Are daily vapers addicted to nicotine?

Posted by DrMendelsohn on 6 July, 2017

Nicotine-dependence-jail.jpgA new study released today has found that daily vapers are addicted to their habit, but not as much as smokers are addicted to tobacco. The study compared 156 vapers and 3430 smokers and found that smokers were more addicted on a range of different tests.

One of the most reliable signs of addiction is how quickly a smoker has the first cigarette of the day after waking. The earlier the cigarette is smoked, the more addicted is the smoker, who needs to top up the body’s nicotine level on rising.  The study found that smokers had their first cigarette after 20 minutes on average, compared to 29 minutes for vapers.

Smokers were significantly more likely to 'feel addicted' than vapers and more likely to have strong cravings. Smokers also found it harder than vapers not to smoke in places where it was prohibited, such as inside a church. A number of other studies have found similar results.

Vaping does not create nicotine addiction. Smokers are already addicted to nicotine and simply transfer their addiction from cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

Why is vaping less addictive?

Vapers use their e-cigs about as much as smoked cigarettes and with more advanced devices can get similar amounts of nicotine as smokers, so why are they less addicted? There are a number of possible explanations.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine more slowly to the brain than smoking. The speed of delivery of a drug is an important factor in its addictiveness. The faster nicotine reaches the brain, the stronger the addictive potential of the drug.

Cigarettes also contain other chemicals which increase smoking’s addictiveness, such as mono-amine oxidase inhibitors.

Why does it matter?

These findings suggest it is likely to be easier to quit vaping than smoking. Although many people vape long-term, vaping is often a bridge to quitting smoking and breaks the quitting process into two steps instead of one. The second step of stopping vaping is much easier than stopping smoking.

Also, this may partly explain why it is harder to get hooked on vaping: very few non-smoking kids go on to become regular e-cigarette users. The study found that while almost a quarter (23.8%) of adults who have ever tried a cigarette are currently daily cigarette smokers, under 7% (6.8%) of ever e-cig users are daily e-cigarette users.


Liu G. A comparison of nicotine dependence among exclusive E-cigarette and cigarette users in the PATH study. Prev Med 2017

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