How to ensure you don’t get derailed and go back to smoking
Updated: April 2021
Quitting smoking can be challenging, to say the least. Nicotine is a big part of the reason why, but you’ll also find yourself missing the routine and ritual of smoking too. The early morning rollie with your cup of tea, the post-dinner smoke, the late-night cigarette out in the beer garden over a pint and so many others all disappear at once. You know you need to quit, but waving goodbye to all of these moments isn’t easy.
That’s why vaping works so well. Yes, it’s different, but as well as the nicotine you’re looking for, you get something to do in all of those moments and more. You keep the essence of the pleasurable parts but dramatically cut the risks – by at least 95% according to the Royal College of Physicians.
But switching to vaping does present its own challenges too. It makes cutting cigarettes out easier, but it doesn’t take all the hard work out of quitting. Beyond the psychological challenge, getting to grips with the technology can be a bit of a learning curve too. What do you need to start vaping? What e-liquid should you get?
In a nutshell: what should you expect in the first week of vaping and what do you need to know to make it a success?
Well, we’ve been there ourselves, so here is our ultimate guide to your first week as a vaper.
The mindset you approach quitting with is crucial to whether you’ll succeed. You need to make a conscious, committed decision to switch to vaping, whether your plan is to switch all at once or gradually over time. If you’re serious about making a change, you’re less likely to go back to old habits if you have a craving or your battery runs out. Clearly state your goal or write it down. It can also help to tell your partner, a family member or a friend. You are going to switch.
This is important because vaping isn’t just like smoking. The nicotine is still there – and that’s vital – and the action is basically the same, but that’s where the similarities end. Vaping is a different sensation to smoking, and it might take you a while to get used to it. You might have to try a couple of different devices or a few different e-liquids out to get something that really works for you. You have to inhale a little bit differently to when you’re smoking a cigarette. Although it’s usually short term, vaping might make you cough a bit at first. Even if you get a tobacco e-liquid, the taste will be notably different from the taste or your usual cigarette.
So prepare yourself for this: vaping won’t be just like smoking, but you’ll start to enjoy it and make it work for you if you persevere.
The most important thing when you start vaping is to be prepared. Unlike cigarettes, where you just need a pack and a lighter to get your nicotine, with vaping there is much more equipment to think about.You’ll need these essentials for your first week as a vaper:
- An e-cig: Whether it’s a pen, a pod system or a mod, you’ll need some sort of vaping device to get started. We recommend something simple to start with such as the Vaporesso Xros 3 Mini or the Wenax K2. You may even decide to use a disposable device like a Crystal Bar - but for reliability, cost and environmental reasons, we recommend swtiching to a re-usable vape as soon as you can.
- A spare battery: Running out of charge when you’re out of the house makes it very tempting to pick up a pack of cigarettes. Stay ahead of the game and get yourself a spare battery or a spare vape pen, and remember to charge it before you leave the house!
- Loads of e-juice: You’re unlikely to use too much e-liquid in just a week, but it’s better to get more than you’ll need. Firstly, you’ll be less likely to run out, but also it gives you plenty to fall back on if you don’t like a flavour or chose the wrong nicotine strength for one or two bottles.
- Coils: Most vaping tanks use coils that you buy ready-made and throw away after two or three weeks when they reach the end of their lifespan. Like with everything so far, it’s better to have some extra coils when you get started in case anything goes unexpectedly wrong.
Getting the right nicotine strength in your e-liquid can make the difference between enjoying vaping and it being an unsatisfying or even uncomfortable hobby.
The two things to consider are:
- Too much nicotine can be really harsh on your throat. The “throat hit” from nicotine can help replicate the sensation of smoking, but too much isn’t pleasant.
- Too little nicotine will leave you unsatisfied. If you don’t have a high enough nicotine level you’ll always be tempted to light up a cigarette to chase away the cravings.
The key is striking a balance between both needs. You need a high enough nicotine level to chase away your cravings but not so high that it hurts your throat.
The final thing to take into account is the type of e-cigarette you’re using. If you’re using a mod with a sub ohm tank (like the Geekvape Zeus SE), you won’t need as much nicotine as you would if you were using a pen-style e-cig (like the Aspire PockeX) with a basic tank or clearomizer. Mods produce more vapour, so you don’t need as much nicotine in the liquid to get a satisfying vape.
If you’re using a pen-style device...
