Spending a lot of time on social media could increase the chances of teenagers taking up smoking or vaping, according to a study.

The findings advocate for the promotion of healthy online habits for young people, researchers said, rather than “blanket bans and over-protection”.

Academics from the University of Glasgow explored how social media use among 14-year-olds influenced nicotine use when they reached 17.

The team surveyed 8,987 teenagers for the study, which has been published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Some 28.9% of those who responded were smokers, while 23.7% vaped. Some 8.2% of the teenagers polled used both.

Mental health, socio-economic status and past smoking behaviours were also factored in.

Researchers found that spending more than two hours a day on social media platforms increased the likelihood of a teenager smoking by two and a half times.

They were also more than three times more likely to vape when compared to their peers who used social media for one hour to less than 30 minutes a day.

Lead author Amrit Kaur Purba, said: “Our findings advocate for the regulation of risky content on social media and tailored guidance for teens on social media use so they can navigate the complex social media environment.

“Educators, health professionals, and care givers must enhance their social media literacy to prepare teens for the realities of the social media landscape.

“We need to model healthy online habits, instead of resorting to blanket bans and over-protection, to help young people navigate the digital world.”

The study was funded by Medical Research Council Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and the Wellcome Trust.

It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to bring in laws that will essentially mean youngsters born on or after January 1, 2009 will never legally be able to buy cigarettes.

There will also be new powers to regulate the display, contents, flavours and packaging of vapes and nicotine products.

The bill was introduced to Commons last month.

The Scottish Government has consented to the UK-wide legislation and also intends to ban the sale of single-use vapes from April 1, 2025.