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Nicotine addiction – advice for those using licensed nicotine replacement or vapes/ecigarettes


Smokefree Norfolk is a stop smoking service and is unable to support long term nicotine users however we have put together this helpful guide for those wishing to stop nicotine use completely.

Licensed nicotine replacement includes nicotine patches, lozenges, gum and mouth or nasal sprays.  All of these are very useful aids to quitting smoking however some people struggle to stop using them after the recommended 12 weeks. 

If you have not smoked at all for 12 weeks, nicotine addiction has ended.  This is because only cigarettes and tobacco products keep you addicted to nicotine due to their fast delivery of nicotine to the brain of around 10 seconds.

Nicotine replacement products are not addictive due to the fact they are delivered much more slowly to the brain through the skin or lining of the mouth.  The time it takes for these to reach the brain varies from 1-30 minutes.  This is too slow to maintain addiction.

Often, if you have used nicotine replacement to quit smoking, you think that it is the product which is preventing you from smoking.  However, this is not the case.  It is your habit changes plus the act of not smoking which stops nicotine addiction.   That said, some people find it difficult to let go of these products and this guide is designed to show you how this can be achieved.

Firstly, it is important to recognise your achievement in quitting smoking. Nicotine is not particularly harmful in small amounts.  The harm from smoking comes from the 7,000 chemicals in tobacco so you have already taken a massive step towards a healthier life.

If you are using a product such as gum or lozenges, count out the number you use each day into a separate container and reduce the number you use by 1 or 2 per day over a few weeks until you reach zero.  You can intersperse them with ordinary gum or mints if this helps you with the habit.

If you are using a nicotine spray (mouth or nasal), you can either count the number of times you use it daily and reduce by a few each day or you can use it at timed intervals and increase the time between uses each day. Some people find using a mint breath freshening mouth spray helps them with this.

Just the act of using a Nicotine replacement product can become habit forming.  For this reason, you may find it easier to switch to nicotine patches and stop using the product altogether. You can obtain patches in 3 different strengths and can reduce these over a maximum timeframe of 12 weeks.

You may find it helpful to keep the product you are using out of sight such as in a cupboard.  Just like with smoking, the sight of the product can trigger the thought of using them so keeping them hidden means you may naturally use them less.

Coming off a vape/ecigarette

  • Unlike licensed nicotine replacement such as patches, vaping can keep you addicted to nicotine because, like a cigarette, nicotine is inhaled into the lungs and reaches the brain very quickly. Research suggests it may take up to a year to come off a vape.
  • It is important to remember that you have already made a positive health choice. Public Health England state that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco and they contain no carbon monoxide or tar or any of the other 7,000 chemicals in tobacco
  • Your options for becoming nicotine free are as follows:
  • If you want to continue to use the vape to reduce nicotine addiction over time
  • Gradually reduce the strength of the nicotine you are using in your vape with advice from the vape consultant in a reputable vape shop. This can be reduced to zero nicotine over time. You may wish to consider having 2 vapes – one which contains zero nicotine so you can intersperse the use of the two.
  • Research suggests it may take a year to come off a vape

If you want to continue to use the vape to help with social or habit triggers

  • You could purchase your own Nicotine Replacement (patches, gum, lozenges or spray) whilst using a vape with 0mg of nicotine in it if you struggle with the habit of not using it. You would need to do this for around 12 weeks provided you are not smoking cigarettes or using nicotine in the vape at all.
  • Once finished with the 12 weeks, you will probably find that you pick up the vape much less and only for real social triggers perhaps or stressful situations but it wont cause your nicotine addiction to continue.

If you want to stop the vape immediately

  • If you want to stop vaping now, you can use licensed nicotine replacement for 12 weeks. This allows time for the nicotine receptors in the brain to downregulate so that they no longer crave nicotine.  A patch is an ideal form of nicotine replacement as it does not lead to habit forming behaviours and because nicotine is delivered slowly to the brain, it will not keep you addicted.  You should start with a step 1 patch for around 4-6 weeks, then reduce to step 2 for 4-6 weeks and then step 3 for 2-4 weeks.  A pharmacy will be able to advise you on the right one for you.

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