Is Vaping Addictive?

By Sherry Baker and Temma Ehrenfeld @SherryNewsViews
August 25, 2022
Is Vaping Addictive?

Just seeing people vaping can trigger cravings. How smoking and vaping feels and looks are important parts of their dependence. Here's what you should know.

Vapes, devices that deliver nicotine and flavorings to users through vapor, are growing in popularity despite their health risks. Already a six billion dollar industry in the U.S., vaping continues to grow fast.

Electronic versions of cigarettes are designed to give users the feel and look of smoking — from the way you hold a vape between your fingers to how you put the device to your lips and inhale. Millions of smokers are turning to vaping instead of other available nicotine replacements like gums and patches  because the experience is so similar.


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Is vaping okay?

It’s true that the worst health consequences of smoking, including lung cancer, heart disease, and brain problems, arise from the tar and chemicals you inhale when burning tobacco. But nicotine — not tar — makes cigarettes addictive. Vapes contain nicotine.

In addition, the similarity of the experience of vaping and smoking might be dangerous for some smokers trying to quit, says the former editor of the Harvard Health Letter, Harvey B. Simon, MD.  

Even seeing people with a vape in hand can trigger the craving to vape. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication found that looking at commercials featuring people inhaling vapor or holding a vape sparked the urge to light up in both current and former smokers.

Young people are vaping more

Another big problem with vaping: It’s creating a new generation of nicotine-users. Kids warned about smoking might assume that vaping is safe, and familiar flavoring like grape can make it easy for them to acquire the habit, even though the legal age to purchase vapes (and tobacco products) is 21.

Teens and parents need to know that the younger you are exposed to nicotine the more likely you are to become addicted and use nicotine products for years.

Young people who are already regular cigarette users can also be triggered to smoke more when they see people around them vaping, according to a University of Chicago study.  

"It's important to note that there could be effects of being in the company of an e-cigarette user, particularly for young smokers. For example, it's possible that seeing e-cigarette use may promote more smoking behavior and less quitting," said researcher Andrea King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago.


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August 25, 2022

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA and Janet O'Dell, RN