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Quitting Smoking, the Fun Way: Why Vaping is a Godsend for Smokers

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Those opposed to vaping like to concoct doomsday scenarios. When you have limited evidence on which to base your pre-determined opposition to the technology, grasping at straws is part of the game. One of the key rallying calls of the opposition to vaping is that “there’s no evidence they’re effective for quitting!”

This is a pretty insidious strategy, because – even though even most of those opposed to e-cigs will ultimately admit that vaping is much safer than smoking – it’s no good if vapers don’t end up kicking the combusted cigarettes. If they actually decrease your odds of quitting – as a recent meta-analysis by Stanton Glantz asserts – then they could actively cause harm by increasing the amount of smoking in society.

There are several well-founded criticisms of Glantz’s analysis, but if something like that really was true, then the conclusion that vaping could actually be a bad thing for society is hard to avoid. That’s why this issue really matters: it could mean the difference between vaping being a public health miracle and an unmitigated disaster.

The problem for Glantz and his ilk is that it’s fairly obvious that vaping is actually having a very positive effect on many people’s lives. CASAA’s testimonials section is huge and chock-full of heartwarming stories from people who’ve managed to kick cigarettes thanks to the reduced harm alternative, and there is a growing body of evidence supporting what we all ultimately know to be true: vaping really is effective for quitting smoking.

“But,” the inevitable criticism comes, “those CASAA testimonials are just anecdotes!”

While it’s true that there are important limitations to anecdotes, they are also incredibly valuable when it comes to understanding why and how smokers quit using e-cigarettes, and providing tips and insights for smokers yet to make the switch.

So, to address the claims that e-cigarettes don’t help smokers quit and offer insight into how exactly it happens, we’ve spoken to several vapers and advocates about their experiences with quitting smoking by vaping. But, we’ve also taken a look at the scientific evidence we have so far, to show that the anecdotes are indeed supported by solid data too.

There’s no avoiding the conclusion: vaping is a godsend for smokers.

Quitting Smoking by Vaping – Some Perspectives

We’ve spoken to Michelle Harnden from Mt. Baker Vapor, Russ Wishtart of Click, Bang!, Alex Kendell of Vaping360, Daniel Hall from Guide to Vaping, Morten Moe from the Vaping Giraffe and Matt from Suck My Mod about their experiences with quitting smoking by vaping, to give some insight into how smokers find out about vaping, what drives them to try it, what devices and flavors help vapers with quitting and more.

Should We Use Approved Quitting Methods?

In the public debate about using vaping as a method for quitting, there is one point in particular that is repeated time and time again. They say you should “quit using approved methods,” with the option of using e-cigs being treated as a last resort. But is that how people approach it in the real world?

Russ, Alex and Matt went through the whole spectrum of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products prior to starting vaping:

Russ - Click Bang Radio “I had tried in the past using, all of the usual NRT’s except Chantix. Patch, gum, lozenges, e.t.c. None worked, so I decided that I was just going to smoke.” – Russ Wishtart (Click, Bang!)

 

Suck My Mod“I used gum, patches, lozenges. Nothing helped for long. Only thing I didn’t try was Chantix.” Matt (Suck My Mod)

 

Alex-Kendell - Vaping360“I had tried nearly everything there was, nicotine gum, patches and cold turkey.” – Alex Kendell (Vaping360)

 

Although Morten stuck to a single type of NRT, his approach was very much the same:

Morten Moe“I had tried chewing gum a few times.” Morten Moe (the Vaping Giraffe)

 

The apprehension about using Chantix from Matt and Russ is definitely understandable: with a “Black Box” warning about neuropsychiatric side effects on the package, it’s hardly a compelling prospect. Despite the fact that this link doesn’t appear to be supported by the data, there are a few sleep-related side effects, and the overall idea of taking a pill to quit smoking can easily seem excessive.

Despite those issues from a smoker’s perspective, many do decide to try Chantix or other medication – and they are among the most widely-recommended options by official sources – and Michelle and Daniel count themselves among them:

Daniel Hall“You already know the list of approaches I had taken before vaping because they are the exact same methods that millions of people try every year and fail with. Patches, gums, pills, professional counseling, I had tried it all. I tried going cold turkey and failed miserably, at one point having a therapist telling me that it was better for people around me if I continued to smoke as I was not pleasant to be around without the cigarettes. I went as far as trying acupuncture and hypnotherapy to get the disease out of my system and nothing worked.” – Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping)

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“I have tried gum, pills, patches, counseling and cold turkey.” – Michelle Harnden, Mt. Baker Vapor

All in all, the advocates actually did what the all-too-common advice suggests: they tried pretty much every approach available before giving vaping a try. It might seem surprising that none of them were successful, but there are a couple of reasons for this. First, we’ve only approached them for this article because they’re vapers, so really they’re bound to have quit by vaping rather than some other approach.

