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How to Quit Vaping: 8 Tips From Experts to Help With Nicotine Withdrawal

Addiction experts weigh in on the best way to stop vaping and smoking for good.

cigarettes in ashtray
Looking to stop vaping or smoking? We've got tips.
Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Vaping is a popular way to stop smoking because it is considered by some to be "less harmful" than traditional cigarettes for current smokers. It's also lauded as a stepping stone to quitting nicotine for good. But be beware that it's not always the case: Research shows that as many as 90% of smokers can't quit even after vaping for an entire year

But what if you're ready to quit vaping? As any former smoker can tell you, quitting is not easy and support is key. If you're trying to quit any form of nicotine, try implementing these nicotine-cessation tips. For more information on vaping, read everything you need to know about Juul vape and about what doctors say about the health implications of vaping.

1. Get support for nicotine addiction

The first thing you should do when you want to stop using nicotine is to make others aware of your goal and get a support group, even if it's just one person. While some behavioral research suggests that keeping your goals to yourself is the best way to reach them, that's not true for addiction.

When it comes to addiction, you should have a supportive circle of people who can help keep you accountable and on the right track. Plus, sharing your intentions means you'll also be able to share and celebrate your progress down the road, which can serve as further motivation for quitting completely.

Speaking to an expert might be what you need to quit for good. While you might not find a rehab center near you that treats only nicotine addiction, most rehab centers for alcohol and other drugs are equipped to treat nicotine addiction. For a more personalized approach, try outpatient counseling that includes cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.

You can also use a free, confidential text or call line to talk to an expert about addiction. The National Institutes of Health offers both a call line and an online chat system, and provides nicotine cessation resources specifically for men, women, teens, military veterans and seniors.

Truth Initiative, a nonprofit that works to end tobacco and nicotine use, offers a text-to-quit messaging system specifically to help people (especially young people) quit using e-cigarettes.

While many call lines operate as or call themselves "smoking cessation" hotlines, keep in mind that the trained experts on the other side of the line help with e-cigarette use as well.

man smoking a juul

E-cigarettes are often used as smoking-cessation tools, but research shows that e-cigarettes can be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes because of the nicotine component.

Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

2. Research the health risks of smoking and vaping

If nothing else, knowing the health risks of nicotine may be enough encouragement to halt your vape or cigarette addiction.

Nicotine stimulates a series of bodily reactions induced by adrenaline, including an excess release of glucose and an increase in heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. That's why people who vape or smoke feel the familiar rush of alertness and happiness.

Aside from causing wacky reactions inside your body, nicotine is linked to a long and concerning list of side effects, including increased risk of blood clots, artery hardening, seizures, peptic ulcers, irregular heartbeat and lung spasms. More recently, scientists have discovered that vaping specifically can increase your risk of heart disease by damaging the cells that line your blood vessels.

For kids and teens who smoke or vape, nicotine can inhibit and alter brain development -- specifically, nicotine can harm the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, logic and personality traits, according to Weinstein.

Scientists aren't sure about all of the long-term health effects of vaping yet, but the known health risks don't seem promising. 

3. If weaning off doesn't work, try quitting cold turkey

Nicotine patches, lozenges, gums and other products can help some people quit, but not everyone can wean off of an addictive substance successfully.

quitgo inhaler

The QuitGo inhaler uses a chewable, soft-tip design that mimics the look and feel of cigarettes, but it delivers only air, flavorings and essential oils to help people quit nicotine and tobacco cold-turkey. 

QuitGo

Some companies have started to manufacture products that intend to help people quit nicotine cold turkey in place of nicotine-replacement products like nicotine gum and patches. 

One such company is QuitGo, which manufactures a soft-tip inhaler designed to look and feel like a cigarette, but delivers only air, essential oils, flavorings and pyruvic acid (an organic acid that already exists in our bodies). It's meant to help with the oral fixation that many smokers struggle to beat.

In the nicotine withdrawal timeline, symptoms typically peak at one to three days and then decrease over a period of three to four weeks. For some people, knowing that the worst is over after just a couple days is enough to quit cold turkey.

