Vapor Cigarettes vs. Nicotine Lozenges — an Ultimate Comparison
If you want to kick your smoking addiction and are looking for an effective, viable and affordable nicotine replacement therapy, you’ve come to the right place as we’re going to compare the two most popular strategies head-to-head.
Tobacco cigarettes contain tar, countless carcinogens, and many other hazardous compounds, however, it is the nicotine that makes them extremely addictive. While higher doses of nicotine can prove to be harmful, it becomes pretty much harmless once you’ve rid yourself of all the harmful and carcinogenic chemical substances contained in cigarette smoke. This is where nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) come in handy by providing your body nicotine: the substance it’s craving for, without the harmful compounds. NRTs are basically a way of weaning the brain off nicotine by gradually reducing its amount in the system while not engaging in the harmful act of smoking. The idea is to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms experienced by a smoker trying to quit.
Nicotine patches, gums, and lozenges have been very popular NRT strategies since the 80s, and are believed to be useful. A newer, more advanced system is vapor cigarettes that try to simulate smoking and offer nicotine without the harmful chemicals. The million-dollar question here is, which is better, vapor cigarettes or nicotine lozenges? The rest of the guide explores the answer.
What Are Nicotine Lozenges and How They Work?
Nicotine lozenges, as the name suggests, are candy-like lozenges which dissolve in the mouth over a certain period of time. There are usually two strengths of nicotine content, 2mg and 4mg, which means this amount of nicotine will be absorbed by the body after consuming one lozenge.
The absorption into the bloodstream takes place through the lining of the mouth while the nicotine lozenge dissolves. The nicotine, once in the bloodstream, provides relief from the symptoms that come from smoking cessation.
What Are Vapor Cigarettes and How They Work?
Vapor cigarettes aka vaporizers, electronic cigarettes or simply e-cigs, are battery-powered devices that turn e-liquid into vapor without any combustion (you can check out our e-cig category to get an idea how they look like). They can be divided into two main parts: a battery and a cartomizer. The battery produces power to the coil in the cartomizer, and when e-liquid in the tank comes in contact with the hot coil, it turns into vapor. This vapor is then inhaled and exhaled by the user known as the vaper. Remember, the e-liquid may or may not contain nicotine, while many manufacturers also allow you to choose your desired strength of nicotine, which usually ranges between 0 and 3%.
How E-cigs and Nicotine Lozenges Should Be Used?
You use e-cigs pretty much the same way as traditional cigarettes i.e. by inhaling on their mouthpiece, but there is no combustion and no smoke. However, depending on their type, you might have to refill and recharge your e-cig. Also, since they produce water vapor instead of smoke, the term vaping is used instead of smoking.
Nicotine lozenges, even though they look like regular lozenges should not be consumed the same way. Depending on how heavy a smoker the person trying to quit is, there are generally two strengths of nicotine lozenges to choose from. For those who used to smoke their first cigarette before 30 minutes after waking up, the 4mg option is the right choice and for those who smoke their first cigarette 30 minutes after waking up, the 2mg option is ideal.
Nicotine lozenges even have a special way to be dissolved in the mouth. They are not to be swallowed or chewed like gum and that temptation should be resisted. The correct way to consume nicotine lozenges is by sucking on it gently as it slowly dissolves in the mouth. The lozenge can be moved around in the mouth from time to time and it is a good idea to lodge it in the corner of the mouth where it can dissolve naturally and at a constant rate.
Nicotine lozenges typically dissolve fully in 15 to 30 minutes and their effects last even after a lozenge has been finished so they are not expected to be used in a chain like chain-smoking. A maximum of one lozenge per hour and no more than 20 lozenges over the course of a day should be consumed. In practice, the number and frequency of the nicotine lozenges used depend on how heavy a smoker the user was and at what stage the user is in the cessation of smoking.
Nicotine lozenges should not be used 15 minutes before or after eating or drinking. Acidic foods and drinks, in particular, can nullify their effectiveness. They should also not be consumed while a person is still smoking as that will most likely lead to nicotine overdose which can have very unpleasant side effects like heartburn, irregular heart rate etc.