But their experience also strikes at a pretty uncomfortable fact for those intent on claiming the best approach is to use approved methods for quitting: even the most effective strategies for quitting are unsuccessful for most smokers who use them. Chantix increases your chance of quitting by two to three times compared to cold turkey, but since only about 5 percent of smokers succeed when quitting cold turkey, this only translates into a quit-rate of around 15 percent. And that’s before you get onto the fact that most smokers – like Matt, Alex, Morten and Russ – don’t even try Chantix.

Ultimately, using the approved approaches to quitting is still a good idea if you want to maximize your chances of quitting and you’re open to trying them. But the decision made by many organizations to stick to the “try everything else before vaping” advice misses one key point: what you want to do. If vaping appeals to you more than the other options, then why opt for something you don’t want that probably won’t work anyway? The well-worn advice could use an update.

How Do Smokers Find Out About Vaping?

Although vaping is everywhere these days, back when many of the advocates we spoke to got started – as well as when I got started – it wasn’t so widespread, so how do people find out about vaping?

The furor about e-cigarette advertising would make you think that it’s entire purpose is to attract youth to vaping, but in reality, both Michelle and Russ, having understandable concerns about the health impacts and other downsides of smoking, decided to make the switch after seeing an ad:

Russ - Click Bang Radio “In July of 2010, a friend of mine told me that I stunk of cigarettes. Soon after that, I saw an advert for Blu, so I bought a kit online to give it a try. I wasn’t looking to quit, only to have something to use during the day. I planned on continuing to smoke when I wasn’t going to be around people.” – Russ Wishtart (Click, Bang!)

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“My daughter – she was 16 at the time – she cried and told me she didn’t want to see me die of lung cancer. That afternoon I saw an ad online for Blu.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

These stories underline the benefits of advertising for e-cigarettes: the motivation to quit may come from elsewhere, but ads give you a potential solution that you may not have considered otherwise. For vaping in particular, ads can underline the core benefits of vaping very nicely – showing that you can still enjoy a smoking-like behavior without the actual smoking part. Depictions of vaping in movies can have the same impact too, as Morten’s story shows:

Morten Moe“It was my wife that encouraged me to see if I could find out where to buy e-cigarettes after having seen the trailer for “The Tourist” where Johnny Depp uses a cig-alike on a train I think. I’d had quite a few failed quit attempts and I guess most people around me (and myself at times) was getting worried about my health as I was heard coughing 2 blocks away.” – Morten Moe (the Vaping Giraffe)

However, with vaping being much more common in the modern day, stories like Matt, Daniel and Alex’s are more in line with how most smokers will find out about vaping:

Suck My Mod“I first found out about vaping back in 2009 or 2010. I was bartending and saw some folks using a cigalike. I finally tried it around the end of 2011 cause I really needed to quit smoking because of some health issues.” – Matt (Suck My Mod)

Daniel Hall“I had heard of vaping in the UK in 2007 but didn’t think that it was something I would ever do. It wasn’t until 2012 when two of my friends seemed to quit smoking overnight that I even thought about trying it. It was thanks to them that my fiancée and I picked up our first cigalikes from the gas station. I wanted to try vaping because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, being breathless and constantly having smoking on my mind had to go.” – Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping)

Alex-Kendell - Vaping360“I first found out about vaping around about 6 years ago. I was still a smoker back then and a friend of mine started to use a cig-a-like and I was very intrigued. I bought a cig-a-like off some German site he recommended to me, and that was my first experience with e-cigs.” – Alex Kendell (Vaping360)

All of these stories strike to one core point: for smokers to switch to vaping, vaping needs to be visible. Whether that’s through advertising or simply vapers being out in public and making smokers consider the option, direct or indirect promotion is what gives smokers that final push to try vaping.

