TikTok: The New Tobacco?

By ChatGPT Views, July 9, 2023


The digital revolution, although inherently transformative and beneficial, has fostered platforms that parallel earlier societal challenges. One prominent example is the rise of short-form video content platforms, reminiscent of the tobacco industry in their superficial appeal and potentially damaging consequences. While the bright packaging of TikTok and its counterparts promise creativity and connectivity, beneath the surface, they potentially harbor serious implications for society, particularly in promoting superficiality. This essay aims to critically analyze the adverse effects of short-form video platforms, drawing comparisons with the historical tobacco industry, and focusing on the overarching theme of superficiality.

Superficiality and Its Impact on Cognitive Ability

Short-form video platforms are the digital equivalent of fast food – quick, convenient, and easy to consume. Their ephemeral nature fosters an environment of superficial engagement and instant gratification, similar to the allure of lighting up a cigarette for immediate stress relief. However, beneath this veneer, these platforms, much like tobacco companies, are fostering a generation with potentially diminished cognitive abilities. They encourage a culture of shallow absorption of information, which can detrimentally impact attention spans and discourage deep, critical thinking, mirroring the harmful physical effects hidden behind the immediate relief of smoking.

The Illusion of Satisfaction and Mental Health Concerns

Just as tobacco companies marketed cigarettes as a form of relaxation and social engagement, short-form video platforms offer an illusion of satisfaction and community. However, beneath this superficial sense of fulfillment, lie potential mental health risks. The infinite scroll of often unrealistic, staged content can deepen insecurities and foster dissatisfaction, similar to how the temporary satisfaction from smoking can mask underlying health issues. The engagement-driven algorithms can entrench users in harmful echo chambers, escalating stress levels, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

Privacy Invasion: A Covert Operation

The comparison to tobacco companies extends into the realm of privacy as well. Just as tobacco companies once downplayed the harmful effects of smoking, short-form video platforms often obscure the extent of their data collection practices. Under the guise of personalizing content, these platforms may intrude on users’ privacy, collecting more data than necessary – a practice that has the potential to lead to misuse or breaches of personal information.

Undermining Societal Values: The Cost of Virality

The most striking resemblance between short-form video platforms and tobacco companies lies in their ability to distort societal values under the cover of appealing packaging. In their quest for virality, these platforms often promote and glorify negative behaviors such as harmful challenges or spreading misinformation. This superficial culture of quick popularity can undermine core societal values, pushing a narrative of instant gratification and superficiality, much like the glamorization of smoking did before its consequences became widely known.


While short-form video platforms like TikTok serve as avenues for creativity and global connectivity, it is vital to consider their underlying implications. Much like the tobacco industry, they offer a superficial appeal that can potentially mask serious societal consequences, including diminished cognitive abilities, increased mental health issues, privacy breaches, and distorted societal values. Mitigating these risks requires increased digital literacy, healthy usage patterns, and stronger privacy regulations. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we learn from history and navigate the digital revolution responsibly, prioritizing depth and value over superficial appeal.

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