The Stages of Nicotine Reduction

/ 6 min read

The Stages of Nicotine Reduction

Nicotine reduction can take many forms. Some choose to go cold-turkey from smoking, which can be very challenging although not impossible! Others might seek alternatives to help wean them off their reliance on nicotine such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like patches, gums, or the newer alternative, vaping.

However you choose to approach the journey, there are some things to keep in mind when reducing your nicotine consumption. Ultimately nicotine is an addictive substance, and while everybody is different, and will experience different things during cessation, nicotine withdrawal is well worth being prepared for. You can learn more about our relationship with nicotine in our guide Nicotine and health.

Aside from nicotine there are other factors to consider that will be impacted by the way you choose to begin a cessation journey. Even if you don’t choose vaping as an alternative, as an ex-smoker your body will undergo changes that are worth taking note of before starting that journey.

In this blog will explore the process of nicotine and smoking cessation according to information from the NHS, Bupa, and Action on Smoking and health (ASH). You can explore the source material by clicking the links in the content below or our source list at the end of the article.

We will also explore what it is like to reduce nicotine strengths as a vaper, which we will be based upon our own experience as a vaping company with many staff members who have transitioned from smoking to vaping, and also using the experience of real people who shared their success stories of quitting/reduction with EDGE vaping products.

A Typical Timeline After Quitting Smoking

As a smoker who has quit, there is a typical timeline to observe, along which you can expect certain changes to take place within your body. These changes are not universal however, and it’s important when reading this to remember that each person will go through their own version of a quitting journey.

The NHS tells us that once you quit smoking, you can expect the following changes. The method by which you quit (cold-turkey, vaping, NRT, etc…) can of course influence this, so this should be treated as a general guide only.

After 20 minutes

After only 20 minutes after abstaining from smoking your pulse rate will drop back down to a normal level.

After 8 hours

8 hours in you can expect your body’s oxygen levels to be recovering, and the level of carbon monoxide in your blood will have halved.

After 48 hours

By now all the carbon monoxide in your blood should have been flushed out. You may notice a chesty cough for a short while, but this is because your lungs will be clearing out mucus. Your sense of taste and smell will also be bouncing back.

After 72 hours

You might notice breathing has become easier, this is because by now, your bronchial tubes have relaxed. As a bonus, your energy levels should be increasing too.

After 2 to 12 weeks

Your circulation will have improved a lot, meaning blood is pumping to your heart and muscles much more easily.

After 3 to 9 months

You should notice any coughing, wheezing, or other breathing difficulties will be improving as your lungs function increases by around 10%.

After 1 year

Your risk of a heart attack is now half as much as a current smoker’s.

After 10 years

Your risk of lung cancer and potentially death is now half of that of a current smoker.

If you want to learn more about how your body changes after quitting smoking, you can head over to the Bupa website, or check out their informative short video about the process.

Nicotine Cravings

When quitting smoking and reducing your nicotine intake, in addition to the factors above, you can expect to deal with nicotine cravings.

NHS Inform (Scotland) tells us that, particularly during the first month, you may find that you experience some nicotine withdrawal and recovery symptoms including:

  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • frustration
  • tiredness
  • difficulty sleeping or concentrating

They go on to explain that nicotine cravings should improve after the first two to three weeks of abstinence. Despite the challenges they present, the NHS stresses that withdrawal symptoms are a positive sign that your body is recovering from the addiction.

There are many ways a person can choose to deal with cravings. Those going cold-turkey after smoking may just opt to tough it out, others may seek alternative sources of nicotine that allow them to wean off by steadily reducing their intake while managing the above symptoms through NRT or vaping.

Nicotine Reduction As A Vaper

Vaping has become one of the most popular options for smokers looking to quit (see ASH data below). There are many reasons cited for this, and there is plenty of data to back up its potential power as a quitting aid.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a leading public authority lobbying for tobacco harm reduction in the UK tells us:

“E-cigarettes are overwhelmingly used by ex-smokers and current smokers. It is estimated that there are over 3.6 million adults in Great Britain using e-cigarettes – 7.1% of the adult population.10 Of these e-cigarette users in 2021, 64.6% of current vapers were ex-smokers, while 30.5% also smoked (dual users). The proportion of adult smokers who have tried e-cigarettes has continued to grow, while those who have never tried continues to decline.

People use e-cigarettes for a variety of reasons. The vast majority for health reasons, to help them quit, prevent relapse or cut down the amount they smoke. Vapers also report using e-cigarettes to save money compared to smoking, to protect others from second-hand smoke and because it gives them pleasure.”

At EDGE vaping, we also conducted a trial where volunteers chose to use EDGE Vaping products to help them achieve their tobacco harm reduction goals. These success stories didn’t always end with the person stopping smoking altogether, their individual journeys had different goals, but all of the participants found that vaping allowed them to reach those goals with more ease than other alternatives like NRTs.

For example, Jane shared this about her experience:

“Nicotine patches worked really well and took away my cravings, but they were quite expensive and still took a fair bit of willpower to stick to. This time I found vaping wasn’t just cheaper, but took less willpower too, which was probably because I was still inhaling something.”

One of the most powerful things about vaping as an alternative to smoking is the ability to step down nicotine strengths. Just as it is with nicotine withdrawal if a person goes cold-turkey, reducing your intake can temporarily cause some issues you should be mindful of until your body adjusts to the change which we have explored in our blogs.

Managing your vape behaviour is important, one of the most common compensatory actions when lowering your nicotine strength is to start vaping more regularly than before. Try to stick to a schedule and be mindful to avoid this doesn’t become a permanent change. Allow yourself time to acclimatise to the reduced nicotine intake, while making sure your cravings are still managed effectively.

Seek Professional Advice

Before starting a cessation journey, no matter your goal, you should always ensure you have spoken to your GP, or a Stop Smoking Service to build a proper plan and ensure the journey you take is the right one for your needs.

The information in this blog is intended to give you an idea of what to expect as you reduce your nicotine consumption but should never be a replacement for professional advice from those trained to give it.

Our Sources:,from%20the%,aid%20used%20in%20quit%20attempts.