How to Help Someone You Love Quit Vaping
By Marcia Tan, PhD, MPH, University of Chicago, and Clarissa Huard, MPH, University of Chicago
Is Vaping Safe?
Most e-cigarettes (99%) contain nicotine, in addition to various other chemicals that are dangerous to your health. The vapor that is inhaled when you smoke e-cigarettes is not harmless water vapor, but rather a mix of these dangerous chemicals including heavy metals, cancer-causing chemicals, flavoring chemicals, nicotine, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles. The chemicals commonly found in e-cigarettes have been linked to lung disease, heart disease, acute lung injury, COPD, asthma, and lung cancer in other studies.
How Do You Quit Vaping?
Quitting e-cigarettes is very hard, even for those who want to quit. Part of the reason quitting vaping is so difficult is because of the various components of nicotine addiction. These components, also known as the "three link chain" encompass the physical, mental, and social aspects of nicotine addiction.
The physical dependence on vaping is due to nicotine's addictive nature. Mental dependence is what makes you want to grab an e-cigarette or a vape. This could be aspects of someone’s daily routine, such as vaping with coffee in the morning, or could be mood-related, such as vaping when they feel sad. The social component includes aspects of social use of e-cigarettes, like vaping at bars when you drink, using vaping to meet new people, or living with someone else who vapes.
All three contribute to triggers that cause cravings and withdrawal. When trying to quit, you have a better chance of success if you plan to address all three links.
Addressing the “Three Link Chain” as a Supportive Friend
Physical – Using nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation medications will help manage and relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Suggest that your friend or family member talk to their doctor to determine which tobacco cessation treatment options will work best.
Mental – Identify what triggers them to reach for an e-cigarette. Is it stress? Sadness? Help them learn new ways to manage these feelings, such as deep breathing. It can be especially challenging to learn how to regulate mood and anxiety levels without depending on vaping.
Social – Support their efforts to quit with positive affirmation and altered behaviors, if necessary. Encourage others not to vape around them.
Other Ways to Help Someone Quit Vaping
If you know someone who smokes e-cigarettes, here are some tips to help support them in quitting.
- Respect that the person who is trying to quit is in charge of their quitting journey. Don't nag, preach, or scold them. It will only make them feel worse.
- Don't give advice. Instead, ask how they want to be supported or how they are feeling.
- Spend time together doing fun activities to keep their mind off vaping.
- Make your home vape free and help them make their home vape free.
If the person who is trying to quit slips:
- Help them remember the reasons they want to quit to begin with.
- Congratulate them on how far they have come and continue to show support. It can take multiple attempts to quit. A slip up does not mean they have failed.
- Encourage them to try again and learn from their last attempt.
- Contact the National Quitline: 1-800-QUIT-NOW
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