How to Quit Vaping For Good

Vaping has become an undeniable part of American culture. As of 2021, about 4.5 percent of adults in the U.S. smoked e-cigarettes, with 18 to 24-year-olds being the most heavy users (around 11 percent). Thanks to its convenience, social acceptance, and addictive qualities, vaping has a grip on a growing number of folks — so the question is, how do you quit vaping?

Ditching your vape pen or JUUL is challenging for many reasons, according to licensed professional counselor, Brian Wall of Thriveworks in Greenville, SC, who specializes in addiction issues. First of all, e-cigs are generally accepted in a way that traditional smoking is not. "Clever marketing has positioned vaping as a more socially acceptable and health-conscious alternative to smoking cigarettes that over time had started to lose their appeal due to odor, cost, and acceptability in places such as bars and restaurants," he says.

Vapes also hold the false promise of being "healthier" compared to other smoking options. While it's true that e-cigarettes don't include all of the same toxins as traditional cigarettes, they still come with a long list of health warnings — including the possibility of lung injuries and in severe cases, death. Plus, research has show that those who use vapes tend to smoke more than cigarette smokers. Wall says this is likely due to the convenience, stress relief, and lack of undesirable odor and misconception that it is not that harmful for you.

Nicotine is an addictive substance, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to banish it from your life. With dedication and plenty of community support, you'll be able to snub out your vaping habit for good.

How to Quit Vaping

Ahead, Wall and Renee Solomon, a clinical psychologist and co-owner of Forward Recovery in Los Angeles, share five steps to help you quit vaping. Just remember: It's always a good idea to seek professional help from experts and/or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Identify Your Vaping Trigger

First thing's first: Ask yourself, "Why do I vape?" "Although smoking by any means may alleviate anxiety in the short term, it actually increases baseline anxiety over time," says Wall. "So those who feel they may be addicted need to get to the root of what draws them to smoke, what feelings are they trying to avoid?" Your reasons may include fitting in with friends, to escaping depression, to dealing with anxiety related to grief. Just know that you're not alone — and vaping isn't the only way to self-soothe.

Learn Coping Strategies That Act As a Substitute for Vaping

To stop vaping, you'll need to replace one unhealthy habit with a healthier one. "Creating new routines that give you a serotonin boost — like talking a walk or hanging out with a non-vaping friend — are helpful coping skills," says Solomon. "When you take away a behavior, you have to replace it with something else. It's important to understand what can be helpful to replace the behavior of vaping. This is different for each person." Once you've identified your vaping trigger, make a long list of other ways you can care for yourself when you're feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed. Pick a few (like meditation, therapy, or a run) to try next time you feel like reaching for your vape.

Quit Gradually and Have Compassion for Yourself

Swearing off nicotine for good may propel you into an "on-the-wagon, off-the-wagon" cycle you didn't sign up for. Instead of quitting cold turkey, make slow and steady your anthem. A few things that worked well for some of Wall's clients:

  • Moving to a more all-natural alternative cigarette without additives
  • Gradually decreasing use over time
  • Replacing "smoke time" with a healthier alternative
  • Redefining areas that you're allowed to smoke (not in the car)
  • Using Nicorette gum/lozenges

Create goals by yourself or with the help of a professional to wean yourself off vaping slowly. In the first week, maybe you go for a walk and listen to a podcast instead of taking a vape break with your coworkers during your lunch hour. After successfully doing that for a week, maybe you stop using your e-cigarette after dinner. "When I work with patients or clients at Forward Recovery who are trying to stop vaping, I try to help them set reasonable goals," says Solomon. "For some people it is about cutting down on the amount of time vaping and for others it is cutting it out completely. I try to meet the person where they are at and not push my own agenda."

Lean On Your Community

Now is the time to hold your people close. "Family members can be helpful with stopping vaping by providing distraction, not vaping or smoking cigarettes in front of the person and also asking how they can be helpful," Solomon explains. If you find yourself wanting to vape in the morning, for example, ask a friend to meet you for a cup of coffee instead.

Decide how you want your community to show up for people in this moment — then ask. "This is once again individual to each person," says Solomon, adding that if you have a family member who's trying to quit vaping, make sure you support their journey without shaming them.

Seek Professional Help

"Drugs are never the answer for mental health issues and only aggravate them. It is also helpful to get in touch with a mental health professional to understand the underlying issues that are connected to vaping or other issues with addiction," says Solomon. Free resources like this one, SAMHSA, and are great resources — but nothing replaces working with an addiction-informed professional.

What Happens to the Body When You Quit Vaping

Quitting vaping is a huge win for your respiratory and cardiovascular health. But there's no sugar-coating it — the first days, weeks, and months of withdrawal will be hard. Withdrawal is your body's reaction to you no longer giving it an addictive substance, and it can come with symptoms both psychological and physical.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine withdrawal is characterized by grouchiness and fatigue, restlessness, trouble sleeping, hunger, anxiety, and (of course) a desire to smoke.

When you're feeling this way, you'll need to dig deep and remember why you stopped vaping in the first place, according to Wall. Sitting with your emotions instead of turning to addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco is incredibly difficult, but having a strong "why" will help you do it anyway. Keep leaning on the people around you, your therapist, and your coping mechanisms — and, eventually, you'll get through this.

How to Stick to It

"Motivation is crucial when it comes to quitting something," says Wall. "Continuously reminding yourself of your reason for a change is always helpful, along with recognizing health benefits, money saved, improved emotional stability, and healthier relationships." Distraction will also be a powerful tool during this time. Hang out with friends. Take a course. Try a new hobby. Keep your hands busy and your "why" front of mind.

Of course, your community — friends, family, and therapist — will also help you continue to put your well-being first. And remember to be your own best advocate. "Sometimes it takes more than one attempt to quit something," says Wall. "If you don't succeed the first time, it's not a failure, it's learning the tools they do and don't work for you. Don't quit quitting."