Is It Harmful to Smoke or Vape in Recovery?

February 12th, 2019

Many people have an addiction to nicotine, whether it be in the form of traditional cigarettes or new vapes and electronic cigarettes. While the dangers of cigarette smoking are now very well-known, the dangers of vaping addiction are not as clear, especially among teens and young adults. Many people wonder if it is okay to smoke or vape while recovering from drug and alcohol addiction – however, replacing one addiction with another is not a healthy strategy.

Like drug and alcohol addiction, vape and cigarette smoking addiction can have very adverse effects on your physical and mental health. You can develop the same cravings and experience withdrawal symptoms while vaping and smoking.

Cigarette Smoking Decreasing, Vaping Increasing

Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, with the popularity of electronic cigarettes not rising until the early to mid-2010s. According to a study by experts at Georgetown University, cigarette smoking is decreasing among teens and young adults while vaping is significantly increasing. The study looked at five surveys from across the United States that examined tobacco use between 2013 and 2017, following the rise of vape popularity.

As a general trend, the Georgetown study found a strong relationship between vaping and smoking across teens and young adults. As vaping rose in popularity, cigarette smoking decreased along with it. Vape companies often tote their devices as safe alternatives to cigarettes and imply that they are less addictive. In addition, today’s teens and young adults have seen more anti-cigarette programs than their older counterparts have.

As a result, more people of this demographic are turning to vaping due to their perceived safety. One study found that students in the 12th grade reduced their cigarette smoking by 4.6% after an initial long-term analysis of their smoking habits in 2014. Between 2014 and 2017, 12th-grade students in the United States reduced their smoking prevalence annually by 9.5%. Coincidentally, these years are when vaping rose to popularity.

The 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey and other national tobacco surveys found the following statistics in regard to vaping popularity:

  • In 2011, only 0.6% of middle schoolers and 1.5% of high schoolers reported vaping in the last 30 days.
  • In 2014, 3.3% of middle schoolers and 11.7% of high schoolers reported vaping in the last 30 days.
  • 2.4% of young adults aged 18 to 24 reported vaping every day or some days in 2012. In contrast, 5.2% of young adults reported vaping every day or some days in 2015.
  • Rates of vaping among adults aged 25 to 44 rose to 4.2% in 2016 from 2.4% in 2012.
  • Rates of vaping among adults aged 45 to 64 rose from 2% in 2012 to 2.8% in 2016.
  • Among adult e-cigarette users in 2015, 29.8% used to smoke cigarettes, 58.8% were active cigarette smokers, and 11.4% never smoked cigarettes.

The Addictive Qualities of Vaping and Smoking

Many people believe that vaping is less addictive than smoking. However, this statement could not be further from the truth. Both cigarettes and e-cigarettes are extremely addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only 6% of smokers can successfully quit smoking each year.

In addition, a 2017 study found that e-cigarette use does not help people cut down on smoking as many people believe. In fact, many vapers become dual users or replace one addiction with another. According to a 2018 study, 90% of e-cigarette users cannot quit vaping after one year of attempting to stop.

Just like drugs and alcohol, cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain an addictive substance: nicotine. When someone smokes a cigarette or e-cigarette, they receive a surge of endorphins to create a brief high. While the high is not as long or as intense as other drugs, cigarette and e-cigarette smokers learn to associate the habit with a reward. Repeated smoking leads to long-term brain changes, dependence, and addiction.

The Risks of Smoking and Vaping

Thanks to increased knowledge of the dangers of cigarette smoking and educational programming, many people are aware of the dangers of long-term cigarette smoking. Some of these risks include:

  • Increased risk for coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
  • Increased risk of stroke by 2 to 4 times
  • Increased risk of lung cancer by 25 to 25.7 times
  • Increased risk of mouth, liver, cervix, kidney, bladder, and stomach cancers
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Birth defects

Since vaping is a new phenomenon, many people remain unaware of its risks. In addition, advertising campaigns dangerously market vaping as a smoking cessation technique and a safe alternative to cigarettes. However, vaping can pose risks such as:

  • Nicotine dependence
  • Permanent alterations in brain chemistry in teens and young adults
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughs
  • Fevers

Smoking and Vaping While in Recovery

If you are considering vaping or smoking while in addiction recovery, you should avoid developing these habits at all costs. Partaking in these activities could hinder your addiction recovery. At Windmill Wellness Ranch, we recommend quitting tobacco and nicotine habits along with your other addictions.

There are several reasons why you should refrain from developing a nicotine habit while in recovery.

  • You can use vaping and smoking as a replacement addiction. Although they may not be as dangerous as drug or alcohol addiction, vaping and smoking are still unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Continuing to vape and smoke will enable the same behaviors as drug and alcohol addiction did. You will spend lots of money on substances, structure your life around your addiction, and develop rituals around the habit.
  • Many people who smoke also drink and use harmful substances. If you continue to smoke and vape after recovery, you can risk exposure to the substance from which you are recovering.
  • Vaping and smoking can be a relapse risk due to its association with drug and alcohol use. If vaping or smoking reminds you of engaging in addictive behaviors, it can trigger cravings. If this act is a trigger, leave vaping and smoking behind.

If you find yourself struggling with a nicotine addiction alongside your drug or alcohol addiction, help is available. At Windmill Wellness Ranch, we provide concurrent treatment to help you reduce replacement addictions, including smoking and vaping. We offer comprehensive recovery options at our secure and private facility in Canyon Lake, Texas.

Contact us today to learn more about our holistic treatment programs and how to enroll.