Some young people are desperate to stop vaping

With the rash of illnesses attributed to vaping, many users want to quit – and are finding it incredibly hard.

Many young people have taken up vaping as what they think is a safer alternative to smoking: the nicotine buzz without the cancer risks of cigarettes.

But with the rash of vaping-related illnesses, many young people want to quit – and are finding it incredibly hard.

“I think the level of addiction that we’re seeing is really unprecedented in terms of the trajectory of use from initiation to dependence,” said Patricia Atwater, director of health promotion at Hall Health, the University of Washington’s student health center.

“When you start using nicotine products under the age of 26, nicotine actually rewires your brain to predispose you to addiction for the rest of your life to nicotine,” she said.

[Download video soundbites of Atwater discussing the issue.]

According to JUUL, the most popular manufacturer of electronic cigarettes, a JUULpod is designed to replace one pack of cigarettes in both amount (20 cigarettes or 200 puffs) and nicotine strength.

The American Lung Association says virtually all e-cigarettes contain nicotine – even the ones labeled “nicotine free.” And they contain harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer, and acrolein, which is used as a weed killer and can cause irreversible lung damage.

Currently, no rules govern how e-cigarettes are made.  The American Lung Association says flavored e-cigarettes carry the same health risks as the unflavored products.
Atwater said when young adults come to her office desperate to quit using nicotine products, it rekindles memories of when she and her friends were that age and hooked on cigarettes.

“I think about tobacco control and public health and all the work that we’ve done over many, many years to try to prevent young people from starting to smoke cigarettes – so they don’t have to go through this painful withdrawal quitting process,” she said. “A lot of that has now been undone.”

So how do people quit vaping?

Cessation programs are being developed to address vaping, she said, there’s a pretty clear path in treating nicotine addiction: Replacement therapy, such as the nicotine patch, lozenge or gum.

“The best practice is to use more than one, so using both the patch and the gum,” she said.

Atwater said a big part of quitting any kind of tobacco product is addressing the role that nicotine has in your life, such as helping to manage loneliness, boredom, anxiety or stress – and then creating an environment that supports the journey of quitting.

“It is hard. It’s work. And it might be uncomfortable, but it’s worth doing,” she said.

Bobbi Nodell, UW Medicine media relations,, 206.543.7129

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