- For heavy smokers – of a pack a day or more – 18 mg/ml e-liquid is the ideal level.
- If you smoked a little less – up to a pack a day – 12 mg/ml will likely be enough nicotine for your needs, and will keep the throat hit more manageable.
- For smokers of 10 per day or less, 6 mg/ml e-liquid will give you a mellower experience and will likely be a better fit than higher levels. However, you might still enjoy the extra punch of a 12 mg/ml e-liquid.
If you’re using a mod...
- For heavy smokers – a pack a day or more – 12 mg/ml is the highest strength you’re likely to need. With a powerful device, 18 mg/ml e-liquid will probably be too harsh on your throat and you might even get too much nicotine.
- If you smoked up to a pack a day, 6 mg/ml is the best level for people using more powerful e-cigarettes.
- If you smoked 10 per day or less, a lower level of 3 mg/ml is probably the right level for your needs. 6 mg/ml could still be good if you want a punchier feeling on the back of your throat, but you’re less likely to need it compared to someone who smoked more per day.
You’ll have noticed that the advice on nicotine strengths isn’t fixed. The truth is that it might take a little bit of experimentation to get the right strength. A pack-a-day smoker using a simple vape pen, for example, should probably start on 18 mg/ml, but some people find this irritating on their throat, and so in these cases it’s better to get 12 mg/ml.
The best advice is to choose a couple of nicotine strengths when you first buy e-liquid, or test some e-liquids before you buy. If you get all your e-juice in one strength, but you don’t like it or don’t find it satisfying, then you’re stuck. So it’s best to choose the two most likely options and get e-liquids in both.
For example, if you smoked up to a pack a day and you’re using a vape pen, while 12 mg/ml is likely to be the right level, we’d recommend at least trying an 18 mg/ml e-liquid as well. If you like the throat hit from the higher nicotine strength, it will be easier to get a satisfying vape. You could even use the stronger e-liquid when you won’t have as long to vape – for example, you could fill up a tank with it when you’re at work if you have to vape on your break.
You’ll get a better idea of the right level when you’ve been vaping for a while, but at first it’s best to give yourself options. The same advice goes for flavours too: it’s better to have some different flavour options, even if you’re keen on tobacco or a fruity e-liquid at first, you might fancy a change every so often and your preferences will evolve over time.
Quitting smoking by vaping is a more enjoyable process than going cold turkey or using something like patches or gums, but you still need a support network while you’re trying to quit.
Friends and family are a great source of support on a more personal level. Whether it’s having someone to talk to when you’re struggling with cravings or just someone to distract you and make you smile when you’re getting through the difficult periods, you should lean on your loved ones when you need someone. Some of them might also vape, and they can also be useful sources of technical support and more practical advice too.
Vape-friendly stop smoking services are arguably the best source of support for a new vaper. Not only do they have plenty of experience helping people through the difficulties that come with quitting smoking, they also have a solid understanding of vaping and the common issues people run into. Many local stop smoking services are vape-friendly, so check your local service and see what help they can offer!
Vaping forums are a great source of support too. The biggest advantage of forums like this is that they’re absolutely chock-full of experts in the technology. If you’re struggling to get your vape mod to work or you’re unsure about any aspect of the technology, ask a question and you’re bound to get dozens of well-informed answers on the same day.
What you might not expect, though, is that vape forums are a valuable source of support with the psychological challenges of quitting, too. Everyone on a forum like this has gone through the same struggles, and they all have plenty of insight to offer into what you’re going through and how to overcome any challenges you face along the way.
As mentioned earlier, the road to quitting smoking with vaping might be easier to travel than quitting with no support, but you’ll still run into some challenges on the way. While vaping is very useful when it comes to reducing cravings, you’ll still probably experience some when you’re trying to quit.
First and foremost, even though it’s obvious, if you can vape, do! Don’t worry if you feel like you’re vaping a lot; it’s better to vape more and feel satisfied afterwards than to spend your time wishing you could have a cigarette. If you have a higher-strength e-liquid, fill up a tank of that when your cravings are especially strong.
If you can’t vape, then there are many other approaches you can use to get you through a craving.
- Remember that cravings are only short-lived. After 5 to 10 minutes, the craving will have passed. That’s the time it takes to listen to two or three songs. Then it’s done. And every craving you avoid is a victory, and each one makes future cravings easier to deal with.
- Try doing something active. Going for a brisk walk, a jog, for a swim or even something practical like housework or gardening can take your mind off the cravings for long enough to get through it.
