New truth® campaign shows connection between nicotine dependence and "Toxic Therapy"
Many young people who vape nicotine think it helps them relax, when in fact it can have the opposite effect. To illustrate how vaping nicotine can intensify symptoms of depression and anxiety and interfere with sleep, which is vital to mental health, truth® is teaming up with actor and comedian Chris Parnell in its latest effort, “Toxic Therapy from Your Vape.”
Parnell – well known for his character on the popular animated series Rick and Morty – voices an animated role as a vape-turned-faux therapist. His advice doesn’t alleviate the mental health concerns of the young people who use him. Instead, it intensifies their struggles.
“Can’t sleep?” this vape asks. “Try these easy exercises. Think about that embarrassing thing you did last week. Keep thinking about it. Now repeat those two steps until sunrise.” In another video, when friends don't respond to text messages, the Toxic Therapist encourages people to jump to conclusions and believe their friends are excluding them.
“Toxic Therapy from Your Vape” builds on a previous truth youth e-cigarette education effort, “Depression Stick!,” a fake vaping company created to expose nicotine’s role as a contributor to the worsening youth mental health crisis. truth followed “Depression Stick!” with “Breath of Stress Air,” which alerted young people to the role nicotine can play in increasing rather than eliminating levels of stress. Together, these campaigns were associated with reduced e-cigarette use among young people and earned truth the prestigious Grand Effie award for the most effective behavior changing campaign of 2023.
“Toxic Therapy from Your Vape” also highlights that vaping nicotine is associated with sleep problems, including poor sleep quality, less sleep, restlessness during sleep, nightmares, and daytime sleepiness.
As part of this latest effort, truth is partnering with several mental health professionals who are popular on social media, including Jeff Guenther, Micheline Maalouf, and Dr. Justin Puder. These collaborations are in addition to the TikTok show recently launched by truth, “Everything Sucks Right Now,” which is hosted by the influencers Vincent Marcus and Christian Vierling. In the show, Vincent and Christian discuss with humor and candor how they cope with struggles that many of their peers also face, such as vaping, relationships, and the environment.
“An increasing number of young people are experiencing anxiety-causing thoughts and behaviors, and while many are open to discussing their mental health and breaking stigmas, more than half of young people aged 18-24 with anxiety or depression still do not seek treatment,” said Dr. Debra Kissen, CEO of Light On Anxiety CBT Treatment Center. “The truth campaign shines an important spotlight on the mental health state of young people in a way that resonates meaningfully with this younger generation and gives them tools to get help.”
The illusion of nicotine as a mood booster and stress reliever
does vaping help with stress and anxiety
The tobacco industry has invested significant resources in marketing that connects commercial tobacco use with mental well-being. From an early Camel cigarette ad that depicts a relaxed smoker with the text, “It’s a psychological fact, pleasure helps your disposition. For more pure pleasure – have a Camel,” to a pandemic isolation-themed Puff Bar ad calling the e-cigarette brand a way to “stay sane” and “the perfect escape from back-to-back zoom calls, parental texts, and WFH stress,” the tobacco industry often depicts its products as stress relief.
Associating a relaxing moment with vaping nicotine can mislead the public to believe that nicotine use boosts mental well-being. The cycle of nicotine withdrawal may also lead to this misconception. Irritability, anxiety, and depression are some of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and using nicotine may relieve these symptoms temporarily – before the cycle starts again.
Quitting nicotine can benefit mental health in the long-term
As quitting smoking is linked with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, there is emerging evidence of a link between quitting vaping nicotine and improvements in mental health symptoms. According to an August 2021 Truth Initiative survey, 47% of young people who quit vaping feel more in control than when they were vaping, and 90% feel less stressed, anxious or depressed.
This Is Quitting – the evidence-based, first-of-its-kind, free quit vaping program that is the largest in the country and the only one that has been validated by peer-reviewed research – has become a resource for more than 640,000 young people seeking to break free from e-cigarette use. A randomized clinical trial found that young adults aged 18-24 who used This is Quitting had nearly 40% higher odds of quitting compared to a control group.
Results from another randomized clinical trial underscored that This is Quitting is not only successful in helping young people quit vaping, but also in ensuring that they don’t later use combustible tobacco products in place of e-cigarettes. Here’s what two This is Quitting users had to say about the impact of quitting on their mental health.
“Just don’t, it’s honestly not worth it in the long run, and you’re so much better off without it, you sleep better, feel better, and become happier.” – Arthur, This is Quitting user, 18-24
“Your quality of sleep will improve so much! You’ll wake up actually feeling refreshed.” – Stephanie B., This is Quitting user, 18-24
To access This Is Quitting and receive immediate help, young people can text “DITCHVAPE” to 88709. Parents of young people who vape can receive support at BecomeAnEX.org.
Free mental health resources, including breathing exercise app Breathwrk, Cope Notes, a daily texting program that can provide tips for combating anxiety, and the Crisis Text Line, can also be found at thetruth.com/solutionspace.