Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Are you worried that you might be vaping too much these days? With so much time now spent at home in lockdown, many of us are finding that we’re using our e cigarettes too often, or maybe even chain vaping. But how worried should you be about the risks of nicotine poisoning? And could vaping too much be bad for you in other ways?
In the UK, the risk of nicotine poisoning from heavy vaping is unlikely to cause serious harm as e liquid nicotine strengths are restricted to safe levels (20mg). Likewise, there is very little official evidence that either moderate or excessive vaping poses any other long-term risks or dangers to people who do not already have existing health problems.
But what is meant by heavy or chain vaping? And how do you know if you’re chain vaping or just using your vape a bit too often?
What is chain vaping?
Chain vaping is when you vape heavily or continuously with very few intervals between puffs and sessions. Chain vapers often hold vape devices next to their mouths so they can take deep puffs with almost every breath. People who chain vape can suffer side effects and also risk using up more e liquid, pods and coils than usual.
Is chain vaping bad for you?
Though unwanted physical effects of chain vaping are not usually serious, constantly using an e cigarette can certainly have negative impacts on well-being.
Spending all day and every moment using an e cig without breaks can sometimes make chain vapers feel tired and listless. They may also find that their overall enjoyment of vaping diminishes over time.
As with any habit-forming activity, if you’re enjoying vaping, even as a heavy vaper, then that’s probably fine. But if chain vaping is beginning to bother you for whatever reason, then it’s probably worth looking for ways to cut down or stop doing it altogether.
Risk of nicotine poisoning from heavy or chain vaping
According to the NHS, there is “no risk of serious harm from nicotine poisoning when vaping e-cigarettes”, even if you vape heavily. However, it’s important to remember that this advice is based on maximum UK e liquid nicotine strengths, which are currently capped at 20mg.
On the other hand, so called “nic sickness” (low-level nicotine toxicity) can happen when users chain vape, or use very high e liquid nicotine concentrations (e.g. 35mg+).
Heavy vape users should remember that children and pets can suffer effects of nicotine poisoning by ingesting nicotine vape liquids by accident. To minimise this risk, keep e liquids locked up high, and mop up spills thoroughly if you have children or pets around.
Side effects of heavy or chain vaping
In terms of physical effects, heavy users, and especially chain vapers, may suffer from some or all of these vaping side effects:
- nausea (nic sickness)
- loss of appetite
- sore throat or throat burn
- problems with your skin
- tiredness or fatigue
On the whole though, unwelcome reactions like these seem to be temporary, not generally serious, and not just limited to heavy vape users. It’s just that the more often you vape, the more likely you are to experience these symptoms.
It’s also been reported that vaping may affect mood, memory and concentration. And of course, this may be more noticeable if you vape more often than usual.
But how can you tell if your vaping habit is becoming too heavy?
Signs of heavy vaping
- Holding your vape in your hand at all times
- Vaping constantly with only very short breaks between puffs (chain vaping)
- Dizziness, stomach aches, headaches or hiccups
- Strong, hard to remove smell of e cigarette vapour indoors
- Getting through e liquid very quickly
- Stealth vaping (vaping in secret in places you shouldn’t)
- Noticing your cigarette battery going flat too soon
- Losing interest in daily activities and social events (apart from vaping)
- Feeling lazy, inactive and/or tired
- Choosing ever stronger e liquids for a bigger buzz
Do you vape more than you used to smoke?
One unexpected effect that surprised me when I switched from smoking to e cigarettes was that after a while I found I’d started to vape even more heavily and often than when I used to smoke. I was never a chain smoker, but I felt I was in danger of becoming a chain vaper. And this isn’t an uncommon experience for many other people who start vaping, either. After all, most people want vaping to feel as similar to smoking as possible,
The first reason why vapers end up chain vaping is the fact that e cigarettes are so convenient that they lend themselves to being overused. Unlike with smoking, it’s way easier to vape more and more until you’re vaping almost all the time. And this is simply because with vaping, instead of having to light up, tap out, or stub out, you simply have to press a button and suck.
Another reason why you may be vaping more now compared to when you smoked is the relative affordability of vaping. These days, it’s very easy to get a vape device that satisfies your smoking needs for as little as a tenner. In other words, when 20 cigarettes cost you the same amount, you were more likely to eek out your supply of cigs, but with vaping, there is simply no such financial incentive.
But if you’re vaping more than you did when you smoked, how can you tell what “normal” amounts of vaping look like?
How much vaping is normal?
Getting an idea of how much and how often users typically vape can give you a better idea of whether your own vaping is normal.