“Accidental” Quitting – a Huge Benefit of Vaping

Quitting without really intending to – like Russ did, and I did too – is something you often come across with vaping. Admittedly, most smokers who make the switch do it with the intention of stopping smoking, but this isn’t the case for everyone. You may start vaping to save money, or you may start to have something to vape in public situations like Russ did, but this decision opens you up to an alternative that could easily result in you quitting smoking.

This deserves special attention because it’s something not offered by other quitting approaches. You don’t go and get a prescription for Chantix to “see what it’s like,” and nor would most people try nicotine replacement therapies for an alternative source of nicotine. But, since vaping is actually fun and similar to smoking as a habit, there are extra people – like myself and Russ – who wind up quitting smoking despite not really setting out to. In a world of “approved approaches” only, we would probably still be smokers.

Your First Vape – Did You Quit Right Away? 

Once you’ve found out about vaping and decided to give it a try, is it smooth sailing from there? The answer is a slightly disappointing “probably not.”

Our advocates’ stories bear this out. Michelle, Matt and Russ all got their first taste of vaping through Blu, and they all had a similar experience:

Russ - Click Bang Radio “I liked the first vape, but I didn’t like the third. The Blu only worked for a couple of vapes, then you had to fidget with it to get it to work. I knew there was something to this, as I could get a couple of enjoyable vapes out of it. I went to YouTube to try to find better technology.” – Russ Wishtart (Click, Bang!)

Suck My Mod“My first was a Blu kit. I liked it but it still wasn’t enough for me to quit for good. Not satisfying or powerful enough.” – Matt (Suck My Mod)

 

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“I went and bought a Blu starter kit from the gas station. I truly tried, but it didn’t last past my first super-stressful day at work. I went and bought a pack of smokes within the week. A year later I got an interview at Mt Baker Vapor to work in their marketing department. I was honest, told them I tried the Blu and didn’t think vaping was going to work for me. The owner himself smiled at me and told me that what I had tried and what Mt Baker Vapor offers aren’t even in the same league.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

Although Morten, Daniel and Alex didn’t name their brand, their experience was very much the same:

Alex-Kendell - Vaping360“It was a cig-a-like and it was terrible, I really enjoyed the vaping experience with all of the fancy flavors but it just didn’t give me the satisfaction that I needed, so I kept on smoking. A year after, I purchased myself a standard eGo battery with a CE4 clearomizer. Flavor and vapor was better and I was getting more of the satisfaction I needed to quit. I ended up vaping and smoking whilst using the CE4/eGo battery combo.” – Alex Kendell (Vaping360)

Daniel Hall“My first attempt at vaping was, as I already stated disappointing with a cigalike. I literally used it for an hour before I called my friends and asked them where they had purchased the pen style devices they were rocking. I had already invested money in the idea and was ready to get away from cigarettes, I was willing to try whatever worked. My first time in a vape shop, I think I tried 100 flavors and immediately knew that the road to the end of smoking was in sight.” – Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping) 

Morten Moe“The very first one I tried was a cig-alike with no nicotine. Tasted, well, not much actually, but obviously didn’t work either. Did some more research and ordered another cig-alike from Deal Extreme (the ones where the pack is a charger). Taste awful, but eased the cravings enough to encourage me to find something better. I quit the day an eGo tank set arrived. Loved it.” – Morten Moe (the Vaping Giraffe)

Anybody who’s tried a cigalike will understand the problem they all ran into: these devices just aren’t as effective as higher-end options. Research has shown that it takes over 65 minutes of vaping to achieve a cigarette-like amount of nicotine, so it’s not surprising that none of the vapers found it satisfying enough. Alex does point out that cigalikes have come a long way in terms of vapor production and flavor, but the same problems still persist to a lesser degree.

Why Does Vaping Work? 

So the first experience wasn’t always amazing, but something made the difference for every one of the advocates we spoke to. We asked them what it was about vaping that helped them finally kick the habit.

