If quitting vaping is your goal, any method that helps you achieve that goal can have benefits. However, going cold turkey may lead to greater long-term success with quitting.
You might be rethinking things amid reports of vaping-related lung injuries, some of which are life threatening. Or maybe you want to avoid some of the other negative health effects associated with vaping.
Whatever your reason, we have tips and strategies to help you quit.
“Knowing our why can help us change any pattern or habit,” says Kim Egel, a therapist in Cardiff, California.
“Being clear on why we’re changing behavior helps validate the decision to break that habit and gives us the motivation to discover a new habit or way of coping,” explains Egel.
One key reason for quitting might be concern over the possible health effects of vaping. Since e-cigarettes are still fairly new, medical experts haven’t fully determined their short- and long-term health effects.
However, existing research has linked chemicals in e-cigarettes to:
If health reasons aren’t a big motivator, you might think about:
- the money you’ll save by quitting
- protecting loved ones and pets against secondhand vape smoke
- the freedom of not feeling agitated when you can’t vape, like on a long flight
There’s no right or wrong reason for quitting. It’s all about figuring out what matters most to you.
Quitting can be tough, so consider choosing a time when you won’t be under a lot of added stress. In other words, the middle of finals week or the day before your annual review may not be ideal start dates.
Still, it’s not always possible to predict when life will get busy or complicated. Just keep in mind you might need a little extra support during stressful periods. That’s natural and nothing to be ashamed of.
Some people find it helps to choose a day with some significance. If your birthday or another day you like to remember is approaching, quitting on or around that day can make it even more meaningful.
Try to set a date that’s at least a week away so you have time to:
- Identify some alternative coping skills.
- Tell your loved ones and enlist support.
- Get rid of vaping products.
- Buy gum, hard candies, toothpicks, and other things to help fight the urge to vape.
- Talk with a therapist or review online resources.
- Practice quitting by doing a “test run” a day or two at a time.
Ramp up your motivation by circling the date on your calendar, dedicating a special page to it in your planner, or treating yourself to something on that day, like a dinner out or a movie you’ve wanted to see.
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A 2019 review of three randomized controlled trials (considered the “gold standard” of research) also found evidence to suggest people who quit abruptly were more likely to quit successfully than those who tried to quit by gradually cutting back.
That said, gradually quitting can still work for some people. If you decide to go this route, remember to keep your goal of quitting completely in sight.
NRT — nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, and inhalers — may be helpful, especially if you’re abstaining from tobacco.
A healthcare professional can help you find the right dosage. Some vaping products deliver more nicotine than cigarettes, so you may need to begin NRT at a higher dosage than if you smoked traditional cigarettes.
What about cigarettes?
Given all the unknowns around vaping, switching to cigarettes might seem safer. It’s not that simple, though. Going back to cigarettes might lower your risk for vaping-related illnesses, but you’ll still:
Triggers can be physical, social, or emotional. They also vary from person to person. Understanding your triggers can help you develop a strategy to avoid or deal with these scenarios.
If your friends vape, for example, you might have a harder time quitting if you spend a lot of time with them, but don’t consider how you’ll address the temptation to vape with them.
Recognizing emotions that trigger vaping urges can help you take more productive steps to manage those emotions, like talking with loved ones or journaling about them.
Once you quit vaping, the first couple of weeks might be a little rough. You might experience a combination of withdrawal symptoms, including:
- mood changes, like increased irritability, nervousness, and frustration
- feelings of anxiety or depression
- difficulty sleeping
- trouble focusing
- increased hunger
You may also experience cravings or a strong urge to vape during this time. Come up with a list of things you can do to deal with the craving in the moment, such as:
- practicing deep breathing
- trying a short meditation
- taking a quick walk or step outside for a change of scenery
- texting a quit smoking program
- playing a game or solving a crossword or number puzzle
Feeling a little nervous about telling loved ones you plan to quit vaping is natural. This is especially true if you don’t want them to think you’re judging them for continuing to vape. You might wonder whether you should even tell them at all.
It’s important to have this conversation, though, even if it seems like it might be difficult.
Friends and family who know you’re quitting can offer encouragement. Their support can make the withdrawal period easier to cope with.
Sharing your decision also opens the door for a conversation about your boundaries. You might, for example:
- ask friends not to vape around you
- let friends know you’ll avoid places where people are vaping
Your decision to quit vaping is yours alone. You can show respect for your friends’ choices by focusing solely on your experience when talking about quitting:
- “I don’t want to become dependent on nicotine.”
- “I can’t catch my breath.”
- “I worry about this nasty cough.”
Some people will probably be less supportive than others. If this happens, you might try restating your boundaries once more and then taking some time away from the relationship.
Egel explains that when you make a major lifestyle change like quitting vaping, you may need to limit certain relationships to honor your decision to go nicotine-free.
“Everyone has a unique situation and needs,” she says, “but a huge part of the recovery process is having a social circle who supports your choice.”
Slip-ups are common, especially if you’re not using NRT or don’t have a strong support system. If you end up vaping again, try not to give yourself a hard time.
- Remind yourself how far you’ve come. Whether that’s 1, 10, or 40 days without vaping, you’re still on the path to success.
- Get back on the horse. Committing to quitting again right away can keep your motivation strong. Reminding yourself why you want to quit can also help.
- Revisit your coping strategies. If certain strategies, like deep breathing, don’t seem to help you much, it’s OK to ditch them and try something else.
- Shake up your routine. Varying your usual routine can help you avoid situations that make you feel like vaping.
If you’re considering NRT, it’s wise to talk with a healthcare professional to find the right dosage. They can also help you manage physical symptoms, provide tips for success, and connect you to quitting resources.
Some prescription medications, including bupropion and varenicline, can help people overcome severe nicotine withdrawal when NRT doesn’t cut it.
Therapy can have a lot of benefits, particularly when you have underlying concerns you’d like to work through.
A therapist can help you:
- Identify potential reasons for quitting.
- Develop coping skills to manage cravings.
- Explore new habits and behaviors.
- Learn to manage emotions that factor into vaping.
Quitting vaping, or any nicotine product, can be far from easy. But people who quit successfully generally agree the challenge was worth it.
Remember, you never have to quit on your own. By getting professional support, you increase your chances of a successful quit.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.