Last fact-checked 23 December 2020 | Report a factual error on this article
Feel like you’ve got vaping on the brain? Most of us start vaping to rid ourselves of our smoking addiction, but vaping can be just as addictive if you’re not careful.
In this guide, we’ll explain how vaping addiction can occur and show you the difference between a vaping habit and a vaping addiction. We’ll also show you how to manage the risks of developing a vaping addiction when you’re quitting cigarettes.
Vaping: Habit Or Addiction?
The first thing to think about is the difference between a habit and an addiction.
Scientists disagree over the precise definition of an ‘addiction’ footnote 1, but in most cases, with an addiction, your brain develops a chemical dependency on a substance or behaviour, causing you to ‘need’ it.
A habit, on the other hand, is just something you do on a regular basis, usually without thinking. It can certainly take time and mental effort to break a habit, but the fundamental chemistry of your brain isn’t being affected in the same way as it is with an addiction.
What Makes Vaping Addictive?
You can get addicted to vaping if you use an e-liquid that contains nicotine. Nicotine is the only addictive substance in e-liquid sold in the UK and regulated by the MHRA. It’s an optional additive — you don’t need to add nicotine to your e-liquid, and many long-term vapers don’t use it at all. Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance — according to British medical experts, it is as addictive as heroin (see ‘how addictive is nicotine?’).
You might be wondering why, if it is so addictive, nicotine is added to e-liquid at all. The reason nicotine is added to vape juice is that e-cigarettes were invented to help smokers quit. The miracle of vaping as a quitting tool is that it can replicate the action of smoking a cigarette and deliver a dose of nicotine at the same time. This is important, because if you’re quitting smoking, you're one and a half times more likely to succeed with nicotine replacement therapy footnote 2.
Vaping With Nicotine Can Increase Your Addiction
If you vape as part of a personalised, structured stop-smoking plan, then vaping can help you quit. In fact, recent numbers from Public Health England confirm that vaping has helped more than 1.2 million people in the UK to quit smoking footnote 3.
The danger with using an e-cigarette loaded with nicotine is that there’s no clear and obvious ‘end’ to a vaping session. A cigarette will burn down to the filter, at which point the smoker knows that their cigarette is ‘finished’ and they have had a fairly precise amount of nicotine. The same applies to NRT patches, gum and sprays: these treatments come pre-loaded with a set dose.
Vaping does a great job of replicating the sensation of smoking, but it doesn’t have this built-in 'nicotine cutoff'. You, as the vaper, have to manage your own nicotine levels and make sure that you don’t increase your consumption beyond what it was when you were a smoker. To learn more, read our advice on using e-cigarettes to quit smoking.
Can You Get Addicted To Vaping Without Nicotine?
There’s no evidence that you can get addicted to vaping without nicotine, but there’s a small amount of evidence to suggest that the more interested in vaping you are, the more addicted to vaping you think you are.
In a 2018 survey of more than 500 young Canadian vapers, researchers discovered that while almost half of vapers felt they weren’t at all addicted to vaping, some “high sensation-seeking youth, those reading blogs and websites about vaping, those frequently dripping and those using higher nicotine strengths” reported that they felt addicted to vaping. footnote 4
There’s a good chance that these “high sensation-seeking” Canadians felt addicted to vaping because of the nicotine strength they were using rather than the blogs they were reading, but it’s certainly worth taking a look at this study if you have any doubts.
Ready to quit smoking? Talk to the NHS first.
Like it or not, if you want to quit smoking without expert help, the odds are against you. Research shows that less than 2% of attempts to quit using willpower alone are successful footnote 5. If you’re serious about quitting smoking, you have to find ways to improve these odds.
The NHS Stop Smoking Service is, by far, the best way to quit cigarettes. Support from an NHS stop smoking counsellor can triple your chances of successfully quitting. If you follow their advice, you can successfully quit cigarettes, and reduce — and eventually remove — your dependence on nicotine. When you no longer rely on nicotine, you will be safe to put the vape device down for good — there will be no chemical dependency tying you to smoke or vapour.
Of course, if you enjoy vaping like we do, then you’re free to continue vaping as a hobby. We’ll be here to serve you the very best nicotine-free flavours, and we can show you how to get more out of your vape device as you leave nicotine addiction and smoking behind for good!
That's it! I hope this article has given you a better idea of how addictive vaping can be, and that we've given you some good ideas on how to manage your nicotine addiction successfully when you're quitting cigarettes.
Whatever your goals are for 2021, whether it’s quitting smoking (or just getting out of the house to see friends and family), we wish you the very best of luck!
Stay safe and happy vaping!
- John Boughey
Links & Citations
To learn more about the academic disagreements about what addiction actually is, you should take a look at the article below by American researchers Steve Sussman and Alan N Sussman:
Public Health England’s website has some great infographics explaining what you can do to improve your chances of quitting. The role played by over-the-counter NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) treatments like e-cigarettes is explained at the link below:
On the same page (link below), Public Health England state that “E-cigarettes are currently the most popular stop smoking aid in England, with an estimated 2.5 million users. Over half (51%) have stopped smoking completely and of the 45% who still smoke, half say that they are vaping in order to stop smoking. The number who have quit smoking and vaping has reached 770,000.”
The study of Canadian vapers in the 16-25 age group can be read at the link below:
Learn more about your odds of successfully quitting using willpower alone, and why it’s a bad idea, at the link below:https://www.gourmeteliquid.co.uk/blogs/news/using-e-cigarettes-to-quit-smoking#how2vape2quit