Morten Moe“It gives me more than smoking ever did. I guess the first week or so it was mainly to ease the nicotine cravings but I soon realized this was so much more with almost unlimited flavors and opportunities to customize the vaping experience to my needs.” – Morten Moe (the Vaping Giraffe)

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“It wasn’t an instantaneous fix. I still had cravings for cigarettes, but I was able to work through the psychological connection with vaping in a way nothing else provided. When I was really stressed and craving a cigarette, I would go to the porch where I always smoked, turn the air flow down on my vape so the pull was more similar to a cigarette and vape until the craving died down. The ability to go through what psychologically was the act of smoking without the actual cigarette is what truly made the difference for me.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

Suck My Mod“It still gave you that satisfaction that cigarettes would give you. You had the whole hand to mouth action going on. It took care of the mental addiction and not just the physical addiction to nicotine.” – Matt (Suck My Mod)

Daniel Hall“Vaping worked because it was effortless. There wasn’t any thinking involved, it just happened. I didn’t feel like I was giving up smoking and it just happened naturally over the course of a couple of months. If the majority of people who currently smoke had the same experience that I had, there would literally be no smokers left in a couple of years. I was given the impression that quitting smoking was supposed to be a challenge, a mountain to overcome, and with the approaches that health professionals offer you, it truly is. You are supposed to feel terrible about the fact that you smoke and pay penance as you try to quit but vaping removes the barriers that smokers have been facing for over half a century.” – Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping)

Alex-Kendell - Vaping360“Personally I think vaping was effective because I had the choice of what flavors I could use. The fact that I was not smoking anymore and I was just vaping was a fantastic experience. I used to enjoy a lot of sport before I started smoking, but because of my smoking habit I gave most of it up. My stamina was terrible; I couldn’t run a mile without stopping. After I started to vape, I got back into sports and after 5 years of vaping I am almost fully back to my previous pre-smoking fitness level.” – Alex Kendell (Vaping360)

Russ - Click Bang Radio “Mainly because I enjoyed it once I found good equipment.” – Russ Wishtart (Click, Bang!)

The key factors for successfully quitting, based on the experiences of the vapers we spoke to, are the hand-to-mouth aspect and the ability to replicate the sensation of smoking, the multitude of flavors available, higher-end gear and the customizability of the whole experience. These aspects are exactly what we need to protect to maximize the public health potential of e-cigarettes, but many of them are also part of the reason vaping attracts so much criticism. Would the technology face so much controversy if the process of vaping didn’t look a little like smoking, for instance? Probably not, but we wouldn’t be here talking about it either.

Why Your Choice of Device Matters

When you’re trying to quit smoking, things really start to improve when you pick up some more advanced hardware. With better battery life, more options for power output and generally more efficient nicotine delivery, there is a reason most long-term vapers gravitate towards mods over time.

Michelle’s story about her interview at Mt. Baker perfectly sums up the mistake many new vapers make. As they said to her, the devices they offer “aren’t even in the same league” as the likes of Blu. She continues:

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“The day I was hired they gave me a free starter kit and some e-juice. I wasn’t required to vape, but they wanted to give me the opportunity if this was something I really wanted. I started truly vaping with my MVP 2.0 starter kit in October 2014. I haven’t smoked since.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

The other vapers have similar stories: Matt also quit with an MVP 2.0, and Russ and Daniel fully made the switch with the help of a dripping atomizer and a mod. For Morten and Alex, eGo-style tank systems were what made the difference between dual using of cigarettes and e-cigs and making the switch altogether.

In other words, all of the vapers we spoke to were unable to quit using a cigalike setup, but made the switch successfully when they got some more capable equipment.

They stuck with the higher-end gear, too:

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“Now I have several different batteries and tanks. All sub-ohm tanks and temp control mods. One of my favorites is a Tesla Nano 60 watt temp control battery with a Furytank 2 sub-ohm tank and a 0.4 coil.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

Suck My Mod“Nowadays I use tons of different things since I’m a reviewer and always testing new stuff out. I prefer a looser draw.” – Matt (Suck My Mod)

 

Morten Moe“Now I use a lot of different more advanced systems. Usually I use RTAs and regulated boxes, but also RDAs and sub-ohm tanks. As I do reviews on hardware as well I get to try out quite a lot of stuff so I change my favorites quite often.” – Morten Moe (the Vaping Giraffe)

Daniel Hall“I found that I personally like airy vapes with dense clouds, which is why I now use a 200 watt device and a dripper, all day every day.” – Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping)

 

Russ - Click Bang Radio “Now I use a regulated box with a tank, but I don’t use it much, as I mostly use snus. I am going to try the Juul by Pax, and this will likely be the last new vaping hardware that I buy if I like it.” – Russ Wishtart (Click, Bang!)

Aside from the JUUL – which is beginner-friendly, despite being very unique – the devices vapers wind up using tend to be bigger and more advanced than cigalikes or even eGo-style options, and they need something more substantial than a cigalike to stop smoking too. This also raises troubling questions about the impact of regulations on vaping devices, because it’s precisely these devices most threatened by the FDA’s currently-proposed rules. Sadly, this is a recurring theme in the vaping debate.

