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Quitting vaping? Here are 5 tips for handling nicotine withdrawal

It’s one of the biggest challenges to quitting cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or any tobacco product: coping with cravings from nicotine withdrawal.

Each year millions of Americans set out to quit tobacco. Since nicotine is what makes all tobacco products addictive, tips for coping with withdrawal can apply to everyone making a quit attempt – including many young people. In 2023, 10.0% of middle and high school students reported current tobacco product use, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the FDA. Past research shows interest in quitting is high, with a majority of current young e-cigarette users surveyed saying they intend to quit, and one-third reporting a past-year quit attempt.

This is Quitting, the first-of-its-kind free and anonymous quit vaping program from truth, is helping over 700,000 young people break free from e-cigarette use. The program, which is the largest in the country and the only one that has been validated by peer-reviewed research, uses text messages to show the reality of quitting, including support and encouragement for coping with cravings.

Here are some top tips.

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1. Exercise.

Physical activity is a reliable way to crush a craving, according to many experts and young people alike. Bryan, 23, focused on his passion for bike riding, as seen in his episode of the truth YouTube series “Quitters,” which follows young people using This is Quitting on their quit vaping journeys. Going on runs whenever she felt the urge to vape helped McCall Mirabella, who recorded her quitting journey on TikTok and YouTube. She collaborated with truth on a custom quitting challenge, inspiring over 2,500 young people to enroll in This is Quitting in the first six days.

2. Use a distraction.

Cravings will pass if you can give them a minute or two. Purposefully using a distraction to take your mind off the craving will help speed up the process. In her first week of quitting, Christina, 23, said in her “Quitters” episode she would do a chore or make music to keep her hands busy and her mind off nicotine. Baily, a 13-17 year-old This is Quitting user, said “Find something that distracts you, I found new friends and went longboarding a lot because it’s so soothing.”

3. Lean on your support system.

Seeking support from trusted friends and loved ones is key. Alex, 20, documented her “Quitters” story and said she was most encouraged by her girlfriend Maddie to stay strong whenever she felt the urge to vape. Alex would even ask Maddie to take her e-cigarette with her to work so that Alex couldn’t have it with her while she was alone. Hanna, a teen This is Quitting user, said “Try to come clean with your friends and more importantly your parents. They can offer a world of emotional support, and it feels good to be honest.”

4. Find stress solutions.

Many people turn to vaping when they’re stressed out, which sets up a vicious cycle of cravings. In fact, research shows vaping nicotine can increase anxiety symptoms and stress levels. While dealing with withdrawals, young This is Quitting users suggest other outlets to cope with stress: “remember that stress can be dealt with in other ways! Try meditating or even writing down what the problem is and then figure out other solutions,” says Dalton, a This is Quitting user. Meditating is a common recommendation among other users who were asked what their top strategies were. Talking about stress with others, journaling, and spending time outside were other go-to strategies for respondents.

5. Celebrate your accomplishments.

Experts say that recognizing and celebrating accomplishments when you’re quitting can boost resistance to stress and cravings. Even making it through your first few hours is a big accomplishment. McCall Mirabella recommends using a phone app to track streaks of nicotine-free days, the amount of money saved, hitting milestones, and setting up rewards. “Find ways to have fun during the initial struggle,” Mirabella advises.  

Young people can receive immediate help by texting DITCHVAPE to 88709 to join This is Quitting. Adults, including parents of young e-cigarette users, can also receive immediate support through BecomeAnEX®, a digital quit-smoking program developed with Mayo Clinic.