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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UMass: Survey Finds Most Teenagers in Legalized States See Marijuana Promotions on Social Media

Despite restrictions on advertising cannabis on social media, most teenagers reported seeing marijuana marketing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, according to a study authored by University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences assistant professor of health promotion and policy, Dr. Jennifer Whitehill.

Some 94 percent of adolescents surveyed said they had been exposed to marijuana marketing. Tellingly, more youth reported seeing marijuana promotions on social media than billboards. “Across marijuana users and nonusers, 73 percent said they had seen marijuana advertisements outdoors on billboards,” says Dr. Whitehill, an injury prevention research specialist. “But the figure was even higher on social media, with 79 percent reporting exposure – even in a space where they are not supposed to be seeing cannabis marketing.”

Because cannabis is an illegal drug under federal law, federal restrictions prohibit or severely restrict cannabis companies from running ads, even in states where marijuana sales have been legalized for adults age 21 and over. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram prohibit marijuana ads, but cannabis companies can develop a social media presence by establishing a business profile and sharing posts and tweets.

These are the latest findings from the first U.S. study to examine youth exposure to marijuana marketing in states that have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. Dr. Whitehill and colleagues found that exposure to marijuana marketing on social media is not only widespread but also associated with recent use of marijuana by adolescents.

The research, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, suggests that “current restrictions on social media content do not go far enough because it’s clearly making its way to youth,” says Dr. Whitehill.

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