The Role of Flavors 

E-juice flavors have taken a lot of heat in the media, and are a potential target for future restrictions. You barely ever see an article on the topic in the mainstream news that doesn’t mention “gummy bear” or “bubblegum” flavor to insinuate that e-cigarette companies are targeting non-smoking youth, nor a justification of over-reaching legislation that doesn’t mention it, but these comments all ignore a very, very simple point: adults like flavors too.

Matt sums the importance of flavors up:

Suck My Mod“I think [flavors are] very important. After quitting smoking, people get their sense of taste and smell back a lot. Some people only enjoy certain types of flavors. I myself primarily vape fruit flavors, but only certain fruits. The longer you vape, the more particular you seem to get.” – Matt (Suck My Mod)

And Michelle adds:

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“I have a variety of mods and tanks because I don’t like vaping the same flavor all day. I usually rotate between 2 to 3 flavors a day. It’s impossible to replicate the flavor of combustion that comes with smoking. So the ability to find flavors I enjoy while keeping the cravings away is imperative.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

Everyone else we spoke to totally agreed:

Alex-Kendell - Vaping360“For me at the time it was very important, having the choice between different flavors was what made me start in the first place. How cool is it to vape on some delicious strawberry e-liquid?” Alex Kendell (Vaping360)

Russ - Click Bang Radio “I think flavors are extremely important for most people.” – Russ Wishtart (Click, Bang!)

 

 

Daniel Hall“Variety in flavor is the most important aspect in vaping. Everyone has different tastes and the most common thread you hear from vapers is that they don’t want to taste tobacco any more, or anything that reminds them of cigarettes. Over time though, a lot of vapers find themselves turning back towards tobacco flavored vapes as they realise that cigarettes and tobacco vapes taste nothing alike.” – Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping)

Morten Moe“I think the flavors keep a lot of people from going back to cigarettes. It’s one of the things that makes their vaping experience better than their former smoking experience and that is what makes vaping so successful. With chewing gum, patches and Chantix you’re taking something away from the user, with vaping you get something better instead. This is the key to the enormous success of vaping.” – Morten Moe (the Vaping Giraffe)

The importance of flavor is easily overlooked by those who don’t really understand vaping. As a smoker, you get accustomed to the taste of your brand of cigarettes. It isn’t usually a case of liking the taste of smoke; it’s more that you gradually learn to tolerate it. Pipe and cigar smokers are often an exception to this, but overall it’s fair to say that most smokers do not smoke for the flavor. Vaping, however, is totally different.

Because the various unpleasant tastes that come with combustion are entirely removed, the flavor of what you’re vaping – from fruity blends and desserts right through to well-captured tobaccos – is something you can actually start to enjoy. But it’s more than that. Flavors play a key role in differentiating vaping from smoking when you’re quitting, too. As everyone agreed, enjoying the taste of vaping is central to the quitting process, and finding the juices you enjoy vaping makes switching all the more enjoyable.

This isn’t just something based on the few vapers we spoke to for this post, either, it’s been confirmed in research on much larger numbers of vapers: flavors are “very important” for quitting smoking by vaping.

The Evidence – Do E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit?

While the stories from real vapers have given a lot of insight into how smokers approach starting to vape and trying to quit smoking, all of these come from people who’ve been successful in quitting. For people wanting to make policy decisions or doctors wanting to recommend an option to a smoker, a more objective look at the issue is very valuable. In short, the stories above are very informative in a descriptive sense, but the focus on successful vapers means they don’t give us any insight into how effective e-cigarettes are in general. If a smoker tried to quit by vaping, how likely is he or she to be successful?

This is where other forms of evidence come into play.

Default Assumptions and What Patches, Gums and Inhalers Tell Us

Before looking specifically at the evidence on how effective vaping is for quitting smoking, there’s one point that isn’t stressed often enough in the discussion of this issue.

NRT is one of the most widely-used approaches to quitting. As many vapers know, the majority of those who use it in a quit attempt are still unsuccessful. However, if you compare using NRT to trying to quit cold turkey, it does increase your odds of being successful. In other words, they do help you quit, just not as much as we may hope.