E-cigs vs Nicotine Lozenges as an NRT
- Side Effects
Nicotine lozenges also rarely have any significant side effects but it is a drug and as such the mere possibility of side effects should be taken seriously. Some of the more common side effects include dizziness, headaches, hiccups, over-salivation, nausea, heartburn, irritation or inflammation of the mouth or throat. Some of the rare side effects of nicotine lozenges include arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), heart palpitations, and allergic reactions.
If you use high-quality e-cigs and high-quality e-liquids, there are hardly any side effects. (Note: there were no long-term researches conducted on the possible negative effects). The most commonly reported side effects are dry mouth and minor throat and/or mouth rash, especially by beginners. Those who vape e-juices with nicotine, and eventually try to quit may also experience withdrawal symptoms.
When it comes to affordability, e-cigs are the clear winner. Lozenges can be very expensive, and for some brands, a single lozenge can cost up to $4. The cost can add up to hundreds of dollars for just a few weeks depending on how many lozenges you take daily. On the flip, you can grab a good e-cig starter kit for around $60, and a 30ml bottle of high-quality e-juice will cost you about $15 that can last a whole week. While you can get more powerful mods for a higher price, but they can save you more in the long run. In the end, you’ll be spending very little on vape juices after the initial investment on the vapor cigarette itself.
- Control Over Nicotine Strength
The basic purpose of NRT is to fulfill your body’s craving for nicotine it has got addicted to after prolonged use without other hazardous substances. But gradually you would want to stop taking nicotine also. In this regard, lozenges and vapor cigarettes work in different ways. You can reduce the potency (i.e. from 4mg to 2mg) and increase the gap between taking lozenges to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine going into your body. E-cigarettes give you a little more control over choosing nicotine strength, as you can gradually cut back on the nicotine level (i.e. from 3% to 2.6% to 2.4%) and eventually vape with zero nicotine.
- Laws and Regulations
In the United States, lozenges have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a recommended smoking cessation technique. But vapor cigarettes are under tight scrutiny, as the FDA is trying to impose strict regulations on their sale. Also, many states prohibit vaping in public places, and treat e-cigs pretty much like the tobacco cigarettes.
This is where things get complicated.
Earlier studies, like this one conducted back in Jan 1988, showed ridiculously positive impacts of chewing gum containing nicotine. The studies showed that about a whopping 31% to 44% of the subjects who used nicotine gums were abstinent even after six months. We call it the honeymoon period of the nicotine gums and lozenges. However, later it was found that these percentages are extremely exaggerated. Interestingly, many subjects who, instead of real nicotine gums, were given a placebo, also remained abstinent for nearly the same amount of time. More recent studies, however, like this one published in 2003, show that the percentage of people who were able to remain abstinent for more than six months by using lozenges was only about 7%.
So, what caused such a huge difference?
If we review the earlier studies closely, there are many factors that played a part in helping people stay abstinent. Firstly, most of these studies were sponsored or backed by large companies that either made lozenges or had some sort of benefits attached to it. Secondly, the subjects were recruited selectively, and on top of that, they were offered unrealistic levels of additional support to quit. Also, as we rely on media reporting for such studies, and forget that press sells only the extreme stories that can create a buzz.
On the other hand, we can’t claim anything regarding vapor cigarettes as they haven’t been approved as a smoking cessation strategy. However, several studies show encouraging results. For example, Royal College of Physicians – a British professional organization dedicated to improving the practice of medicine – recommends, in their famous report titled Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction, that e-cigs are 95% safer than tobacco cigarettes and “appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking”.
Another study published online in 2015 also compared vapor cigarettes with other NRTs and claimed some interesting results: “Smoking abstinence reported more commonly by e-cigarette users than users of over-the-counter NRT and those quitting smoking unaided” and “adjusted odds of non-smoking among e-cigarettes were 1.63 times higher than users of NRT and 1.61 times higher than those using no aid.”
So, even though studies show that e-cigs can be an ideal approach for tobacco harm-reduction, the debate goes on as FDA and the government wait for any conclusive evidence. Looking at their recently proposed regulations, FDA, however, seems more inclined on decimating the entire e-cig industry. That means you have to try yourself different approaches and see which one floats your boat. But interestingly, ask any ex-smoker turned vaper, and they’ll tell you that they’re never going back!