As with many of my millennial peers, growing-up I constantly heard about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Smokers lung, tongue & throat cancer, voice boxes - the message was clear - “don’t become a smoker.” And, the proof is in the statistics, these relentless campaigns against smoking worked…less than 5% of people in my age group (20's-30's) smoke cigarettes. Having avoided cigarettes throughout my teens, I never conceived of becoming addicted to nicotine in my twenties.
This isn’t to say I never smoked, I considered myself a “social smoker.” On occasion I’d have a cigarette at a party, or out with my friends, but honestly, I have/had never smoked a cigarette sober. It was an occasional pleasure I was comfortable with–everything in moderation, right?
When I swapped the sporadic cigarette for a Juul, the episodic nature of my nicotine consumption changed entirely.
I was at a house party with my college friends in 2018–one year post graduation–when I first tried the Juul. It was unlike any head rush I’d ever experienced. I’d already had a drink or two, and the intensity of the nicotine from the Juul nearly caused me to faint. I remember thinking to myself, “how does anyone do this regularly?” A few weeks later, my friend and I were out celebrating a work promotion when we passed a bodega advertising Juuls & decided to go in and buy one ourselves. We expected to have a fun night with our new mint Juul, and use it on occasion, but I never anticipated becoming completely dependent on the device. My rule with the Juul initially was that I’d only use it when I went out, but soon thereafter I was using it on a nightly basis as a “treat” after work. Within a few weeks, the ‘occasional treat’ was completely thrown out the window, and I’d panic if I left the house without it.
What had been an infrequent relationship with nicotine became an all-consuming dependency–even a half-hour without the device would feel like an eternity. Of course, I knew intuitively that vaping couldn’t be healthy for me, but because it was touted as the healthier-alternative to smoking, I deluded myself into believing that it “wasn’t that bad for me.”
Although illogical, I found comfort in the pack–if everyone at work was vaping too, could it actually be that bad? At the company I was working for, the CEO vaped openly in the office, so it became a free-for-all.
But it wasn’t just the freedom to vape in the office that made me so addicted to the Juul, it was also that the discretion and lack of smell associated with the vape made it easy to use anywhere–planes, trains, you name it…
Once I couldn’t leave my apartment without the Juul I knew it had become a big problem. The relentless use worsened my migraines and left me in a nearly constant state of nausea. What’s more, all of the fun ‘buzz’ and endorphins that were once associated with the Juul were exclusively reserved for the first hit in the morning - the rest of the day I felt no feelings of pleasure when using the device but just intense displeasure and anxiety when I went without it. I felt terrible for months. Each time I’d try to quit I’d cave within hours or at best a few days. I tried throwing the Juul away, only to be taunted by advertisements for the device on every corner and if I’d manage to muscle-through the discomfort of withdrawal during the work-week (which was unlikely) I’d just end up purchasing another one on the weekend. The cycle was demoralizing.
Finally, in March 2020 I was able to kick the habit for good. For quarantine, I moved back to my parents’ home, and on my flight home to LA I threw my Juul out in an airport trashcan. I was too embarrassed to admit to my parents that I’d fallen pray to Juul, so I made the decision to cold-turkey in order to avoid their disapproval. I thought without my usual triggers (going out with friends, colleagues vaping in the office, advertisements at every NYC bodega) I wouldn’t have a problem quitting cold-turkey, but I was wrong. The first two days in quarantine were brutal. I felt easily agitated, anxious, and sick. I couldn’t stop thinking about Juuling, and finally after my mom’s incessant questioning of, ‘What’s wrong with you?” I broke down. I explained to her that I’d begun vaping and that I was struggling to quit cold-turkey. I described my numerous attempts to quit prior to quarantine but how unsuccessful I’d been each time. Of course, I expected a disapproving speech and a bit of scolding, instead she sympathized with my plight. She told me how many patients she’s seen struggle with nicotine withdrawal throughout her 30 years as a doctor. Rather than shame me, she suggested we head to our local pharmacy to get nicotine replacement products (patches, lozenge, gums), which she said are the most useful tool for weaning her patients off of nicotine.
The nicotine replacements were behind the counter, so it made deciding what to buy tricky and intimidating. Asking for the pharmacist’s help meant admitting to myself that I had a problem–it also opened the door to criticism from strangers. Maybe it was in my head, but asking for these products made me feel judged by the pharmacy staff as well as the customers in line behind me. I could sense their disapproval and questions about my character, “how stupid must this young girl be to get addicted to smoking?” “Doesn’t she know better?” In addition to the shame I felt just asking to see the product, I also felt completely confused–what flavors are available, which strength should I take? If not for my mom being a doctor and providing guidance on dosage, I would’ve felt hesitant and unconfident in the entire process. My mom suggested I take the 4mg (the higher dosage) as I was consuming an alarming amount of nicotine each day. It’s odd that this process felt so shameful and embarrassing, when I never felt uncomfortable buying a vape.
I’m from LA–land of hiking and health-food, it made no sense to me that it seemed “cooler” and less embarrassing to buy a pack of cigarettes than purchase this Nicorette.
The packaging was clinical and bulky. I hated the process of purchasing it, and I hated how it looked in my bag, but what kept me consuming these lozenges was their undeniable effectiveness. Right when I got in the car, I placed my first NRT lozenge under my tongue - my rough-edge of agitation and irritability immediately released. My mind’s constant reminders of my cravings for a Juul were satiated by this miracle lozenge and I could finally go about my daily life free of invasive thoughts. I couldn’t believe the aid and relief it provided. The FDA recommends using these lozenges for a 12-week course, but for me it took a bit longer. I used the lozenges multiple times a day for the first 9-months after quitting, and I continue to keep lozenges on hand in case an intense craving arises. For me, I know that going out triggers my desire to smoke, so keeping lozenges with me on nights-out helps me assuage temptations. Of course, the journey wasn’t without hiccups, but using nicotine replacement I was able to successfully wean myself off vaping, and when my friends struggled to kick their vaping habits, I’d suggest they try the lozenges, too.
Today, I’m not entirely nicotine-free. I still take lozenges on occasion because I’d rather be prepared when triggers arise (out having drinks, stressed, etc) than feel overwhelmed by cravings. But, I’m extremely proud to consider myself a Quitter. I no longer rely on vaping to get me through the day, and I am confident that even when I do use nicotine, I’m not taking a gamble with a faulty-device that superheats mystery liquid. Instead I'm taking something that’s not carcinogenic and has been thoroughly researched for over 50 years.
Everyone’s quitting process is different. Not only do we have different triggers, varying degrees of intensity with which we feel cravings, different levels of dependency, etc, but we also all have our own personal end goals. Whether you want to vape a little, less or not at all, Jones will be here to support you.
Tired of the demoralizing cycle of failed quit attempts? Learn more about Jones' effective & discrete nicotine lozenges here.