truth revealed its latest youth e-cigarette education effort “It’s Messing with Our Heads,” exposing nicotine’s role as a contributor to the worsening youth mental health crisis and the tobacco industry’s on-going attempts to distort public perception about the health effects of vaping products.
And it’s our Reel Ad of the Week.
A recently published study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that youth depression and anxiety doubled during the pandemic. Meanwhile, youth vaping remains at epidemic levels with 20% of high schoolers vaping, with nearly 40% of those who vape, doing so on a regular basis. Yet, the very thing many young people are turning to for relief is actually making it worse. “It was time for the tobacco industry to be exposed as a major contributor to the mental health crisis to help end youth vaping,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative.
Koval adds, “In edgy truth fashion, Depression Stick! boldly highlights the marketing tactics Big Tobacco uses to lure young customers into life-long addiction and mess with their heads. The multi-platform campaign places the necessary spotlight on nicotine’s role in heightening symptoms of depression and anxiety to give young people the facts they deserve to make informed decisions to live their best, healthiest and longest lives.”
“Youth are experiencing a mental health crisis right now, and we’re glad that Truth Initiative is raising awareness around the fact that vaping can intensify anxiety and depression,” notes Schroeder Stribling, President and CEO at Mental Health America. “Young people should consider this information when they make choices about using vape products. We’re committed to providing that information and we stand alongside Truth Initiative as a resource.”
As part of the campaign, truth, working with New York-based Mojo Supermarket, created a fake vape company called Depression Stick! to raise awareness of the fact that nicotine worsens symptoms of anxiety and depression and underscore the mental health impact of real e-cigarette products like JUUL, Vuse, blu, Logic and Njoy, the leading e-cigarette brands popular among youth.
The Depression Stick! the campaign follows the playbook of its e-cigarette competitors complete with kid-friendly flavors, aiming to reach and engage young people through influencer unboxings, TikTok takeovers, pop up shops, and bold neon advertising airing nationwide, including on a Times Square billboard. While all nicotine vaping products do the same thing, Depression Stick! is “proud to be the first e-cigarette company to honestly admit vaping nicotine can amplify feelings of depression and anxiety.”
Launching on 9/19 during Sunday Night Football – hidden-camera style ads follow Craig, a Depression Stick Marketing Manager, as he tries to “sell depression” at gas stations, to unsuspecting social media influencers, lobbyists, and even to advertising executives. His aim: convince them to help promote this new vape product by telling the truth and capitalizing on sadness. Everyone who was approached refused to work with Depression Stick! which is the point of the campaign. Watch the massive campaign below:
Boasting fruity flavors like Citrus Sadness and Dissapoint-mint, Depression Stick! launched with national ads—including “Why Be Happy When You Can be Sad?” and vapes that “Feel Like Anxiety,” but “Taste Like Cereal” driving viewers to its website: Depressionstick.com.
And there’s out-of-home:
“Vaping has become so normalized in pop culture and many young people don’t even see it as an issue,” explained Mo Said, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Mojo Supermarket. “With everything happening in the world young people’s number one concern is their mental health. We believe that if we could show the connection between vaping nicotine and anxiety and depression, they’d never look at a vape the same way again.”
Depression Stick is part of a new platform – “It’s Messing with Your Head” – which is exposing vaping nicotine as a contributor to the growing youth mental health crisis. All nicotine vaping products worsen anxiety and amplify symptoms of depression, and with this spoof, truth brings attention to the tobacco industry’s ongoing use of kid-friendly vape flavors, its deceptive attempts to distort public perception about vape products, and the real health impact vape products like JUUL and PuffBar are having on young people.
Depression Stick! comes on the heels of the FDA postponing a court-mandated decision on e-cigarette category leaders’ applications such as JUUL and other top brands that make up a combined 75% of the market, instead leaving these popular products widely available and delaying regulations to help smokers quit by ensuring these products proved they are safe and do what they promise. “The tobacco industry is growing their business and profits on the backs of young people putting millions at risk for a lifetime of nicotine addiction and mental health issues,” added Koval.
The Reel 360 team is thrilled about this work on Depression. And that’s why it’s our Reel Ad of the Week.