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So you want to quit vaping?

Planning to kick your Elf bar habit for your New Year’s resolution? Here’s how to go vape-free in 2023

Oh, January: a symbol of new beginnings, promises of a happier, healthier, more productive life. Whether it’s forging new habits like sticking to an exercise routine or kicking old ones, the new year is undoubtedly the best time to start afresh. For Manchester-based Liam*, 24, this means putting down the vape – for good.

Liam started smoking cigarettes at the ripe age of 12 and, around a year ago, thought it was high time he quit. He decided to use vaping as a stepping stone and quickly became a habitual vaper, using disposable Elux Legends (the chunky ones that have 3500 puffs). “They have more flavour and more nicotine,” he tells Dazed, justifying his choice. But he soon began to feel worse than he did when he was smoking. “I started to cough worse than before, and I can feel them more on my throat,” he says. So, with the arrival of the new year, he’s decided it’s time to quit.

This is the usual course of action for smokers. First they move from cigarettes to vapes, with the goal of eventually kicking nicotine all together. The first step seems to be going smoothly – a report by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) found that one in five former smokers used a vape to help them quit. Plus, fewer people are smoking tobacco now than they were 10 years ago.

London-based Mary, 24, had the same idea. “I started vaping in January 2022 because I wanted to cut back on smoking weed,” she tells me. “I put tobacco in my joints, so I decided it would be easier for me to quit weed if I took away the tobacco.” She started by using disposable Elf bars and later switched to a reusable Juul, because they’re “cheaper” and, in her opinion, “they taste better” (they’re also miles better for the environment).

She’s been trying to quit vaping, on and off, ever since. “I want to quit vaping because I don’t like being at the mercy of the vape, it’s as simple as that,” she says, adding that she has felt worried about the potential adverse health effects. But every time, she ends up going back to it. “I get extreme cravings. I’m much more fidgety, I get irritable, I get headaches,” she says, listing off the withdrawal symptoms.

“What makes it really difficult for me is that it becomes habitual,” she says. “When I wake up in the morning, I really enjoy vaping with my coffee because I have a tobacco flavoured vape which tastes really nice with coffee,” she explains. “So then it starts becoming like, ‘oh my god, I have my coffee, but where’s my vape?’. It feels like [my routine] is incomplete.” Mary adds that she finds herself going back to cigarettes when she isn’t using her vape.

Liam has also struggled to quit. “I get headaches and I get moody and snappy,” he says. “When I tried to quit, I felt bad and ended up buying another two days later.” In fact, he says, the cravings for his vape are worse than cravings for tobacco. Mary and Liam aren’t alone either: Ash’s report found that, of those who used a vape to quit smoking, more than half (56 per cent) were still vaping three years on. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. According to public health expert and former director of Ash, Clive Bates, the fact that vaping is displacing smoking is a “huge public health win.” But, even still, people seem to be looking to quit – and struggling.

The number of people vaping in Britain hit an all-time high this year, and young people are the main culprits with 11 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds now vaping, up from 5 percent in 2021. This rise has taken place despite the fact that, this time last year, a survey found that 60 percent of 15 to 25-year-olds wanted to quit vaping within the year.

Maybe this year, eh? Well, if you’re planning to leave your Elf bar habit in 2022, we’re here to help. We’ll start with the positives: as well as being less harmful than smoking, in theory vaping should actually be easier to quit – especially for anyone who picked up vaping despite never having smoked a cigarette before. Bates explains that this is because tobacco has additional agents known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MOAIs) which make the nicotine more potent and therefore more addictive. Vapes, on the other hand, do not. 


If you quit vaping prematurely, says Bates, you’re at risk of relapsing – either back into vaping or, like Mary, into cigarettes. “It’s more important to avoid that than it is to go from vaping to abstinence,” he says. “So you have to be really sure that you’re ready for it.” He adds that if you do try to quit and feel like you’re going to relapse, be sure to go back to vaping and not smoking. 


Withdrawal symptoms are likely to be less intense if you’ve only ever vaped, BUT for those who swapped ciggies for Juul pods, you’re probably going to get the same kind of symptoms you’d experience when you quit smoking, says Bates. These include mood changes and irritability, difficulty sleeping, stress (especially if you use vaping to relax) and increased appetite. 

To deal with these, you need to come up with coping strategies. This could be a distraction, like going for a walk, talking to a friend or playing a game on your phone, or a coping strategy like meditation or deep breathing exercises. 


The question of whether you should taper off or quit cold turkey is a big one. While it’s completely up to you, Bates suggests following the latest advice from the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT), which recommends a gradual approach.

If you use a reusable vape, you can do this by reducing the amount of nicotine in your pods, gradually going down from 20mg to 0mg. It’s a good idea to reduce it slowly, every two to four weeks, but it’s a totally individual choice. For those who use disposable vapes, this is a little more difficult. If you don’t want to switch to a reusable vape and do it that way, you could taper down by extending the time between vaping, so 20 minutes becomes 40 minutes, and so on.


Another way to taper down your vape usage is to restrict where you can and can’t vape – this is something that has worked for yours truly. So, you could try only vaping when outside of your home. And if you’re a real new-age vaper, who tokes their little Elf bar anywhere and everywhere – even in bed – committing to simply stepping outside your front door to vape might help you to cut back.

As the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) states, this might not decrease the amount of nicotine you consume, but it will “weaken the link between vaping and specific situations and times.”


Bates suggests that nicotine-free vapes might “keep you in the game too much,” and it might be better to abstain completely. However, he notes that vaping is habit-forming, meaning you’ll associate it with certain activities like your morning coffee or going out with friends. 

The NSCST suggests that this method might be especially useful for disposable vapers, who can either alternate between nicotine and no nicotine to gradually cut down their vape usage, or otherwise substitute their Elf bars with nicotine-free vapes completely.

*Name has been changed