Currently sitting at number two on the Billboard Hot 100—the US music industry’s most influential ranking chart—is Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams” which opens with the 19-year-old rapper lighting a blunt.
Smoking tobacco, weed, and now electronic cigarettes, is not uncommon in hip-hop music videos, but a new study published last week in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal revealed just how widespread it is.
Hip-hop, a genre consumed mostly by adolescents and young adults, is the most popular music category in the United States. Researchers argued that the category’s music videos could be contributing to a public health concern around tobacco and marijuana use, due to the frequent appearance of these products in the videos.
The study looked at 796 videos featured on Billboard magazine’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs list over a period of five years, and found that 460 of them featured the smoking of tobacco or weed via combustible, electronic, or rolled products. Some form of smoking appeared in 40 to 50% of the videos every year from 2013 to 2017.
The videos the authors analyzed were widely consumed, and as a group were viewed a total of 39.5 billion times. Researchers found that the most popular videos (those that had been viewed from 112 million to 4 billion times) had combustible or electronic smoking in them 49.7% of the time.
Billboard top 50 hip-hop videos with visible smoking
Brand placement of smoking products was also found to be on the rise. For instance, the video “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled, which has been viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube, contained both combustible and electronic use, as well as electronic brand placement. Researchers found that the placement of branded smoking products increased substantially over the study period:
Hand-rolled products, specifically cigarettes and blunts, appeared most frequently in the videos, although there was a substantial rise in electronic cigarette use over time. The rise of e-cigarettes in the videos correlates to the US vaporizer market, which is projected to grow to $5.5 billion dollars in 2018, a 25% increase from 2017 (paywall).
Smoking ads have been banned from television for decades, but music videos may be helping to replace them. While the authors did not seek to find a correlation between increased smoking and hip-hop videos, the suggestion that the latter may be contributing to an ever-growing public health concern around smoking is worth paying attention to.