Finally, some answers. You’re welcome, good luck!
image Vera Vita / Getty
words Rhys Thomas
You’re in a public place, perhaps a house party. Either way, there are dozens of people around you. You can faintly smell tobacco, alcohol, and people. You can also smell approximations of caramel, mango, lychee, watermelon, and strawberry. Because everyone is vaping. Everyone. At any given moment, you can see someone exhaling a cloud of sweet,food scented vapour. Hands full of colour: pastel pinks and purples, gradients of greens and blues. It looks almost as if everyone is holding a portable phone charger and habitually kissing it every few minutes. But they're not, because who would do that?
Last summer, vaping reached record heights in the UK, with the Guardian reporting that roughly 4.3m people vape. In the UK, 6.6m people smoke tobacco. In the last year, the number of people aged 11-18 who vape doubled to eight percent, almost one in 10 people. And most vapers aren’t even teenagers. We are all hooked on vapes. You might wonder how this happened. How did a country ban smoking in public places in 2007, ban aesthetic packaging in 2016, and ban menthol-flavoured cigarettes in 2020, only to find millions of people turning to vapes?
It’s a heady mix of clever marketing, legal loopholes, and (mis)communication around health risks. Marketing a vape is obvious: vapes do exactly what cigarettes used to do (give you something to smoke and a hit of nicotine) without the smelly side effects. They come in nice packaging, they allow us to take deep breaths (which many of us neglect) at any time of day. If we stick to rules, vaping even allows us to go outside for a few minutes instead of sitting at our desks.
When it comes to health, well. The vapour we love to inhale has “four main ingredients: vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine and flavourings, usually food flavourings” says Neil McLaren, the founder of vaping.com, a large vaping marketplace. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet approved any form of e-cigarette for consumption.
While research suggests vaping isn’t as harmful for us as smoking tobacco, people are increasingly realising that they’re pretty dependent on vapes. Plus evidence suggests vapes are less healthy than not vaping, and studies have shown that vaping increases the risk of chronic lung disease. There’s also less research and less regulation around the long-term effects of vaping.
There are a few instances where vaping is less favourable to smoking: the nicotine consumption is one, there is more nicotine in the best-selling vapes than cigarettes. Other factors that may have people looking to quit vaping include the cost, though disguised as being cheaper (a vape is £6, whereas a pack of 20 cigarettes starts from around £10 in the UK) the speed we go through a vape compared to cigarettes makes this questionable.
Sustainability speaking, disposable vapes are pretty awful: they are, after all, made of plastic. And they aren't just plastic waste: they're also considered toxic waste, what with the presence of heavy metals in the vape itself and nicotine in the e-juice. According to government statistics 52.8 percent of young vapers use disposable vapes.
There are clearly reasons to quit vaping (wanting to not be addicted to something alone is a pretty good reason). So how might we go about it?
Dulcie, 28, has been vape-free for about six months now. She initially started vaping to replace smoking tobacco, but after a while figured that she hadn’t actually quit nicotine, she was just vaping it instead, and was just as lost without a vape as she may have been a cigarette previously.
“I think the vapes I was smoking had around 20mg of nicotine.” Dulcie says. 20mg is the most you’d find in cigarettes, though they tend to average at 12mg – which is almost half the nicotine. “I tapered all the way from 20mg down to zero. After a few weeks of using the 0mg vape, I started leaving it at home on purpose. Sometimes I’d end up going to buy one, but eventually I didn’t. It took about a year all in all.”
It won’t be easy. Multiple people we’ve spoken to mention that they’re finding vaping harder to quit than smoking. The likelihood is this is due to people having more of the highly addictive nicotine, more frequently; with less side effects (it doesn’t smell, there’s less known health risks). Vaping also still gives the physical associations of smoking (holding something, breathing in its smoke/vapour).
These high doses of nicotine is likely why in 2021 Public Health England found that vaping works better for getting people off of cigarettes than other nicotine-based products like gum and patches. In either case though, if a smoker switches to a vape with nicotine, they haven’t exactly ditched the nicotine, one of the most addictive substances known to humankind. Given the doses of nicotine in an elf bar and a Lost Mary is 20mg (though can be far higher in fake versions), it makes sense that people who have never smoked cigarettes are also finding it hard to kick the vaping habit.
The good news is, the unpleasant symptoms people describe as ‘nicotine withdrawal’ are mental not physical. “They’re actually the result of a thought process. The sense that you’re being deprived of something beneficial or enjoyable, causes a yearning. Once you know you’re not being deprived of anything – the thought process disappears.” Says John Dicey, Global CEO & Managing Director at Allen Carr's Easyway, a service which helps people to quit smoking and vaping. He adds that “the physical withdrawal is very slight and passes quickly”. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, irritability, sweating, nausea, headaches, and trouble sleeping.
Of course, if you want to be especially dramatic about quitting, you could try the method that Jamie, 26, accidentally enrolled himself into. “I booked a long holiday to Singapore, and it turns out vapes are illegal there. So I had no choice but to go without.” He says.
In order to do, he used a nicotine-free vape leading up to going to try and get over the nicotine cravings, and then just kept very busy. “I think it helped to be somewhere without stress, a holiday. Because when I tried to quit things in the past, stress would be the thing that led me back to using whatever I was trying to quit. I’ve been off the vape since. I just didn’t start buying them again.” He says.
You could say that actually, a few of the tips Dicey suggests fit into what Jamie happened to do. For instance, Dicey suggests “getting rid of the devices, because the moment you stop vaping you don’t vape, so you don’t need to own one”. Dicey also says that “if you’re offered a vape, just say: 'No thanks – I don’t vape’", which you could argue is the transaction that happens when you go into a corner shop and see the colourful wall of little plastic cylinders saying “take me”. You look at the wall and say “no thanks”.
Of course, saying “no thanks” is easier said than done, but thankfully there are examples of people managing to go vape free, and techniques we can all do our best to implement.
Tips on to quit vaping, according to the experts
Allen Carr’s Easyway has been clinically proven to help people quit smoking, alcohol, drugs, vaping, and more. So we decided to ask them for some pointers:
Although highly addictive, nicotine addiction is actually easy to break. The physical withdrawal is an extremely mild, slightly insecure, feeling and it passes quickly. The addiction is 99 percent mental.
Set your date and time to stop in advance, planning is key. Look forward to it. Remember – you’re not giving up anything because vaping does absolutely nothing for you at all.
Focus on the fact that you are making positive gains not only in health, energy and money; but also in confidence, self-respect, freedom and life quality.
When you quit do not try to avoid situations when you would normally vape. Get out and enjoy social occasions right from the start – you won’t envy vapers.
Never be fooled into thinking you can have the odd vape just to be sociable or just to get over a difficult moment. If you do, you’ll find yourself back in the trap in no time at all. There’s no such thing as “just one” vape after you quit.
Never question or doubt the decision to quit.
So yeah! Despite how difficult it seems, people really have figured out how to ditch the vape, and there are tools and techniques we can use to try and do so if we wish.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor with any questions you may have.
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