SLT is mandatory in order to reduce the potential exposure of adolescents/young adults.


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