- Remember why you want to quit smoking. Reminding yourself of your original reasons for quitting can give you enough motivation to get through a craving. You can write these down as a list (“memo” or “note” apps on your phone are a great place for this) or just recall them from memory.
- Break any associations to deal with triggers. You might have always smoked after a meal, for example, and be finding it especially difficult to stop having these cigarettes. Choose another activity to do in these times to break the association with smoking. Personally, I just started vaping in these times, but you could do anything: read, do a crossword puzzle, chew gum, have a mug of hot chocolate, or anything you like as long as it isn’t smoking.
The key thing to remember is that all cravings will pass. As you get through your first week, the physical cravings will all but disappear, and although the psychological links will take a little longer to break, if you stay focused on your goal and vape when you need to, you’ll get through them too.
After a few days of vaping and not smoking, you’ll be feeling a lot more confident about your decision. But that doesn’t mean everyone you know will be happy with the decision you’ve made. Although major organisations are becoming more supportive of vaping, the media and many people think it’s dangerous, or not effective helping smokers quit, or a whole host of different things.
Here are a few common objections to vaping and some responses to them:
- “I heard those things are just as bad for you as cigarettes.” That is what a lot of people imply, but every major group who has looked at the evidence, including Public Health England, the Royal College of Physicians and many others, have concluded that vaping is much safer than smoking. It might not be completely risk-free, but it’s much less dangerous than smoking.
- “But you’re still addicted to nicotine.” I’m still dependent on nicotine, yes, but the main reason I’m vaping is to reduce the risks of me using nicotine. I can reduce my nicotine use over time, but for now the most important thing is that I’m not inhaling all of the nasty stuff that comes with smoke. Beating addiction isn’t my priority at the moment, reducing harm is.
- “Don’t e-cigarettes give you popcorn lung?” Not really. Some companies use a flavouring that’s been linked to popcorn lung in factory workers, but most vaping companies don’t use it at all. And the risk of popcorn lung has been overstated a lot in the media: in reality, no vaper has got popcorn lung and there probably isn’t enough of the chemical in there to cause it.
- “Vapour is full of formaldehyde!” The only time large amounts of formaldehyde have been detected in vapour is in really unrealistic situations. When you vape like people do in the real world, there is much less formaldehyde in an e-cig than there is in a cigarette.
- “It doesn’t even help you quit.” Based on the evidence we have so far – not to mention countless stories online – they do help you quit. This is agreed by many major organisations, UK stop smoking services and most researchers in the field. The best-quality studies tend to show a benefit to vaping.
Yorkshire Cancer Research have also dealt with many common objections to vaping, and this fantastic film is both worth watching and sharing with other people who have concerns.
When vaping first became popular, people said you could “vape anywhere.”
But this isn’t really true anymore.
While vaping indoors isn’t illegal in the UK, many pubs, restaurants and other public spaces have chosen not to allow vaping on their premises. In practice, it’s better to assume you can’t vape indoors unless you are in a vaping-friendly establishment or you’ve asked permission beforehand.
The same basic advice goes for the houses of friends and family. Ask before you vape, but in practice most people don’t mind vaping and will probably allow you to do so without going outside.
The issue of etiquette is a bit complicated because things are still evolving, but we have a whole post on the vape manners if you want a more detailed discussion.
Quitting smoking is a marathon, not a sprint. Like a marathon, the start is less important than how long you can stay strong mentally and keep pushing on. Even if you have a false start or two – lapsing and having an occasional cigarette – this doesn’t mean the race is over and it doesn’t mean you’ve lost. You can make up the ground and keep moving forwards. It might be difficult at times, and there will certainly be moments where you want to give up, but like a marathon runner, you have to dig deep down and find the strength to keep moving in the right direction.
You’ll run into challenges along the way, especially in the first few days after quitting, but keep the image of the marathon-runner in mind. When he or she gets out of breath or feels the pain of a side stitch, the most important thing is to not give up. It won’t always be easy, but the only way you can really lose is if you give up. On your journey to quit smoking, your e-cigarette gives you support, and you should depend on it as much as you need to, provided that you keep moving forwards.
Every day that passes is a little victory, and if you can keep moving forwards and plugging on through your first week, every subsequent day will get easier and easier. It won’t always go smoothly, but you can do it. Your body will thank you when you come out of the other side, smoke-free, healthier and happier.