Growing up it was drilled into our heads. Don’t smoke cigarettes. Don’t use tobacco. If you do you will get cancer and die. Images of that one woman smoking a cig through her trache would haunt our little dreams and we vowed to never touch the stuff. This was before the invention of the vape, so naturally it was not covered in this curriculum. When I first heard about it, it was called an “e-cigarette”, the “safe” alternative to smoking that can be used to quit smoking cigs. Today it is considered an epidemic among adolescents. This is because these companies made these for our generation and the generations to come who have been successfully scared off of cigarettes. It was never really about helping smokers quit. If it was, how can you explain Juul receiving a 12.8 billion dollar investment from Altria, one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies. The reason that this is so scary is because kids are picking up these devices before their brains are fully developed, which is at 25. Vaping before the age of 25 has been linked to increased impulsivity, cognitive deficits and impairment in memory and executive function. Yikes.
Like most people, I didn’t mean to get addicted to nicotine, it just kind of happened. It started when I was going into my sophomore year of college. That summer I was going to bars and parties a lot and it was always available. I started to want it during the day too so I just bought one, thinking it was no big deal. Everyone I knew was doing it and if they jumped off a cliff then what reason would I have to not do the same? I was only addicted about a year and a half but it felt like forever. Constantly craving nicotine when I was in a place I couldn’t vape, feeling ashamed when my attempts to quit wouldn’t work and wasting hundreds of dollars on a habit I did not enjoy or want. If you’ve never been addicted to nicotine this article will probably seem like overkill. You’re probably thinking, how could it be that hard to quit. I remember one time I was telling a friend of mine about a failed attempt to quit and she said “Jesus you sound like a crackhead.” That one hurt, but she’s actually pretty accurate. Nicotine is as addictive as both heroin and cocaine. So quitting sucks, bad, but I did it! I used to see my failed attempts as just that, failures, but really it was like research, trial and error, seeing what worked and what didn’t and by the last time I was fully equipped and very ready to really stop, so I did. These 10 tips are my best advice for quitting, you got this!
- Throw Everything Vape Related Away
Any vape products, even empty juice bottles or pods, throw them out. You don’t need them and finding them around your room later on might trigger you to want to get your nic fix. If you are considering keeping your vape to save money in case you start up again, you are setting yourself up for failure.
- Understand the Difference Between Mental and Physical Cravings
This was the biggest one for me. When I attempted to quit before I thought mental and physical cravings were the same thing. That I could do nothing but ride them out. The last time I found a Youtube video that explained that this isn’t the case. Mental cravings are simply positive thoughts about nicotine. Before I understood this I would allow thoughts like “nicotine would be so nice right now” or “I need some nicotine to relax” to take over my thoughts and I would have a vape in my hand in no time. The final time however, everytime I would start to mentally crave a puff I would stop my thought by thinking, “this is a positive thought about nicotine but it is not the truth, my brain just thinks I need it because I’m addicted to it.” Then I think about something else. It won’t be easy at first but practice makes perfect.
- Know Your Triggers
Triggers are simply situations that make you want to vape. For me it was driving, after a big rush at work, drinking, or when I was nervous. I had created a habit of hitting my vape during these times so for a little bit after quitting it felt like something was missing when I was in these situations. Whatever your triggers are, try to avoid them. If you can’t (like I couldn’t stop driving, going to work or being nervous) just make sure to be prepared for these to be the hardest times to not vape. Everytime you experience a trigger and get through it without nicotine, your brain is learning that A.) nothing bad happened and B.) nicotine really isn’t essential to life.
- Use Some Tough Love
This may be your first or hundreth attempt to quit but you need to tell yourself that no matter how hard it is you can and will do this. Repeat it over and over. It’s not good to feel bad about yourself in most situations but it is helpful to feel bad about something that is unhealthy and expensive. Kick yourself if you slip up, feel bad about it, and then try again. Remember what it felt like to be disappointed in yourself and think about how good it will feel when you finally kick this bad habit.
- Separate Yourself From The Addiction
It can be helpful to think of your addiction to nicotine as a separate entity from yourself. YOU don't want to spend countless dollars to vape. YOU don’t want to wake up coughing in the morning. YOU don’t want to damage your lungs. That's your addiction. It’s like an annoying whisper in your ear bossing you around. You can hear it but you don’t have to interact, you don’t need nicotine.
- Don’t Get Too Cocky During the First Couple Days
Nicotine is still in your body the first 48 hours after quitting. That’s why many people make the mistake of letting their guard down when the first couple days aren’t very hard. Day three and four are coming and I hate to tell you, they aren’t fun. Good news is, two days is not that long and I’m sure you have been in discomfort that long if not longer. Remember, it isn’t any worse than having a cold.
- One Hit IS a Big Deal
Everytime you put nicotine back into your body you are resetting the clock of withdrawal. If you are considering taking just one hit to relieve your cravings, think back to how much work you put in to get as far as you have come. You don’t want to throw that all away for a 30 second buzz.
- Think Negative Thoughts (About Nicotine)
Like mentioned before mental cravings are positive thoughts about nicotine. A helpful strategy to getting through these is to replace those positive thoughts with negative memories about nicotine. For me, I remembered when I was super sick, coughing so much my head would hurt, and still vaping even though I knew it made me worse. It wasn’t because I wanted to feel worse, I was just so addicted to nicotine that it overrode my need to take care of myself and get better. This is a bad memory for me, it really makes me feel ashamed that for over a year I put nicotine before my own health, but it also helped me focus on my goal to get over my addiction.
- Prepare to be Sad and Mean for a Few Days.
When I was quitting the first 4-5 days I was really irritated by everything. A squirrel could look at me the wrong way and I would be pissed off. I also cried more than usual and overall, I just felt bad emotionally. This is because nicotine bonds with your brain receptors to trigger the release of dopamine. Since the brain is used to this constant triggering of the feel good neurotransmitter it’s going to be a little bit before you get used to being without it. Here’s the good news though, you probably were sad and mean for the entirety of middle school and this will not last nearly as long.
- You Don’t Have to Quit Cold Turkey
Ideally you put down your vape right now and never pick it up again but be honest with yourself, is that going to give you the best chance to really quit? Or is it going to be super horrible and hard and discourage you from ever trying again? From what I’ve seen most people are vaping Juuls and Puff Bars. These products have 50 mg nic. If you are using any type of vape containing 50 mg nic, I do not suggest quitting cold turkey. One Juul pod has the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. I had a Juul for a few months and I could easily go through a pod a day. When I was gearing up to quit I had a vape mod which is essentially a refillable vape. These are cheaper, less wasteful and the juice you put in it is by no means good for you, but it has a fraction of the chemicals that you can find in Juul or Puff Bars. Consider switching to this before you quit, initially it is more expensive but if you are buying a $10 Puff Bar daily or a $20 4 pack of Juul pods every four days, this really is the cheaper option. Besides that, you can control how much nicotine is going into them. Start at 35 and work your way down as low as you need to before you feel confident to quit. When I quit I was vaping 18mg, I noticed that I thought about vaping a lot less and could go long periods without it. Compared to when I tried to quit the Juul or Puff Bars, it was A LOT easier. When you start getting lower try to also limit the amount you are vaping. Another trick would be identify your triggers and to stop vaping during these times. That way when you really do quit the triggers aren’t as strong.
Your mind is capable of many things and quitting nicotine is one of them! Hopefully these tips will help you realize that although it might not be easy, you can do anything that you set your mind to!