Vaping without nicotine: what’s the point – and is it safe?
It’s possible that if you’ve Googled ‘vaping’ and ‘nicotine’ together recently, you may have come across links to discussions about the safety of vaping with e-cigs when the e-liquid – or e-juice – doesn’t contain any nicotine. For seasoned vapers, this may strike an ironic, even amusing note; for often the debate around the safety of vaping full-stop has pivoted around the notion that nicotine itself is enormously unhealthy (note: it’s not; in conventional cigarettes it’s the toxins in the tobacco – carbon monoxide, tar and more – that are so harmful, while nicotine provides the addictive element).
Still, such discussions do raise intriguing conundrums and legitimate questions – what is it like to vape without nicotine? Is there any point in doing so? And what about the safety factor – is it at all safer or actually less safe?
The safety factor
As pointed out, nicotine isn’t particularly harmful much at all; yes, technically it is poisonous but only in large doses. The volume that’s allowed in vape liquid (just 20mg/ml in EU countries) is so low that its toxicity level is genuinely negligible – thus, the ‘dangers’ of nicotine, which (again, as pointed out) seem to be perennially raised by howling banshee-like anti-vaping advocates, are pretty much imaginary and, to all intents and purposes, a nonsense.
But what would happen if there were no trace of nicotine at all in the e-juice you vape? Well, you might want to go to Australia to find out the answer (a bit of a pricey excursion just for that, admittedly!) because that nation doesn’t allow any of it in the e-liquid sold on its shores. A bit of an overreaction? Yes, frankly. The truth is nicotine doesn’t appear to make the liquid and resultant vapour any more toxic, but is that all there is to it? Are there other issues to consider should you want to seriously try non-nicotine e-juice?
Are you an (ex-)smoker?
Now, if the answer to that question’s yes, then there may well be an issue should your vaping juice contain no nicotine. Not immediately obvious why? Well, consider what it is that actually kept you on the ciggies before you made the switch – yes, the nicotine. The very chemical element in them that’s addictive. So, if that addictive element isn’t present when you vape – which you’ve presumably turned to as a safer alternative to smoking – what’s to keep you vaping and off the conventional cigarettes? There could indeed be a real danger non-nicotine vaping will do absolutely nothing for you and, before you know it, you’re back to square one; smoking twenty Benson & Hedges a day. Yup, that’s not going to do your health any good at all. In fact, if that were the case, why would you bother making the switch to vaping in the first place?
Dropping the nicotine content
Another dimension to the vaping-without-nicotine discussion is the notion of not going nicotine-free right from the off, but trying to reduce its levels as you go along. The rationale behind this is sound, all right – should you want to turn to e-cigs not just to ‘make you feel better’ but to kick the habit and genuinely get off combustible cigarettes altogether, then some way down the line you’re going to have to find a way to properly wean yourself off their addictive hit; like all drugs, it’s their addictive quality that see cigarettes force people to come back over and over again.
But how to go about this so it works? The trick is to not drop the nicotine content too far too fast. Remember, as an (ex-)smoker, your body is used to nicotine, so much so it’s convinced it needs it; thus, it craves it. If you’re going to switch to non-nicotine vaping too quickly, you might as well just go ‘cold turkey’ without e-cigs (i.e. without any kind of prop) – and remember, in the vast majority of cases, going cold turkey rarely works for smokers.
Those in the know then advise cutting down on the nicotine gently, doing so in increments – and not worry how long it’s taking to do so (remember; your body’s convinced it needs it). You might want to kick-off with a 24mg/ml e-juice (or 18mg/ml in the EU; the most it’ll allow); then drop down to 12 mg/ml after several months and after several more drop that to 6 mg/ml. Sounds slow? Yes, it is, but that’s exactly the point. It’s not a race (indeed, who would you be racing?); you’re doing this for the good of your physical health, not to look good in the eyes of others – or even yourself necessarily. Good luck!