So you got hooked on vaping. There’s no shame in it. Plenty of people did. But then the prices of pods started going up. And the headlines got pretty alarming. People were getting popcorn lung. People were dying. And now, you’re starting to think about quitting. More specifically, you’re getting ready to ditch your Juul.
The e-cig is marketed as a cessation tool for cigarette users. And while many former smokers say Juul-ing did help them quit, and some studies confirm that similar e-cigs can help, there isn’t enough research to say for sure whether the method is all that effective at getting people off nicotine entirely. One small study from last year found that 80% of people who used e-cigs to quit real cigs were still vaping a year later, compared to just 9% of people who used other nicotine-replacement therapies.
What’s more, plenty of people — especially teens — who never had a nicotine habit in the first place end up trying out vapes. And they can get hooked too. “That’s not harm reduction. That’s harm increase, because they went from nothing to something,” Scott Sherman, MD, MPH, a professor and co-director in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone, who’s researched tobacco use cessation extensively, previously told Refinery29.
As Robert H. Shmerling, MD points out in an article for Harvard Health Publishing, vaping can still cause mouth or throat irritation, nausea, and coughing. Plus, no one really knows what the long-term effects of Juul-ing are. There’s a perception that they’re healthier than regular cigarettes, but they still carry their own downsides, including potentially harmful compounds in the e-cigarette vapor, reports the American Heart Association.
All that to say: If you’re thinking about quitting, that’s great! Whether you’re a casual user or you’ve been carrying around that gadget for years, the steps below can help you kick your bad habit for good.
Tell loved ones you’re quitting.
A support system is super helpful when you’re ditching something like Juul, says Indra Cidambi, MD, addiction psychiatrist and medical director at the Center for Network Therapy. Alert your inner circle of friends and family of your new lifestyle move, and let them hold you accountable.
It’s even worth telling people close to you if you’ve been stealthy about your habit. There are plenty of secret Juul-ers out there. But if no one knows you’re quitting, it becomes extra easy to slip; support keeps you in check.
Another benefit of this strategy: You may be cranky during your first few days of quitting. If your inner circle has a heads up, they’ll won’t be alarmed by withdrawal symptoms like irritability, insomnia, nausea, or fatigue. In other words, tell your friends in order to keep your friends.
Wean yourself off.
You hear a lot about the cold turkey method (quitting all at once). But taking smaller steps toward quitting is also an effective way to break a bad habit. This tactic is widely backed by experts, who say it works for quitting a caffeine addiction, an unhealthy phone and social media routine, and, yes, Juul-ing.
“Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action,” writes James Clear, a habit and human behavior expert, in his book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way To Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. “Improving by 1% isn’t particularly notable — sometimes it isn’t even noticeable — but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.”
This method requires a little prep. “Pay attention to how many times a day you’re using it,” Cidambi says. “Then try to give yourself some structure.” For instance, if you’re reaching for the Juul 10 times a day, set a goal for yourself of cutting that number down by two a week. Or try not picking it up at all until 5 p.m.
Another strategy: If you find yourself Juul-ing more in certain places, try hiding it from yourself when you’ll be in those situations. So if you rip while driving, leave it at home. If most of your usage occurs while on the couch, stash the e-cig in your car or your bedroom.
Keep cutting back until the next step is… nothing.
Or make a clean break.
Yes, experts love the “small steps” method for breaking a habit. But some people swear by quitting all at once — especially when you’re dealing with an addictive substance like nicotine.
It worked for Emmy Nicholson, who recently opened up to Refinery29 about quitting her addiction to her vape by literally throwing her Juul out of her window one night. “It was a little dramatic,” she admitted. “But it was worth it.”
Be prepared, though: Quitting nicotine cold turkey may mean you’ll be experience more intense withdrawal.
If all else fails, see a doctor.
Cidambi says there are certain things, like a nicotine inhaler, that your doctor could prescribe to you to help you wean yourself off the Juul and quit entirely if you’re having trouble sticking to other methods. They can also help you find a treatment plan, one that might incorporate nicotine replacements like the patch or gum, craving-reducing meds, and social support.
Whatever way you go about it, quitting your Juul is for the best — especially if it means avoiding things as scary as popcorn lung.
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