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Teen Vogue Summit highlights anti-Black racism and tobacco marketing with Youth Board Liaison Giana Darville

Truth Initiative® Youth Board Liaison Giana Darville exposed connections between anti-Black racism, mental health, and tobacco marketing as a panelist at Teen Vogue Summit.

The panel, "Putting Ourselves First: Mental Wellness and Community Healing,” which was moderated by Teen Vogue Executive Editor, Danielle Kwateng, dived into conversations about public health, rising rates of anxiety and depression, and social and racial injustice. Joining Giana was Reservation Dogs Actor and Filmmaker Devery Jacobs, and Women’s National Basketball Association MVP & Champion and WNBPA President, Nneka Ogwumike. The summit featured activists, speakers, and performers, including Olivia Rodrigo, Hayley Kiyoko, and Mindy Kaling, for a series of inspiring talks and performances.

Giana’s aim to “give people the information that they need to make the choices that they really want to make” led to a powerful conversation on distinct struggles within the Black community and how to take action.

Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer

Tobacco use disproportionately affects many marginalized populations—including people in low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBT individuals and those with mental illness—who have a long and documented history of being targeted by the tobacco industry.

“There are researchers in DC, that noticed, if you're in an area with more black Americans, it's gonna be up to 10 times more likely to have advertisements for smoking,” said Giana about tobacco industry tactics to place more tobacco advertisements in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Two crises collide amid COVID-19 pandemic

Two health crises among youth — a mental health crisis and a vaping epidemic —intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, posing increasing threats to a generation of young people.

“I have friends who are in medical school, who were going, oh yeah, I'm so stressed out,” Darville said. “I'm gonna vape to try to feel better, not realizing that this was something that was damaging their health even worse.”

Peer-reviewed research links nicotine use to the potential for worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression and increased odds of having a diagnosis of depression among current users (compared to never users), but many young people are unaware of this connection. In fact, according to Truth Initiative surveys, a large majority of young people who have used e-cigarettes started vaping because of feelings of stress, anxiety or depression, and many continue vaping to cope with these feelings.

Ways to learn, help and make healthy decisions

There are several resources for young people to learn about the effects of vaping nicotine, make informed choices, and spread the word.

Vaping: Know the truth, a curriculum from Truth Initiative and Kaiser Permanente in collaboration with the American Heart Association, gives young people facts about e-cigarette use and tools to quit and is available for free to schools and communities. This is Quitting from truth is the first-of-its-kind free and anonymous texting program to help young people quit vaping and has helped nearly 400,000 young people. Compared to a control group in a recent clinical trial, This is Quitting increased quit vaping rates by 40%.

“It's really this idea of empowering people to make decisions that allow them to live their best life,” said Darville.

Giana Darville served as a 2019 truth Ambassador, an immersive leadership program that educates and trains youth and young adults on the public health impact of tobacco and e-cigarettes, the importance of community and youth engagement, as well as tobacco policy and advocacy. As part of the program, Giana created an informational YouTube channel titled, “Pretty Ugly Truth” that intertwined pop culture and tobacco-centered health education to empower peers through awareness, representation, and entertainment.