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3 min read

The Effects of Nicotine on Youth Mental Health

Because the brain continues to develop until the age of 25, youth and young adults are the most vulnerable to the effects of vaping, chewing tobacco and smoking.

These years are crucial to your development. Using tobacco products may jeopardize that, causing permanent damage to your brain. It all starts with a nicotine addiction and the risks that come with it.

Along with learning, judgement and memory complications, your mental health is likely to take a hit.

If you continue using tobacco products like vape pens, you may find yourself impacted by increased stress, feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression. The kicker? Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're addicted to nicotine — in fact, you might not even realize it.

increased stress

Though many vape companies market their products as stress relievers, they are quite the opposite.

Once you start vaping, smoking or chewing, you may become addicted to the nicotine, which can cause you to be more stressed. If you feel compelled to use tobacco throughout the day and lack the control to stop yourself, you might be addicted. If you've tried going without tobacco and experienced cravings, anxiety or irritability, you might be addicted. If smoking keeps you from being around family or from social situations that are smoke-free, you might be addicted. 

It's perhaps easy to say, "That couldn't be me," but addiction can look different for everyone. Sometimes the hardest first step to take is admitting that you might have an unhealthy dependency. The more awareness you have of your decision-making and your habits, the better you'll be able to determine whether tobacco has an addictive impact on your life.

Quitting an addiction isn’t easy. But quitting is worth it to be free of all of tobacco’s threats to your health.

You’ll be able to breathe easy and be active in sports and other physical activities without getting so winded because your lungs will start to clear up. You’ll likely be less moody and have fewer impulsive behaviors.

During the process, you may experience temporary withdrawal symptoms like cravings, irritability, problems concentrating or sleeping and stress

Giving into your nicotine cravings may seem to decrease your stress in the moment, making you feel relaxed or happy due to the production of dopamine. But this dopamine is not long-lasting or sustainable. It’s simply a chemical response from your addiction, making you crave nicotine even more.

As the effects of your nicotine high wear off, you begin to experience withdrawals again. Then the nicotine dependency cycle continues, getting more intense every time you give in as you build up a tolerance to the nicotine.

Fear not! These symptoms will lessen as your body stops depending on nicotine. You deserve to be vape-free.

Quitting your nicotine habit for good can make you a better, healthier version of you.


anxiety & depression

Other nicotine withdrawal symptoms include feeling anxious and depressed, a growing problem amongst youth.

According to Pew Research Center, 70 percent of teens reported anxiety and depression as a “major problem” for their peers. With the vape epidemic sweeping youth in the United States, these mental health issues could continue to worsen. In extreme cases, you could even experience suicidal thoughts and actions as a result.

If you or someone you know vapes, smokes or chews tobacco and is experiencing these mental health problems, it’s time to quit and stay quit. Talk to your primary care provider to get started.

With the guidance of a healthcare professional, find a quit method that works best for you. Having a healthy mind is crucial to overall health. Learn more about youth tobacco use.


Sources: Truth Initiative - Stress, CDC, Pew Research Center

Quit tools

13 or Older

For South Dakota residents 13 or older, South Dakota QuitLine offers three FREE ways to quit tobacco. Choose the option that works best for you and your quit journey.

12 or Younger

For those 12 or younger, the Truth Initiative offers This is Quitting, available 24/7 through your phone to help you quit and stay quit.