NRT comes in many different forms – notably as patches, gums and inhalers – and all are better for quitting than going unassisted. The general lesson is that if you give smokers an alternative source of nicotine, they’ll often quit smoking. Another example comes from Sweden, where widespread snus use (particularly among men) has resulted in very low smoking rates.

This makes it hard to avoid the assumption that vaping will turn out to be effective for smokers trying to quit too – ultimately the question is “why wouldn’t it?” Perhaps the similarity to the act of smoking would make it harder to break the habit by vaping than with a chewing gum, but the vapers we spoke to classed the similarity as a benefit instead of a downside, and pharmaceutical nicotine inhalers also mimic the “hand-to-mouth” element of smoking and they’re still effective.

Overall, while it isn’t really scientific to just assume vaping will be effective, there are some pretty compelling reasons for it. In a way, it would be more surprising if e-cigarettes weren’t effective for smokers trying to quit than if they were.

The Value of Anecdotes and Their Limitations

Since there are tons of anecdotal reports from smokers who used e-cigarettes to quit, the debate about how valuable they are often comes up in discussions of using e-cigs to quit smoking. The core problem with anecdotes is that for every anecdotal account of someone quitting smoking by vaping, there are others (usually not as widely shared) of smokers who tried to quit by vaping and failed. Anecdotes aren’t “controlled” in any way, and the fact that you’re more likely to want to tell the world if something helps you quit than if it doesn’t means that the balance is tipped in favor of positive stories.

To understand the limitations of anecdotes for determining how effective something is, look no further than homeopathy. This is a system of medicine based on the idea that diluting things actually makes them stronger, and it’s safe to say it flies in the face of much of what we know about biology, chemistry and physics. There is simply no plausible way it could be effective. But there are tons of anecdotal reports that it is effective. When you study it properly it’s revealed as a placebo, but without those controlled studies, anecdotal evidence generally supports it.

As the last section pointed out, e-cigarettes are a lot more plausible, so the stories from vapers – like those in the post – are pretty solid evidence that they can help smokers quit. They also tell us a lot about the experiences of smokers, which types of e-cig are more likely to help smokers quit and loads of other things. And, of course, they’re all heart-warming stories in which someone switches from something that stands a substantial chance of killing them to something much, much safer.

The only limitation in the context of vaping is that anecdotes don’t offer any insight into how many smokers succeed and how many fail to quit by vaping. That’s why we also need more objective evidence.

The Evidence: Do E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit?

So what does the evidence say? Does vaping help smokers quit? On the whole, the answer is a definite yes.

The Cochrane review of the evidence on vaping for quitting smoking really sums up the issue quite well. After looking at all of the studies available (at the time the review was written, at least), the researchers concluded that e-cigarettes are effective for helping smokers quit, but more studies are needed to precisely quantify how much they help smokers and whether or not they’re more effective than patches and gums. However, the evidence covered in the review does suggest that vaping increases quit-rates in comparison to patches, and that vapers are more likely than patch users to cut down the amount they smoked.

There are some other recent studies that add to this evidence-base. One example found that daily users of e-cigs with tanks – i.e. second or third-generation models – were around 2.7 times more likely to have quit than non-vapers. Another recent finding from the UK shows that, among those going to a stop smoking service, users of “unlicensed nicotine containing products” (translation: e-cigs) had the highest quit-rates after a month in comparison to other approaches.

If you’re interesting in reading more, the evidence is well-summarized in pages 29 to 31 of the (UK) National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training’s e-cigarette briefing for stop-smoking services. In a nutshell, the evidence is fairly unanimous in suggesting that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.

But what about that meta-analysis that found that vaping actually reduces your odds of quitting? The short explanation is: junk in, junk out. Stanton Glantz’s analysis included many studies which didn’t even assess whether or not e-cigs were effective for smokers actually trying to quit by vaping, so the negative conclusion was pretty much guaranteed. It was heavily criticized by experts, and many great blog posts were written on it – by Clive Bates and Carl V. Phillips, for example – but the CliffsNotes version is that the analysis is highly misleading. 

Tips for Quitting Smoking by Vaping

 On the basis of both abundant anecdotes and peer-reviewed scientific evidence – not to mention some basic reasoning based on our knowledge of other nicotine replacement products – it’s safe to say that e-cigarettes do indeed help smokers quit. For interested smokers, the question then becomes: how do I maximize my chances of quitting smoking by vaping?