It’s hard to say exactly how many vape sessions people usually have per day. After all, most of us have busy lives and wouldn’t have time to vape continuously even if we wanted to. We can however get a fair idea of how much and how often people normally vape within given time periods.
How many puffs a day?
On average, moderate vape users take about one puff of vapour every two minutes, making a total of 30 puffs per hour. Vape constantly at this rate for 16 hours in a typical day and you’ll get 480 puffs in total.
Research suggests that typical users tend to vape in clusters or sessions of up to 10 puffs at a time, with every puff lasting about 4 seconds. A session could be a vape break at work, or after a meal. The key thing with vape sessions is that you split them up with intervals lasting several minutes or even hours.
Average e liquid use per day
Recent research by ASH suggests that most vapers in the UK tend to use up just over 4ml of e liquid per day, with only 2% using more than 10ml. This suggests that anything over 10ml is way too much, unless you’re vaping zero-nic or very weak vape juice.
How much nicotine is OK?
It seems most Brits (67%) prefer to vape e liquids of between 1-12mg nicotine, with 24% using strengths of 13mg to 20mg. This is a lot lower than in other countries, like the US, where users can buy vape liquids with very high (35mg+) nicotine concentrations.
What about one-off heavy vape sessions?
It’s also not unusual for even the most moderate vapers to enjoy one-off heavy vaping sessions at certain times. After all, how much you vape will likely fluctuate based on where you are and what you’re doing at the time.
In my own case, I know I’m way more likely to take more frequent puffs if I’m taking a vape break at work. And this is because obviously I want to take in as much nicotine as I can before my break ends. I don’t think this is unusual, given that smokers do exactly the same thing.
I also sometimes find myself chain vaping whenever my hands aren’t occupied, such as while watching a movie. But it’s not like I vape this often all the time.
So if you sometimes vape heavily or chain vape, but don’t vape like a demon the rest of the time, should you be worried? I would say no, as long as it’s only from time to time and doesn’t last long enough to give you any side effects.
Looking at the bigger picture of how often you vape is a much safer way to judge whether your vaping behaviour is normal or not.
How much vaping is too much?
Here are some typical examples of excessive vaping based on average consumption. If you find yourself doing any (or all) of these things then it might mean you’re chain vaping, or maybe just vaping a bit too much.
- Using 10ml or more vape liquid per day
- Using e liquid nicotine concentrations higher than 25mg (2.5%)
- Vaping constantly for most of the day with only very short breaks
- Having more than 4 puffs per minute (one puff every 15 seconds) over long time periods
How to stop chain vaping
The most effective way to stop chain vaping is to keep your hands occupied for as long as possible in order to disrupt the constant action of vaping. Typing, writing, cooking or playing video games work because these activities are engrossing enough to distract you from always thinking about vaping while keeping your hands busy.
Another way to deter yourself from chain vaping is simply to put your vape pen or pod out of reach, i.e. away from your sofa, bedside table or work desk. However, this technique may not work so well on its own, as your urge to chain vape is probably a lot stronger than your will to curb it.
A more determined way to disrupt the routine of chain vaping is to give yourself time-limited “vape breaks”. By choosing to vape only at given times during the day, you’ll give yourself space to recover and learn to relax without needing to chain vape. It’s best to limit each break to 5 or 10 minutes, and keep your device in another room between breaks.
Should I cut down my vaping?
Unless you really enjoy doing nothing but vaping constantly and using up a bottle of e liquid a day, you should probably watch how much you vape. But if you’re not seeing any negative effects from heavy vaping, do you really need to be careful?
You may so far have escaped any of the more serious physical side effects of heavy or chain vaping. But you shouldn’t let your vape habit become so frequent or heavy that it replaces a chat with friends or a day out.
At the end of the day, you and those close to you are probably the best judges of the whether the amount you usually vape is normal or a bit over the top. So listen to their suggestions and decide what’s best for you.
If your vape routine is getting in the way of your life and the things you like to do, it’s probably too heavy. If not, and you’ve got no nasty side effects, then my advice is to carry on vaping as usual.
Related questions about vaping too much
Chain vaping refers to the way in which many heavy users vape, but not all heavy vapers can be considered chain vapers. Heavy vaping can mean either vaping very frequently or regularly using e liquids with high nicotine strengths. On the other hand, chain vaping is characterised by very long sessions of near continuous vaping.
One reason why you may be vaping too much is that you used to smoke heavily before you switched to vaping. Another reason is that nicotine in e cigarette vapour is absorbed more slowly than nicotine in cigarette smoke. This means ex-smokers have to vape more often or more vigorously to achieve the same level of nicotine satisfaction that they once got from smoking.