Vaping is the same as what some call e-cigarettes. Vaping is an electronic device that heats liquid to make a smoke-like vapor and often contains nicotine. Nicotine is the ingredient that is found in regular cigarettes and is one of the ingredients that makes vaping and smoking regular cigarettes so addictive and harmful to your health (American Academy of Family Physician, 2019).

So why do so many people choose vaping over regular cigarettes…..?

Two main reasons:

  1. Smokers believe vaping is safer.
  2. E-cigarettes (vaping) does not smell like smoke.

Are e-cigarettes/vaping safe?

The fast answer is….NO! As stated before, vaping contains nicotine which is very addictive and there are chemicals used in vaping products that can cause cancer, lung and heart disease. Vaping liquid also has the potential of being poisonous if spilled on the skin and can be fatal if swallowed. The liquid used for vaping also is at risk for exploding and can cause serious injury (American Academy of Family Physician, 2019).


Cigarettes are made from tobacco. Nicotine is naturally found in tobacco. Nicotine is highly addictive and is thought to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine (American Cancer Society [ACS], 2019). Cigarettes can cause various cancers, heart, lung disease and many other conditions.


Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that is easily and quickly absorbed into the blood through the lungs spreading through the body (ACS, 2019). 

In even small amounts, nicotine affects the mood causing pleasant feelings and distracting the user from unpleasant feelings such as depression, stress, anxiety, and frustration causing the user of this substance to want or crave more (ACS, 2019).

You see, seconds after inhaling/vaping nicotine, it reaches the brain but the effect decreases within a few minutes. This may leave the smoker feeling restless, edgy and irritated provoking the smoker to, once again, light up to “take the edge off” (ACS, 2019). 

The reason for beginning a bad habit, most times, is not why it has continued for so long. Why a habit continues is for an entirely different reason. 

Fairly quickly, the body gets use to the amount of nicotine that is used, leaving the smoker feeling the need to increase the amount of nicotine smoked to get the same feeling. This is the start of the body building up a tolerance for the original amount and the effect is no longer the same so the amount of nicotine must be increased to get the same impact (ACS, 2019).

Therefore, a smoker can quickly become dependent on nicotine which leads to withdrawal symptoms causing the smoker to suffer both emotional and physical symptoms (ACS, 2019). These symptoms include headaches, irritability, nervousness and trouble sleeping. Eventually, this is what leads to addiction (ACS, 2019).

How can vaping help you to quit smoking if nicotine is very addictive?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, (2019), vaping replicates smoking cigarettes and contains the same addictive substance – nicotine. Therefore, the safest way to quit smoking is using proven methods such as using nicotine patches, lozenges, gum, and joining a smoking cessation group….not vaping.

Smoke-free nicotine is used to assist to stop smoking because even though nicotine is still released into the body, one of the two problems is deleted. That is mentally, the behavior of lighting, puffing, and inhaling is taken out of the equation. One method is wearing a nicotine patch. This assists in weaning from the amount of nicotine while going to counseling or support groups to work on behavioral issues that helped to fuel the addiction in the first place.

Nicotine Addiction. Why is it so hard to quit?

Almost 70% of smokers say they want to quit and even try to, however, many times, it takes outside help to quit due to the nature of the addiction and the dependence that people have developed physically and emotionally to the substance. Physically, the chemical has caused a craving, wanting, calling for more. Emotionally, nicotine alters the mood and so without it, the person is left dealing with unpleasant moods and feelings. The smoker can no longer distinguish between real issue that cause unpleasant feelings and nicotine withdrawal. Now the smoker has to deal with just another problem – substance dependence and the original issues that still linger but are only masked. Leaving the person with little to no skill to productively deal with life issues.

As stated before, stopping any addictive substance requires a period of withdrawal and this can become very uncomfortable physically and emotionally since nicotine impacts both (ACS, 2019). Physically the body must go through detox and the brain must work on giving up a habit that requires major changes in behaviors that the smoker has become accustomed to and may not have knowledge on how to exchange a negative behavior for a positive one. Plus, learned behaviors such as not dealing with problems, in some cases, but numbing or covering the problem with a feel good substance becomes another issue (ACS, 2019).