If that's not motivation enough for you, you can take some steps to make cold turkey easier:

  • Shift your mindset and stop rationalizing: No more "one puff won't hurt" or similar thoughts.
  • Avoid temptation: You won't want to be around others who smoke or use e-cigarettes during these first days and weeks. Get rid of all nicotine-related products in your home, including vape chargers, e-juice or vape pods, and anything else that reminds you of smoking/vaping.
  • Prepare for withdrawal: Have alternative activities ready for when you feel strong cravings. For example, prep some crunchy, snackable foods that may help you occupy your hands and mouth or have your tennis shoes in plain sight so you can easily remember to get up and go for a walk instead of obsessing over your craving.
  • Keep someone on call: Designate a supportive friend or family member to pick up your calls or answer texts while you push through the first couple of weeks. You can also utilize a professional quit line.

4. Pinpoint triggers that make you crave a smoke

Habit expert Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, propounds that habits comprise three critical components:

  • A cue or trigger
  • A routine
  • A reward

The cue triggers the routine, and you reap the reward for going through the routine. To change any habit, you must first identify triggers.

Let's say you're addicted to sugar. Being at a birthday party might cue your routine to eat a piece of cake, which produces the reward of a sugar high, or the various feel-good hormones and mechanisms that occur in your body when you eat sugar.

If you're addicted to nicotine, think about when and where you usually smoke or vape. For example, maybe you meet up with your friends after work for a drink, and everyone uses a vape.

  • Your cue: Happy hour. 
  • Your routine: Drink and vape with friends while you chat about work. 
  • Your reward: Social time and a nicotine rush.

5. Surround yourself with people who don't smoke or are also trying to quit

While this can definitely be an effective tactic, it's often easier said than done, said Kevin Gilliland, executive director of the Innovation360 addiction clinic. Exactly how well this tactic works for you depends on how badly you want to quit.

If you are determined to quit, do your best to engage with friends, coworkers and family members that don't smoke. For instance, instead of taking lunch with a friend who vapes or smokes, take lunch with a friend who usually walks outside after eating.

6. Make sure friends know you're trying to quit

It's not easy to give up a social activity, but your friends should be supportive of your efforts. If many people in your social circle vape or smoke, you can try asking that they take smoke breaks rather than puff consistently throughout the day.

When they do take a break, you can leave the room and take that time to do something else constructive: Call someone you've been meaning to check in with, catch up on emails or even watch a funny YouTube video.

juul in a hand

It helps to have a support system in place, as well as a plan to deal with cravings, when trying to quit smoking

truthinitiative.org

7. Replace smoking with another activity that makes you feel good

The basics of behavior change include a strong emphasis on replacement activities. Often, the hardest part about quitting vaping or smoking is finding something else that makes you feel as good as nicotine does. When you find that something, you find the ticket to a nicotine-free life.

Many people who once used nicotine have found success in activities like exercise, drawing or painting, singing and cleaning, but you could try just about anything.

"We are always more successful when we [replace our addictive behaviors]," Gilliland said. "Come up with a list of activities that work for you … Get up and walk, chew gum, text a friend, rethink about why you are quitting. If you want to be successful, you have to invest some time in you."

8. Be prepared to deal with nicotine cravings

When you're addicted to something -- be it alcohol, sugar, nicotine or anything else -- you will inevitably experience cravings when you try to quit. A big part of successfully quitting is being prepared to deal with those cravings.

Without a plan, you may give in too easily and find yourself back at square one. This tip circles back to the replacement activities concept, said Gilliland.

"Don't just sit there watching your thoughts go by about using," he said. "Again, you want a lot of options: Go for a walk, do some yoga poses, call a friend, go talk to a coworker about a project, chew some gum, think about your progress and how long it's been, call or text a friend that's also stopping or has stopped."

How to quit smoking or vaping for good

Even if you change up your environment, alter the routines you associate with smoking and prepare a plan to deal with cravings, it's likely that you'll still deal with withdrawal symptoms, especially if you've been doing it for a while.

While withdrawal symptoms -- such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, anxiety, mental fog -- can hardly be described as enjoyable, they are only temporary and the new rewards of not vaping will far exceed a nicotine high.

When you're dealing with withdrawal symptoms, picture the rewards:

  • The feeling of breathing cleanly and enjoying fresh air
  • Invigoration from new healthier habits that replaced smoking, such as exercise
  • Extra time to spend focusing on productive endeavors, like drawing or cooking
  • Extra money to save or put toward your newfound hobbies

Also, make sure your support system remains strong throughout your quitting process. Just one supportive friend or family member can make the biggest difference in your ultimate success.

Above all else, don't give up just because one tactic didn't work for you, Gilliland said: "Be curious about what works for you and what makes it harder."

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.