Nicotine is highly addictive – a concern because presently, 10.9 million adult Americans use vape products containing nicotine
While smoking cessation programs have a strong history and deep literature of research, relatively little is known about the unique aspects of vaping cessation. What we at Pivot are learning quickly is that individualized coaching is proving to be an effective component in integrated cessation solutions – which is why it is an integral part of programs we offer employers.
Vaping may seem like a relatively harmless activity, generally deemed more socially acceptable than smoking. However, nicotine delivered in vaping devices is just as addictive as cigarettes. Quitting vaping can be tough, but possible. We interviewed Laura Dotson, director of coaching and behavioral science, for the latest on what works – and why.
Q: Why is it so hard to stop vaping?
A: Just like cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain the addictive substance nicotine, which is known for altering the neural pathway in the brain, creating a powerful addiction cycle. With vaping, there’s a greater risk of higher doses of nicotine exposure due to the use of nicotine salts, which are smoother to inhale. For context, a pack of cigarettes has between 20-36 mg of nicotine. The nicotine salts and juices used in vaping are available in ranges of 0-60 mg strengths, creating the opportunity for vape consumers to take in more nicotine without even realizing it. Adding flavors makes e-cigarettes even more popular, leading to more frequent use and increasing nicotine exposure.
Flavors are the major reason young people are prone to start vaping in the first place. In fact, 41% of young adults between the ages of 18-24 started vaping because they like the variety of appealing tastes. About 7,000 flavors are on the market today, from watermelon wave to peach green tea and even buttered popcorn.
Q: What do we know about the long-term effects of vaping?
A: More extensive research is needed to understand the long-term effects of e-cigarettes. Because these devices, juices, and salts are constantly changing, it proves challenging to make generalized assumptions. However, we do know that e-cigarettes contain harmful cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals that can impact the lungs. Researchers have found over 60 of these dangerous compounds in vape juice and salts not listed on packaging labels.
We also know that those who vape have double the odds of being diagnosed with depression compared to those who have never vaped. This is likely attributed to the fact that nicotine distorts the coping mechanisms that buffer against depressive symptoms.
The impact of nicotine is tremendous – not only on the developing minds of teens, but with adults as well, increasing blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. And, of course, all of these issues have a negative impact on vapers’ employers in terms of productivity, absenteeism, morale, and long-term healthcare costs.
Q: What’s the best way to stop vaping?
A: That’s a complicated question because everyone’s journey is different. To help someone quit vaping, smoking, or simply change a behavior, you need to help them feel understood, competent, and in control. Most importantly, you don’t want to be a barrier.
We’ve found that a customized approach is the most effective way to help someone stop vaping because life is complicated. Everyone starts, stops, continues for different reasons. And those reasons are very personal.
Q: How does your program customize treatment plans?
A: When employers adopt Pivot, every participant is paired with a dedicated, REAL human health coach. First, the coach builds rapport with the Pivoter (i.e. program participants) to learn who they are beyond being someone who vapes. We believe people are more than labels. Then our coaches start to peel back the layers on how the Pivoter got started, what device(s) they use, how they use it, what level of nicotine concentrate they are using, etc.
We also learn a bit about their history — did they previously smoke, are they using vaping as a smoking cessation tool, do they want to be nicotine-free or vape-free? Unlike traditional cessation programs, you don’t have to come in ready to quit. Our coaches support the Pivoter where they are today. We also work with the Pivoter to address the behavioral components and nicotine addiction.
Q: What’s an example of a cessation program element?
A: One of the hardest things to measure is tracking usage. With cigarettes, you know how much you’re smoking because you easily count the cigarettes or packs being smoked. Vaping, on the other hand, can be more passive or mindless.
Many Pivoters don’t know how many times a day they vape, how often, or even how long they pull. So, we’ve tried to introduce the ability to be more mindful when tracking vape sessions. This alone opens Pivoter eyes to how often they reach for their vape device, which creates a conversation around routines.
Q: Why would a person need a coach to quit vaping?
A: Research shows that having a Pivot coach makes you 3.7 times more likely to quit. But beyond the outcomes, you’re paired with someone that cares about you and provides a safe space for you to talk about real-life problems getting in the way of your success.
All Pivoters, no matter what tobacco products they use, are at different stages of their journey when first joining Pivot. Pivoters who vape are no exception. A coach might be the only person in that Pivoter’s life who isn’t judging or shaming them for their vaping.
Instead of placing guilt, coaches work with the Pivoter to learn more about their goals and work together to make a plan to reach those goals. Starting with positive interactions can set up the expectation that the coach is there for a Pivoter in the long term – not just until they reach a goal.
That is a rare and wonderful opportunity. We understand quitting isn’t easy. Part of our interview process is to find coaches who frankly care and are kind-hearted. In this journey, both the Pivoter and coach form a genuine bond, which only strengthens over time as trust is developed – and underscores why employers choose Pivot to help their employees get off nicotine.