My 30-Day Challenge for 2021 was a simple one. Don't drink alcohol, do "Park Run" every Saturday. For 2022, I'd been thinking about doing something really different for a little while. I wanted to have a go at quitting vaping.
Risk of Relapse When Quitting Vaping
Here at Totally Wicked we do a lot of work with Quit Smoking services, and they sometimes ask in training sessions about how to quit vaping. The latest NCSCT advice on this is right in line with my own view. No new vaper should even consider reducing nicotine strength in the first 12 weeks after quitting. More than this, no one that has quit smoking by vaping should think about giving up vaping too quickly. They need to wait until they are 100% confident that they will never, ever smoke again.
In my own case, I've known I'll never smoke again for many years. I have been a vaper for over 11 years now. About 3 or 4 years after I stopped smoking completely, I was confident I would never smoke again. Some years ago I had reduced to 0.6% nicotine e-liquid, and found that I was quite naturally vaping less and less. That presented me with a tricky issue, as I need to be able to test e-liquid and e-cigarettes in the same way as our customers. I am very confident in the low harm of our products, so it was a no-brainer. I just went back up to 1.4% nicotine strength. Additionally, I made sure I vaped enough to feel withdrawal symptoms if I didn't vape. A conscious choice.
The COVID pandemic was an interesting time in resetting behaviours. I was no exception in this, and my nicotine consumption steadily increased through the strange periods we called "lockdowns". My nicotine dependence had reached its highest point, and settled there. Having a puff on an e-cigarette was the last thing I did before going to bed, and the first thing I did when I got up. I wasn't particularly troubled by this, as I honestly don't seem to experience any negative effects from vaping. This was very different from the last few of my 30 years as a smoker. I tried to deny it even to myself, but my respiratory health was really not great.
Quit Vaping Day
I made absolutely no preparation for quitting vaping in advance. I am relatively strong minded and knew I could stop for 30 days. So on the night of Friday 30th September I put my e-cigarette and e-liquid away in a drawer, and paused my online e-liquid subscription. The following morning, I woke readying myself for the inevitable nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
The last times I had been through nicotine withdrawal were when I had attempted to quit smoking "cold turkey". I think it must affect different people in different ways. My quit attempts had always been pretty painful in that respect, with me feeling like I was ready to climb the walls within a few hours. Stopping vaping is for me nothing like as bad, so I made it through the first morning in relatively good cheer. However I was feeling a lack of nicotine, and rather "spur of the moment", I made a decision to try some of over the counter nicotine replacement therapy products (NRT). I was really interested to see how effective they are.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
A quick trip to Boots the Chemist, and I returned home with some nicotine patches, and some 4mg nicotine "mini lozenges". Over the following weeks I tried patches in 2 different strengths, and 2 different delivery durations. I also tried a nicotine inhaler, and an oral mist spray.
I hadn't told any of my colleagues at Totally Wicked HQ that I was stopping vaping before my attempt. In fact I held off telling most for over a week, because I was interested to see if they noticed. Surprisingly most of them either didn't notice, or at least didn't say if they had noticed. I was just quietly wearing a nicotine patch, and using a short acting NRT product, as and when I felt like I needed to.
The patches were fine, never really noticed I was wearing one. In hindsight I think I prefer the 24 hour patches, as I was waking up feeling more relaxed and in a better mood. However I never really felt like I needed them, and they are expensive. Within a week I was just using shorter term products. The next NRT products I discarded were the nicotine inhaler, and the quick mist spray. The inhaler just seemed like a really poor version of an e-cigarette to me. The quick mist spray was actually pretty funny as a novelty. I could amuse the rest of my team by accidentally choking, giving myself hiccups on demand, or just collapsing into a coughing fit. I think the novelty wore off for me faster than their amusement, and within a few days I gave that up too.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy that worked for me
One thing that struck me about all the NRT products is just how expensive they are, especially compared with vaping. Nicotine lozenges were the best value, but still cost me about £20 a week. That's about twice what I'd be paying for the 2Â½ bottles of Red Label I use in a week. In fact a little more than twice for me, as I get my e-liquid on subscription.
Did I Quit Vaping?
So did I make it through to "day 30" without vaping? Easy peasy, didn't feel like any huge sacrifice. In fact I kept going for an extra 10 days just to prove the point. I also substantially reduced my nicotine intake over those 40 days or so.
Since mid-November I have reintroduced vaping to my life. I don’t have any real wish to give up vaping just now, nor nicotine for that matter. Why would I? I like them. I have made some changes to my nicotine intake though. The most conscious decision being that I no longer vape as soon as I get up. In fact I generally avoid vaping before lunchtime most days. Having a slightly reduced dependence is somehow reassuring to me. I also keep a supply of nicotine mini lozenges handy for when I want nicotine without vaping. (Just not the ones that give me hiccups.)
So How Hard is it to Quit Vaping?
Next time I am asked how hard it is to give up vaping compared to smoking, I'll have a better answer now. Once you know you'll never smoke again, it really is pretty easy to give up vaping in comparison, at least in my experience. I did it as a bit of "dive off the highest board" back in October. If I was being sensible, I would have reduced nicotine strength in the weeks leading up to stopping vaping. However I really wanted to see what the cravings felt like, and then I wanted to know just how good "the competition's" products are nowadays. They have definitely improved over the years. Despite this, it's really obvious to me now why vaping is seen as the most popular and effective quit aid in the UK.
Could I have given up smoking if modern NRT was available years ago? Maybe, I'm really not sure. I'm glad vaping turned up in my life when it did.
Of all the NRT products I tried, mini lozenges were the easiest to use, and very effective in controlling cravings. The ones I was using come in 2 different strengths, 1.5mg and 4mg. I could only really use the lower strength ones, as the 4mg gave me hiccups. They also made me feel light-headed if I kept them in my mouth for more than a few minutes at a time. The only flavour available is mint. Neither pleasant nor unpleasant, they do a better job than nicotine gum did in quit smoking attempts back in the day.