We asked the vapers we spoke to for their advice:

Alex-Kendell - Vaping360“Start off slow, read and learn about vaping before you start and find out what device suits you best. Always read up about battery safety, as I think this is one of the most crucial things to vaping safely. I highly recommend smokers to go to a trusted brick and mortar shop to seek advice, try out different flavors and nicotine ratios. This is the easiest way, but if you don’t want to go to a B&M, there is enough information on the internet to self-educate yourself. One of the main reasons I started Vaping360 with my brother Chris is to educate smokers on the benefits of vaping and guide them on the journey away from cigarettes.” – Alex Kendell (Vaping360)

Daniel Hall“Give it a try. You literally have nothing to lose except for a small financial investment.

Don’t be afraid to try flavors. You have to find the flavor that will work for you for the vaping voodoo to work.

Get professional advice. I don’t mean talk to a quitline, I mean go into a vape shop and talk to people who vape who and teach you everything you need to know.

Don’t listen to the scare stories that are all over the media. There are a lot of multi-billion dollar companies losing money hand over fist to the vaping industry and they want it gone: they don’t care about your health or well being, just your money.”

“If you ever have any questions about vaping, ask someone. None of the people featured in this article are hard to find and I know that each of us often takes the time to help new vapers or those looking to make the switch.”– Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping)

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“Don’t expect it to be a miracle that makes the cravings go away instantly. You have to want it to work. Also, don’t expect any flavor you find to replicate the flavor of your favorite smoke. The flavor of tar and combustion cannot be perfectly replicated. Find a different kind of flavor you enjoy and work with that.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

Russ - Click Bang Radio “Go to a B&M and talk to people. If what you have doesn’t work, talk to an experienced vaper and try to figure out why it’s not working for you. If you don’t have access to a B&M, ask questions on the electronic cigarette subreddit.” – Russ Wishtart (Click, Bang!)

Morten Moe“Make sure you get good enough equipment. Talk to more experienced vapers and ask them what they use and why.” – Morten Moe (the Vaping Giraffe)

 

Suck My Mod“Don’t give up on it too soon. There’s a lot of trial and error in it for some people in the beginning.” –Matt (Suck My Mod)

 

These are all excellent pieces of advice, and all of them are worth bearing in mind if you’re trying to quit smoking. We’ve gathered the key points here for easier reference:

  • Get a high-quality device that suits your needs
  • Try out different flavors
  • Experiment with different nicotine levels
  • Visit your local B & M and use forums and online communities for advice
  • Don’t expect a miracle
  • Don’t give up if you’re not successful at first 

What if You Want to Quit Vaping?

Finally, for those using vaping as a stepping stone to becoming nicotine-free and ditching the habit altogether, what’s the best way to approach it?

We asked the vapers, and although they still vape, most of the advocates offered the same advice, best encompassed in this comment from Michelle:

Michelle from Mt. Baker Vapor“Again, you have to want it. Vaping has the unique ability to offer stepping down on your nicotine intake without changing your experience at all. This practically negates the psychological addiction while allowing you to decrease your physical cravings for nicotine over time. Step down slowly, and don’t expect to be able to stop anything overnight.” – Michelle Harnden (Mt. Baker Vapor)

Morten, Alex and Matt all offered the same key tip: use the nicotine levels to gradually reduce your intake until you’re no longer dependent on it.

Russ has a more unique suggestion:

Russ - Click Bang Radio “I highly recommend trying snus. […] There is no question that snus is the safest way to enjoy tobacco. In my opinion, vaping is very low risk but snus is even lower risk than vaping.

I would still recommend that a smoker try vaping first to quit smoking, as I believe it is the most effective way to stop smoking.

However, if you are tired of batteries, liquids, and having to go outside to use nicotine, I recommend snus. You can use it anywhere without anyone knowing, it always works, and it is extremely enjoyable. For me, the best thing about snus is that it is totally discrete.”

Finally, Daniel Hall offers some keywords of support:

Daniel Hall“You already took care of the hardest thing in your life, you quit smoking and moved past it. If quitting vaping is something you are looking to do remember that fact. It won’t be anywhere near as bad as getting over the cigarettes as you aren’t dealing with all of the other junk that they had you hooked on.” – Daniel Hall (Guide to Vaping)

Vaping Has Enormous Potential to Do Good in the World, Just Give it a Chance

The experiences of vapers and the evidence we have so far on e-cigarettes’ effectiveness for quitting and safety relative to tobacco cigarettes makes a very compelling case for vaping. Some may try to cast doubt on the technology on the basis of poorly-designed research and make arguments that reflect their pre-existing bias more than the facts of the matter, but the evidence, on the whole tells us that vaping is a hugely beneficial technology with the potential to do a lot of good in the world. The only challenge is getting legislators to understand this and fighting any misguided road-blocks they might want to throw up.

