Why is Vaping So Addictive?
Quitting smoking is hard and whilst nicotine addiction is not as destructive as alcoholism or a substance drug addiction, it can have serious effects on your life.
Since its introduction in the mid-2000s, vaping has been marketed and widely accepted as a safer and healthier alternative to cigarettes. However, vaping has dangers of its own and the growing use of e-cigarettes and vapes by younger people means that more information is coming to light.
It’s important to know why vaping is addictive, the long-term health risks of vaping and how you can get treatment for your nicotine addiction.
How Common is Vaping Addiction?
Having a vaping addiction means having a physical and psychological dependence on vaping – needing to use a vape regularly so you don’t suffer from withdrawal. Vaping is so addictive due to the high nicotine levels in them.
Data from 2022 suggested that an estimated 4.3 million people are vape users in Great Britain and that is around 800,000 more than there were a decade ago. This works out to around 8.3% of people in England, Scotland and Wales who vape.
Nicotine addiction and vaping are common in this country also because of the growing use among young people and disposable vapes are marketed – especially to a younger audience.
What are the Nicotine Levels in Vapes?
Vapes are supposedly tightly regulated in the UK and many e-cigarettes come in various nicotine levels. There are even nicotine-free vapes on the market. Regulations say that vape tanks should have a max capacity of 2ml and the nicotine level can be no more than 20mg/ml.
The Guardian did an investigation and found that 73% of the vapes they tested were above the legal tank limit and eight of the “nicotine-free” vapes contained almost the legal limit amount.
A normal cigarette contains around 10 to 12mg of nicotine, though numbers vary massively depending on the brand. As stated above, vapes come in different strengths but the average nicotine levels in 15 puffs is between 0.5 to 15mg. This shows that supposedly healthier alternatives to cigarettes can contain more of the substance that makes tobacco addictive in the first place.
Is Vaping Physically and Psychologically Addictive?
You might be wondering, why is vaping so addictive? People can develop vape addiction for several reasons, both physical and psychological. Like an addiction to alcohol or drugs, once it takes hold it is very hard to overcome.
Vaping addiction happens due to the effects of nicotine on the brain. Nicotine makes you more energised, mimicking a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Eventually, your body gets used to the effect of nicotine and starts making less of this neurotransmitter, meaning you get cravings when your nicotine levels drop.
Nicotine also does the same thing as dopamine – a brain chemical that affects the reward portion of the brain and makes you feel good. The nicotine is quickly absorbed into your blood and can hit your brain within seconds, bringing you all those good feelings as soon as you need them.
From these cravings a physical dependence will grow that soon turns into a full-blown addiction. You’ll soon find that if you stop vaping, you’ll suffer from nicotine withdrawal symptoms that can only be resolved by getting nicotine quickly into your body.
Before a physical dependence occurs, usually a psychological vape addiction happens. Usually, people use smoking as a way to cope with stress and anxiety as it helps them calm down and relax. Nicotine addiction can happen if a person is suffering from other mental health issues, such as depression, again as a way of coping with problems.
Smoking an e-cigarette or vaping can also occur from being part of your routine. Situations that trigger the desire to vape include when you’re taking a break, drinking a morning coffee, drinking alcohol or spending time with friends.
Peer influence and vaping addiction are a strong combination – especially in young people. The desire to fit in can lead you to vape casually and soon could develop into a dependence that becomes physical.
Long-Term Health Risks of Vaping
Despite being marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, there is growing evidence of the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes.
Vapes, even nicotine-free ones, contain toxins that are not always advertised. Chemicals such as acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde can be in vapes and once inhaled can cause damage to internal organs. With these toxins in your body, you increase the risk of lung and heart disease.
Despite not containing the tar of cigarettes, chronic vape users can develop smoker coughs and leave themselves at greater risk of asthma and lung issues. Vapes have been reported to contain traces of metals such as tin and lead – which shouldn’t be in your body.
Nicotine in younger people is very dangerous as it disrupts development – affecting how they learn and pay attention.
Alongside these issues, there are the stories you hear of e-cigarettes causing fires and exploding – resulting in severe injuries.
Marketing Tactics and Vaping Addiction in Teens
The real danger when it comes to vaping addiction is the rise among young people. According to a survey done by Action on Smoking and Health, 7.6% of children vape, most of them using disposables.
This is particularly distressing as vaping companies seem to get around the legal issues that they can’t sell to people under the age of 18. Companies use influencers on social media to reach customers – platforms used predominately by younger people – and suggested ads for e-cigarettes and vapes appear to a higher proportion of teenagers than other age groups.
Disposable vapes are also packaged in bright colours and at low prices – giving the impression of being sweets. The numerous flavours available also appeal to a younger audience that may not like the taste of tobacco.
Vaping marketing tactics aren’t the only cause of a rise in addiction – peer pressure is also a big issue. It is easier to get away with in school as you can use an e-cigarette more discreetly and have one that has no smell at all. If everyone is doing something, children often don’t want to be left out, and they’ve been told that vaping isn’t dangerous.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms and Challenges
Deciding to quit vaping will cause you to suffer from nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These can include:
- Intense cravings
- Mood swings
It can be unpleasant but coping with vaping withdrawal doesn’t require you to do anything drastic. Some strategies include:
- Knowing your triggers
- Start a new hobby
- Practice self-care (yoga, meditation, mindfulness)
- Reach out for help
It’s important to know that the challenges can be overcome and there are many in your situation and support available.
Vaping Addiction Treatment Options
Your vape addiction may require professional help. Nicotine rehab exists to help people kick their habit and deal with the deeper reasons for the addiction.
Besides detoxification (abstaining from vaping) you will take part in therapies and counselling sessions. Through these sessions, you can identify triggers, understand why you got addicted in the first place and learn coping skills to achieve long-term recovery.
Find Out More
Vaping is dangerous and its use amongst young people is a serious issue. All the health risks surrounding vaping addiction are not yet known but it should be considered an addiction as powerful as nicotine, alcohol or drugs.
John Gillen - Author - Last updated: June 16, 2023
John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.
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