Truth Initiative Report Delves into the Use of Tobacco in Popular Entertainment

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A recent Truth Initiative report delves into the use of tobacco in popular entertainment and how this is impacting our youth.

Music videos have shaped popular culture since MTV came crashing onto the scene in the 1980’s with ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’, revolutionising the way we market bands/artists latest releases. 

This soon became the main platform stars would use to gain attention and it wasn’t long before music videos became a full-blown advert for tobacco brands through product placement. 

These iconic videos have romanticised the act of smoking for decades, reflecting onto its viewers the idea that tobacco use is ‘cool’ and desensitising them from the lifethreatening harms. 

Some of the most iconic and talked about music videos of all time feature cigarettes as the starring role and as the demand for the content grew, so did this imagery. 

From Lady Gaga’s sunglasses made entirely out of cigarettes in the charttopping ‘Telephone’ music video to Robin Thicke’s oversized lighter, lighting a cigarette for ‘Blurred Lines’, tobacco depictions were everywhere. 

A billion people watched Rihanna smoke in the 2011 ‘We Found Love’ music video and millions watched countless videos in the R&B/Hip-Hop genre feature tobacco. 

It seems the narrative has shifted within recent years to that of a harm reduction standpoint, with artists beginning to feature e-cigarette in their videos as a 95 percent less harmful alternative. 

This is a great step forward for the vaping industry, demonstrating to music fans across the world that they support vaping as a tool to quit and replacing these familiar smoke scenes with vapour clouds. 

Most famously using the cessation tool was the chart-topping DJ Khaled for his hit songs ‘I’m the One’ and ‘No Brainer’, racking up hundreds of millions of views. 

The movie set inspired video features models vaping, reclaiming the sultry cigarette smoke blowing through the air and instead producing vapour, as the artists sing in the foreground. 

It’s refreshing to see rap artists also using vapes in music videos, with Travis Scott’s Escape Plan (2021) featuring a device, as the genre of music is notorious for featuring tobacco. 

More recently, ex-Disney star turned pop princess, Sabrina Carpenter was vaping throughout the ‘Nonsense’ music video that was released earlier on this year. 

There’s still a large number of artists that are yet to challenge the status quo in supporting harm reduction, with 31 hits of 2021 having 290 tobacco depictions in their music videos. 

Specifically, the chart-topping song ‘Smokin out the Window’ by Anderson .Paak, Bruno Mars and Silk Sonic, coming out on top with 109 incidents featured in one video alone. 

The overall amount of music videos containing tobacco were down by 23 percent in 2021 and we look forward to watching those numbers continue to plummet as more artists support the quitting device.

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