We shouldn’t do this for ourselves; we should do it for smokers yet to make the switch.

We’d like to thank Michelle, Russ, Daniel, Matt, Morten and Alex for sharing their experiences, insights and advice, and making this post possible!

Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson

Writer at Black Note
Lee is a writer, vaper and tea-junkie from the UK. He quit smoking (without intending to) when he started vaping in 2012, and now writes for EcigaretteReviewed and E-Cigarette Direct's Ashtray Blog. He's always searching for a new all-day vape, loves rebuilding and is passionate about providing smokers with accurate information about the harm reduction potential of vaping.
Lee Johnson

Written by Lee Johnson

Lee is a writer, vaper and tea-junkie from the UK. He quit smoking (without intending to) when he started vaping in 2012, and now writes for EcigaretteReviewed and E-Cigarette Direct's Ashtray Blog. He's always searching for a new all-day vape, loves rebuilding and is passionate about providing smokers with accurate information about the harm reduction potential of vaping.

  • Average Joe American

    Most of the advice I’ve seen here is good. After eight years vaping and evangelizing to friends, family, even casual acquaintances, it comes down to:

    If you have an e-cig store in your town, visit there first, chat with knowledgeable people, then shop.

    Don’t go cheap (cig-a-like) nor too high-tech (sci-fi monster mod). Start with a mid-range kit, like an Evod, costing somewhat less than a carton of cigarettes.

    Sample several e-liquids strictly for taste. I went through quite a few before discovering Black Note (even then I bought the sample case). One of the biggest hurdles to vaping, for me, was being unable to find a liquid which tasted like tobacco, and I know this is true for others who try to quit smoking by switching to vaping. Still others say the variety of fruit, nut, and candy flavors actually helped them stick with vaping.

    Pick one you can live with and go full strength on the nicotine. One of the marvelous benefits of vaping is that you can control your intake far more effectively than you can with cigarettes. You can always vape the high-test a little less, cut back on strength later.

    DON’T cut back on the nicotine strength too quickly. You’re trying to quit SMOKING, not quit nicotine. I’ve seen too many people go back to smoking because they said they missed the “nic buzz.” I ask what strength they were using, they say they’d worked their way down to 6 mgs. In three months or something. I say, “WHAT?!!!”

    I’ve been vaping for eight years, started at 36 mgs (yes, Virginia, they used to sell 36 mg liquid, and not only that, I used to mix up my own by purchasing pure unflavored nicotine liquid and CAREFULLY measuring it into my favorite lower nicotine flavor–takes some math, but if you get the hiccups you’ve overdosed–oh, the horror). Anyway, I’m now down to 12 mgs, which I consider pretty namby-pamby for a 45 year inveterate lung cancer trainee, but it’s real tobacco flavor (Black Note) and I have not once lit up a cigarette again in all these years. Perhaps I’ve subconsciously wanted to, but there was my nic-fix sitting next to me, why go out and buy a pack of analogs?

    My advice to smokers. You want to quit smoking by vaping? Give it every chance it deserves before going back to killing yourself. But don’t tell me you tried e-cigs and they didn’t work for you if all you did was suck on a cig-a-like in the mall, or that you tried to quit two habits at the same time. (Smoking is a habit, nicotine is a non-lethal addiction, vaping allows you to separate the two and attack them separately; I happen to like nicotine, I also happen to like living).

    Once you’ve picked up the vaping habit, to the exclusion of setting fire to chemically treated leaves and inhaling the resultant tar and carbon monoxide? You have quit smoking. You want to conquer nicotine? Do it at your leisure, pal. You now have plenty of time left on your life clock.

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WARNING: Black Note products are not smoking cessation products and have not been tested as such. Black Note products are intended for use by adults of legal smoking age (21 or older in California), and not by children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Black Note products contain nicotine, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Ingestion of the non-vaporized concentrated ingredients can be poisonous. Keep out of reach of children and pets. For immediate advice, contact poison control center: (800) 222-1222