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July 9, 20240

Does Vaping Make You Lose Weight?

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Jeremy VanOs

Although e-cigarettes were designed to be less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes, that is not always the motivation for their use. A percentage of people use vaping for the purpose of weight loss or to manage food cravings. Does vaping make you lose weight, or are such people misinformed about its effects? 

The idea likely stems from a couple of places. Firstly, vapes are available in a wide variety of flavors, many of which resemble indulgent foods. This might suggest that vaping could be used to satify one’s sweet tooth or replace snacks.

Also, cigarette smoking has a reputation for appetite suppression, so it might be implied that vapes are in the same boat. To better understand this topic, we should start by exploring the common denominator between cigarettes and (most) vapes: nicotine.

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Nicotine and weight loss

There is ample evidence showing a link between nicotine and weight loss. Most of it points to two distinct characteristics of nicotine.

Nicotine is an appetite suppressant

When absorbed into the body, nicotine activates brain receptors that release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that induces feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, among others. In short, when you consume nicotine, you feel good.

A similar process occurs with food. Our bodies often tell us that we’re hungry, or that we want sugar or carbohydrates. When we satisfy those feelings by eating, the brain rewards us with dopamine.

This explains how nicotine can act as an appetite suppressant—it essentially tricks the brain’s reward system. That desirable dopamine rush from consuming food or sugary beverages is obtained from nicotine instead.

Nicotine certainly won’t satisfy the body’s need for nutrition, but it may reduce the appeal of food by devaluing the potential reward. It could also promote false indications of fullness when eating, resulting in less food consumption.

Nicotine speeds up the metabolism

Nicotine increases the body’s resting metabolic rate. In other words, nicotine users tend to burn calories at a faster rate than non-nicotine users. This, along with the appetite-suppressing nature of nicotine, likely explains why people who smoke tend to weigh less than nonsmokers.

Can vaping make you lose weight?

Nicotine vaping is not considered a healthy or effective long-term weight loss solution. And yet, a 2017 study of adult e-cigarette users found that 13.5% of study participants used vaping to lose or control weight. Although this is not recommended, it’s also not an entirely illogical strategy. There are a few ways that vaping could promote weight loss.

Impacts of nicotine

Do vapes suppress appetite? If using e-liquid with nicotine, it’s highly likely. As previously explained, nicotine impacts both appetite and metabolism, often resulting in weight loss. There is no reason to think nicotine vapes would be exempt from these effects.

Behavioral alternative to eating

The behavioral aspect of cigarette smoking often plays a role in the addiction. Vaping requires the same hand-to-mouth ritual as smoking, which may partially explain why it can be twice as effective as traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products to help smokers quit.

The repeated act of bringing the hand to the mouth—what’s called an autonomic behavior—could also serve as a distraction from hunger or mindless snacking. It might even trick the brain into believing that food is being consumed, resulting in decreased appetite.

Flavor options

There are literally thousands of e-liquid flavors on the market—fruits, desserts, candies, and even breakfast cereals. Vaping could seem like a logical substitute for those who want to indulge in such flavors without the calories, sugar, carbs, or fat.

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Vaping and weight gain

There is no evidence suggesting that vaping causes weight gain. However, some variables associated with vaping could potentially promote weight gain. A few examples:

  • A dramatic decrease in nicotine strength or intake (or eliminating nicotine entirely) could increase appetite. Again, this is due to the brain’s reward system. Reducing the satisfaction from nicotine could compel your body to seek alternate ways of releasing dopamine, such as eating. Weight gain among people who quit smoking is a well-known phenomenon.
  • Reducing the frequency of vaping could result in behavioral substitutions, such as reaching for a snack rather than a vape.
  • Those who regularly vape super-sweet e-liquids might notice increased sugar cravings after switching to flavors with considerably lower sweetener content. Even a general dissatisfaction with a particular flavor or setup might impact eating habits. Everyone is different, so it’s impossible to say for sure.

There are plenty of hypotheticals that could be considered. Most of them, however, are circumstantial and not backed by research—aside from nicotine cessation, which has a proven effect. Using such examples to draw a connection between vaping and weight gain would be pure speculation.

Do vapes have calories?

Yes, the e-liquids used in vapes do contain calories. Most of the calories can be found in the two main components of e-liquid: propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). These ingredients can represent over 95% of the total mix and contain roughly 4 calories per mL.

The caloric values of other ingredients, like flavorings and sweeteners, are negligible due to the small amounts used. Nicotine itself does not contain calories. It’s worth noting that these ingredients are often suspended in a PG or VG solution, which makes it difficult to isolate their independent caloric values.

Although e-liquids have a small number of calories, it ultimately doesn’t matter because you don’t drink e-liquid; you vape it. Calories are absorbed in the digestive system (gastrointestinal tract), whereas most e-liquid is vaporized and absorbed in the lungs. These are two completely different biological processes.

Small droplets (or mist) of e-liquid will undoubtedly end up in your mouth when vaping. In this case, your saliva will carry them to the digestive system. So, yes, you can consume some calories by vaping. However, the potential caloric intake would be too minuscule to pose a realistic weight-gain concern.

Does quitting vaping make you gain weight?

Some users might be reluctant to quit vaping due to potential weight gain. After all, it is well known that cigarette smokers tend to gain weight after they quit. Does the same apply to vaping? Outcomes may vary from person to person, but it certainly makes sense.

The biggest culprit is nicotine. Often, when people stop using nicotine, appetite increases, eating habits drastically change, and metabolism slows down. Regardless, weight gain from nicotine cessation is not a certainty, so if quitting is your goal, stick with it. 

The absence of flavored vapor and former behavioral patterns could also promote weight gain. The hand-to-mouth ritual of vaping can subconsciously feel like snacking, and some e-liquids can perfectly mimic those snacks.

Lastly, one should never discount the impacts of boredom. If vaping were a substantial part of your daily routine, you would certainly feel its absence after quitting. Some people fill that void by eating.

If you are worried about gaining weight after quitting vaping, the best solution is to make proactive changes in your life. Counteract the loss of nicotine and vaping behavioral routines with healthy lifestyle changes. Consider starting a diet, joining a gym, or finding a new hobby to keep your brain occupied.

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Jeremy VanOs

Vaping since: 10 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: Tobaccos, fruits, custards

Expertise in: RTAs, RDAs, MTL vapes, coil-building

Jeremy VanOs

Vaping empowered me to kick a lengthy smoking habit in 2014. It changed my life and I never looked back. Although vaping quickly became a hobby, my real passion is helping smokers make the switch and spreading awareness about the potential of these products. I have been writing vape content and working behind the scenes in the industry since 2016.

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