If you’ve picked up the habit of vaping nicotine, 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 is, we’ve got tips and strategies to help you quit.
If you haven’t already, allow yourself some time to think about what’s motivating you to quit. This is an important first step. Determining these reasons can increase your chance of success.
“Knowing our why can help us change any pattern or habit. Being clear on why we’re changing a behavior helps validate the decision to break that habit and gives us the motivation to discover a new habit or way of coping,” explains Kim Egel, a therapist in Cardiff, California.
One key reason for quitting might be concern over 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 also want to 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.
Once you have a clear idea of why you want to quit, you’re ready for the next step: choosing a start date (or quit date, if you’re planning to go cold turkey).
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.
That said, it’s not always possible to predict when life will get busy or complicated.
Once you commit to quitting, you can start anytime you like. Just keep in mind you might need a little extra support during stressful periods. That’s normal 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.
Ideally, try to set a date that’s at least a week away so you have time to:
- identify some alternative coping skills
- tell loved ones and enlist support
- get rid of vaping products
- buy gum, hard candies, toothpicks, and other things you can use to help fight the urge to vape
- talk to 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 been wanting to see.
According to the results of a
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, just remember to keep your end goal of quitting completely in sight.
If quitting vaping is your goal, any method that helps you achieve that goal can have benefit. But going cold turkey may lead to greater long-term success with quitting.
It’s worth repeating: Quitting can be super tough, especially if you don’t have much support. Then there’s the whole issue of withdrawal, which can be pretty uncomfortable.
Nicotine replacement therapy — nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, and inhalers — can help some people. These products provide nicotine at a consistent dose, so you avoid the nicotine rush you get from vaping while still getting relief from withdrawal symptoms.
Your healthcare provider or pharmacist 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.
Experts recommend starting NRT the day you quit vaping. Just remember that NRT doesn’t help you address emotional vaping triggers, so talking to a therapist or getting support from a quit program is always a good idea.
Keep in mind that NRT isn’t recommended if you’re still using some form of tobacco along with vaping.
What about cigarettes?
After hearing about the lung injuries associated with vaping, you tossed out your vaping equipment and resolved to give it up. But cravings and withdrawal can make it tough to stick with your decision.
Given all the unknowns around vaping, switching to cigarettes might seem like a safer option. It’s not that simple, though. Going back to cigarettes might lower your risk for vaping-related illnesses, but you’ll still:
Before starting the quitting process, you’ll also want to identify your triggers — the cues that make you want to vape. These can be physical, social, or emotional.
Triggers vary from person to person, but common ones include:
- emotions like stress, boredom, or loneliness
- doing something you connect to vaping, like hanging out with friends who vape or taking a break at work
- seeing other people vaping
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Patterns in your use and feelings that trigger use are good things to be mindful of when you’re evaluating your relationship with a given substance or trying to make changes, according to Egel.
Taking note of potential triggers as you plan to quit can help you develop a strategy to avoid or deal with these triggers.
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 to loved ones or journaling about them.
Once you quit vaping, the first week (or two or three) might be a little rough.
You might experience a combination of:
- mood changes, like increased irritability, nervousness, and frustration
- feelings of anxiety or depression
- difficulty sleeping
- trouble focusing
- increased hunger
As part of withdrawal, you’ll probably also experience cravings, or a strong urge to vape.
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
It’s normal to feel a little nervous about telling loved ones you plan to quit vaping. This is especially the case 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.”
According to the American Cancer Society, only a small percentage of people — between 4 and 7 percent — quit successfully on a given attempt without medication or other support.
In other words, slip-ups are very 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 quitting nicotine (or any other substance), there’s no need to do it alone.
If you’re considering NRT, it’s wise to talk to a healthcare provider 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 also help people overcome severe nicotine withdrawal when NRT doesn’t cut it.
Therapy can have a lot of benefit, particularly when you have underlying issues 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.