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Impact of youth vaping nicotine on mental health

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Truth Initiative, the organization behind the highly effective truth® youth smoking, vaping and nicotine public education campaign, is gathering young people from across the country in Washington, D.C. today for a Moment of Action for Mental Health. The event, taking place on the National Mall, will call attention to the impact that vaping nicotine is having on youth mental health and demand decision-makers declare it a mental health issue.

The Moment of Action is part of truth’s latest campaign, Breath of Stress Air, which busts the fantasy that vaping nicotine is a stress reliever and calls out the tobacco industry for promoting e-cigarettes and vaping as a way to deal with stress. When in fact, vaping nicotine can increase stress levels and amplify feelings of anxiety and depression.

As part of the Moment of Action, young activists – including former e-cigarette users – will be taking a symbolic live breath to call attention to the impact that nicotine use is having on youth mental health. Leading up to the Moment of Action, hundreds of thousands of young people showed their support for the effort by “taking breaths” at thetruth.com/mentalhealth2022. While in Washington, D.C., young people are also meeting with Members of Congress, members of the Biden Administration and Admiral Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. They will elevate the discussion around vaping and mental health and call for it to be declared a public health crisis. As momentum builds, young people nationwide can text “ACTION” to 88709 to participate.

The Moment of Action comes on the heels of an advisory issued by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on the state of mental health among young people, in which he called youth mental health an “urgent public health crisis.” At the same time, the latest 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that youth vaping remains at epidemic levels with more than two million high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes. These colliding crises are especially troubling given the fact that nicotine can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression in addition to the physical health risks associated with its use.

The Moment of Action for Mental Health event in Washington, D.C. will feature more than a dozen young activists including both former vapers and non-vapers from Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Tennessee and other states who are leading education and awareness efforts about the dangers of vaping nicotine among youth in their communities.

“As a former vaper who has dealt with mental health repercussions amplified by nicotine, I am passionate about sharing my experiences in hopes it can change views on vaping and help others looking to quit,” said Sam, age 20. “I’m excited to be joining in the Moment of Action and hope it will inspire others to learn more about the connection between nicotine and mental health.”

“Now more than ever, it is an important time to address how nicotine affects my generation’s mental health,” said Brooklyn, age 22.

truth’s proven-effective campaigns

The Moment of Action for Mental Health continues truth’s latest Breath of Stress Air campaign that debunked the marketing of e-cigarettes as stress relievers. It called out the tobacco industry for selling vaping as a way to deal with stress, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Truth Initiative survey found that 93% of e-cigarette users said vaping made them feel more stressed, depressed, or anxious, while 90% of those who quit said they felt less stressed, anxious, or depressed.

The Breath of Stress Air campaign builds on a larger truth effort – It’s Messing with Our Heads: Depression Stick – which first exposed the connection between vaping nicotine and youth mental health. It seeks to de-normalize youth vaping by debunking the myth that vaping nicotine can help reduce stress, and to normalize quitting through a free and first-of-its-kind quit vaping text message program, This is Quitting from truth.

Resources to help those looking to quit

Connecting young people with resources is a key component of the truth campaign. This is Quitting from truth is a first-of-its-kind text message quit vaping program that is helping more than 440,000 young people on their journey to quit. The program is free and anonymous. Young people can enroll by texting “DITCHVAPE” to 88709 to get help. A randomized clinical trial found that This is Quitting increased quit rates among young adults aged 18-24 by nearly 40% compared to a control group.

Breathing exercises have been proven to help with nicotine cravings that cause stress and anxiety. For this reason, truth has launched a partnership with Breathwrk through This is Quitting. Program users can access six months of free membership to Breathwrk Pro including access to custom breaths to help on their quit journey by texting “BREATHE” to 88709.

For help with quitting vaping or to learn more about the connection between vaping nicotine and mental health, teens and young adults can visit thetruth.com for free resources.

About the author


Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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