Juul, the small, sleek, aromatic vape that claimed three quarters of the e-cigarette market share in 2018, proves popular as a cigarette alternative.
While many people find success using e-cigarettes to quit smoking traditional cigarettes, it's not true that vaping is always a stepping stone from smoking to quitting. Research shows that as many as 90 percent of smokers can't quit after vaping for one year.
That's because e-cigarettes are addictive in their own right -- One "Juulpod" delivers just as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and it's just as difficult to quit.
"Both smoking methods involve nicotine, which is the addictive component," Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer of American Addiction Centers, told CNET. "Inhalation of nicotine will increase dopamine production regardless of the vessel used. The up and down of dopamine levels is what motivates the individual to smoke."
If you're trying to quit any form of nicotine, try implementing these seven nicotine-cessation tips.
1. Form a support group or seek professional support
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 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 messaging system specifically to help 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.
2. Research the health risks
If nothing else, knowing the health risks of nicotine may be enough encouragement to stop Juuling for good.
Nicotine, the main ingredient in Juuls and all e-cigarettes, 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, 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, the use of nicotine can harm the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, logic and personality traits, according to Weinstein.
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.
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 your Juul, the charger, the pods and anything that reminds you of Juuling.
- 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 quitline.
4. Pinpoint your triggers
- 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 friends and family who don't Juul or are also trying to quit
While this can definitely be an effective tactic, it's often easier said than done, said Dr. Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, 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 your efforts clear to your friends
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 use Juuls, you can try asking that they take Juul breaks rather than puff consistently throughout the day.
When they do take a Juul 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.
7. Replace Juuling 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 told CNET. "Come up with a list of activities that works 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 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 says Gillilan.
"Don't just sit there watching your thoughts go by about using [your Juul]," he told CNET. "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 stay motivated and dedicated
Even if you change up your environment, alter the routines you associate with Juuling and prepare a plan to deal with cravings, it's likely that you'll still deal with withdrawal symptoms, especially if you've been Juuling 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 Juuling 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 Juuling, 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 told CNET: "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.