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal:  

Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within a few hours of the last interaction with nicotine and can peak within 2-3 days. Withdrawal can last for several weeks getting better each day that the person stays nicotine free. Withdrawal from nicotine is uncomfortable but not dangerous as the body comes off of the substance (ACS, 2019).

However, the following symptoms, many times, leads to the continued use of nicotine as a way of stopping the symptoms from continuing:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of impatience, anger and frustration, restlessness or boredom
  • Dizziness (may last within a day or 2)
  • Increase in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping (includes staying asleep and having bad dreams)
  • Slower heart rate
  • Chest tightness
  • Dry mouth
  • Cough
  • Nasal drip
  • Sore throat

Breaking it Down: So a smoker may start smoking to initially experience a pleasant, calming feeling, but as the smoker continues, the reason for smoking changes, and that is to help unpleasant feelings go away that are associated with nicotine withdraw in addition to undealt with emotions that started this in the first place; and so the cycle continues (ACS, 2019). The longer the person smokes, the harder it is to stop because withdrawal symptoms get worse. So now, there are two problems, issues that may have led you to smoke originally and now the uncomfortable feelings of withdraw (ACS, 2019). 


 Marijuana (cannabis) is the second most commonly smoked substance after tobacco; and even though it has become legal in most states, it still may be harmful to your health. There is no safe way to smoke marijuana, plus there are no filters to help to filter out some of the toxins. Therefore, marijuana is harmful to the health of your lungs and contributes to heart disease (Anonymous, 2017).

It is now known that heavy marijuana smokers also may develop lung disease just as smokers of tobacco because marijuana smoke has many of the same harmful chemicals and over a long period of time, it increases the risks of developing COPD and at the very least smoking marijuana can make breathing worse especially for those who have existing lung problems (Anonymous, 2017). Marijuana smoke may also increase your risk of lung infections and lung cancer as marijuana smoke contains many (450) cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) that are similar to tobacco smoke (Anonymous, 2017).

How to know if marijuana is affecting your lungs

  • Coughing
  • Increased mucus or phlegm
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the throat

However, with stopping, these symptoms have a chance of going away.

Many states have prescribed medical marijuana for health reasons however it has not been approved by the FDA for any known medical conditions. The FDA, however, has approved medications containing THC, an active ingredient found in marijuana, for treating pain and nausea (Anonymous, 2017).

Am I addicted to smoking?

The most telling sign of addiction is when a person still smokes even though they know that it is bad for them, they begin to see the negative effects it is having on their emotional and physical health and personal life and still does not stop (ACS, 2019).

Bottom Line

Healthy lungs are required to live a healthy life. Your lungs were made to inhale oxygen (air); and only air, to live a vibrant healthy life. When carcinogens are inhaled, through vaping or smoking cigarettes and marijuana, the lungs become polluted. Eventually, oxygen does not travel properly to your blood as the lungs begin to become diseased making it harder to breathe resulting in conditions such as COPD, emphysema, asthma, lung cancer and/or heart disease.

Be your own advocate, gain as much as knowledge as you can to make sure you are making the best decisions for your health. As we know, many things have been hyped up for the public to use as harmless or for the betterment of a certain condition. Just to later find out that the risks were no way near better than the rewards (Anonymous, 2017).

Take care of your body when you are young, and it will take care of you when you’re old. – Grammy

Smoking Cessation and Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy specializes in smoking cessation (stopping) and emotional and behavioral issues that have contributed to beginning and continuing to smoke. Many times, people start smoking for one reason but continue for many years for another reason (addiction). Reasons, why people may have started smoking, may be due to social isolation, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, peer pressure, low self-esteem, trouble sleeping, weight gain, and stress. Occupational therapy holistically addresses behaviors, feelings and thought processes that contribute to a reduction in health, wellness and life satisfaction and develop a plan to increase quality of life for the individual who wishes to stop smoking (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014). 

For more information, please contact Life Wellness at


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, S1–S48.

Anonymous (2017). Smoking marijuana and the lungs. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 195(3).

American Academy of Family Physician. (2019).  e-Cigarettes, vaping, and juuls:  What you need to know.  Retrieved from

American Cancer Society. (2019). Why people start smoking and why it’s hard to stop. Retrieved from

FDA. (2019). FDA and cannabis: Research and drug approval process.  Retrieved from

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