New Hawaii Department of Health Campaign Shares Mental Health Effects of Teen Vaping: Maui Now

The nicotine brain explained. PC: Hawaii Department of Health / Escape the Vape Hawaiʻi

“Decades of misleading marketing have created the false impression that tobacco is a pain reliever – and young people are especially susceptible to the influence of celebrities and peers,” according to the state Department of Health. Now, the department has launched a campaign that shares the effects of teen vaping on mental health in Hawaiʻi.

The e-cigarette industry more than tripled its spending on advertising and promotion from 2015 to 2018, which included a 15-fold increase in the number of paying celebrities, social media
influencers, brand ambassadors and other endorsers, according to the DOH.

During the same time period, nicotine concentration increased by 60% and more for cartridge-type products popular with young people in Hawaii. To combat misinformation around tobacco use, and amid public health and mental health concerns, the Hawaii State Department of Health recently launched a new campaign, “Nicotine Brain Explained.” , to correct public misperceptions.


The campaign aims to reach and educate young Hawaiians, especially those between the ages of 13 and 18, about the negative impact of nicotine on mental health through a multi-channel approach, spreading prevention messages to counter the pro-vaping imagery on channels that feature pro-vape content and inspire young people in Hawai’i to go vape-free.

“Studies show that teenage nicotine use negatively affects their brain development. If teens already have depression or other mental health issues, vaping can make those conditions worse,” said Lola Irvin, health department administrator of chronic disease prevention and health promotion. “We know that many Hawaiian teenagers may not realize how much nicotine they can vape and how vaping harms their overall health and well-being. Use of vaping products can complicate existing mental health issues, and a vicious cycle of nicotine withdrawal symptoms includes anxiety, depression, concentration problems, and sleep and mood disturbances. We hope to build on the success of our previous vaping prevention campaign while focusing on educating teens and their ohana about the serious mental health risks of vaping.

“Nicotine Brain Explained” explains how vaping affects the brain in ways that can impact mental health by:

  • Worsening feelings of stress over time: Nicotine triggers receptors in the brain that lead to the production of cortisol, which helps regulate the body’s response to stress.
  • Negatively affecting the way you feel: Nicotine disrupts the natural balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, which affect the way you feel, leaving you feeling unhappy and not like yourself.
  • Increased risk of long-term mood disorders: Nicotine alters brain circuitry in a way that has been linked to an increased risk of long-term mood disorders.

To ensure that “Nicotine Brain Explained” would motivate young Hawaiians not to vape, the ad was tested with teens participating in focus groups. Additionally, several teenagers from Hawai’i provided feedback on the campaign as it developed. During the research, one teenage vape user shared, “I know some kids will vape to try to distract themselves, or maybe to calm themselves down. So I think that’s one of the reasons why kids are going to vape. But I don’t think they realize it can actually harm them mentally.

A teenage male at risk of vaping added, “People will vape to ease their mind or their stress. This [ad] could help people realize that what they think is right isn’t.

For teens in Hawaii who want to quit smoking or vaping, the Hawaiian Quit Smoking Helpline continues to offer “My Life, My Quit,” a free program with coaches trained to help young people up to 17 years old to quit smoking or vaping. . Teens can sign up by texting “Start My Quit” to 36072. Teens, parents, guardians and healthcare providers can also visit for more information.


Additionally, the Hawai’i Tobacco Quitline offers anyone 18 or older free quit smoking help and resources, including free nicotine replacement patches, gum, and lozenges.

For more information on Escape The Vape Hawai’i, please visit

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