Young people share how nicotine use affected their stress

Nicotine can play a role in increasing rather than alleviating feelings of stress. But many young people are unaware of this connection. In fact, according to a Truth Initiative survey, 4 in 5 young people who had vaped said they started as a way to lessen their feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.

Breath of Stress Air, the new truth youth e-cigarette prevention and education effort, debunks the marketing of e-cigarettes as stress relievers and calls out the tobacco industry for selling vaping as a way to deal with stress, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the short-term, vaping nicotine may feel good by stimulating production of the “feel good” chemical in the brain called dopamine which can create feelings of pleasure and relaxation. However, because of the way nicotine works in the body, those feel-good chemicals don’t last long. Within just a few hours, the effect of nicotine in the body wears off and can lead to a desire to vape again.

This is nicotine withdrawal, and it includes cravings or urges to vape, feeling irritated or upset, feeling jumpy and restless, having a hard time concentrating, changes in sleep and eating habits, and feeling anxious or depressed. Over time, it can take more and more nicotine used more and more frequently to create that same good feeling and deal with these symptoms of withdrawal. That’s called nicotine dependence. Eventually, what started out as a pleasurable experience of vaping nicotine turns into vaping to get rid of withdrawal symptoms.

Many young people who know the cycle of nicotine withdrawal from vaping firsthand have shared with truth what it’s like.

Ends up being an endless cycle of trying to reward yourself with a nicotine high after doing certain tasks. Then when this goes on for a while you get stressed out more easily with withdrawl symptoms and the cycle repeats – Julie, under 18, This is Quitting user
It’s a temporary fix that gives you farrrr more stress in the long run – Jeff, 18-24, This is Quitting user.

According to an August 2021 Truth Initiative survey, 90% of young people who quit vaping felt less stressed, anxious, or depressed than when they were vaping. Breath of Stress Air connects young people with resources including This is Quitting, the first of its-kind free and anonymous quit vaping program from truth that is helping more than 425,000 young people seeking to break free from e-cigarette use.

“Once you break that cycle, it feels so amazing.” – Alex, from “Quitters”
“The best thing about quitting vaping nicotine is that I feel like myself again.” – Parker, from “Quitters”

This is Quitting incorporates messages from other young people and, in a recent clinical trial, increased quit vaping rates by nearly 40% compared to a control group. Young people using This is Quitting have discovered healthier ways to deal with their stress.

Remember that stress can be dealt with in other ways! Try meditating or even writing down what the problem is and then figure out solutions. – Dalton, 18-24, This is Quitting user
Don’t be afraid to tell others that you are struggling. Sharing your struggles with others can be encouraging and reduce stress. – Jake, 18-24, This is Quitting user
If you’re stressed and you want nicotine, go outside and taking a deep breath of fresh air, try meditating it can really help you refresh your mind. – Lexy, under 18, This is Quitting user