Search Twitter or Google for “vaping not addictive” and you’ll find many examples. Of all the mega-galactic nonsense promoted by vaping advocates that I’ve covered in this blog (see list at end of this piece), this one surely takes the biscuit.

You’ll look hard for anyone with three digits of IQ who will tell you that nicotine isn’t addictive. The most infamous rendition of that position occurred on April 14, 1994 when seven CEOs from US tobacco companies (dubbed the seven dwarfs) swore under oath to a US congressional hearing that nicotine was not addictive

Here is how nicotine compares with four other addictive substances (caffeine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol and marijuana (cannabis) according to leading nicotine scientists, Neal Benowitz and Jack Henningfield. Both rated nicotine #1 for dependency in an article in the New York Times where they rated each of these six drugs on a scale of 1 (most serious) to 6 (least serious)  for five criteria.


Substance   Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication

Nicotine                  3                       4                          2                  1                      5

Heroin                     2                       2                          1                  2                      2

Cocaine                   4                       1                          4                  3                      3

Alcohol                    1                       3                          3                  4                      1

Caffeine                   5                       6                          5                  5                      6

Marijuana               6                       5                          6                  6                      4


Substance   Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication

Nicotine                   3*                     4                         4                   1                       6

Heroin                      2                       2                         2                   2                       2

Cocaine                    3*                     1                         1                   3                       3

Alcohol                     1                       3                         4                   4                       1

Caffeine                   4                       5                         3                   5                       5

Marijuana                5                       6                         5                    6                       4

*equal ratings

In 2019 I marched with tens of thousands in Sydney’s school climate strike.  After leaving Sydney’s Domain, I found myself in the sardine-can stream of people exiting the park area, walking right behind a woman who was vaping. She vaped the entire 30 minutes or so it took to shuffle to where the crowd began to disperse. Watching her vape was astonishing. I didn’t have a stop watch, but I’d estimate she pulled on her vape every 20-30 seconds. Not addicted, just enjoying it, right?

I’ve just finished writing a 120,000w book called Quit Smoking Weapons of Mass Distraction which will be published this year by Sydney University Press. There’s a large chapter in it on vaping where one of the issues I look at is what the research literature says about how frequently vapers like the woman in front of me fill their lungs with propylene glycol, nicotine, flavouring chemicals, and some 2,000 mostly unidentified chemicals all vaporised from the liquid that is heated by the metal coil heated by the e-cigarette battery.  Here are some excerpts.

A 2020 study monitoring vaping found those who were exclusive vapers pulled this cocktail deep into their lungs from point blank range on average 173 times a day — 63,188 times a year (173 x 365.25). Those who were dual users (i.e. who vaped but still smoked) basted their lungs 72 times a day with their e-cigarettes in addition to the smoke from their smoking. Another study found the average daily number of puffs taken was 200, with a range up to 611.   A third study, where researchers observed vapers using their normal vaping equipment ad libitum for 90 minutes, reported the median number of puffs taken over 90 mins was 71 (i.e. 0.78 puffs per minute or 47.3 per hour). (St Helen, Ross et al. 2016) If a person vaped for 12 hours a day at that rate, this would translate to 568 puffs across a 12 hour day or 207,462 times in a year.

We can contrast the counts above with the number of puffs today’s average 12 cigarettes-a- day smoker inhales. One study observing puff frequency in those smoking in social settings recorded an average of 8.7 puffs per cigarette with an average 38.6 second gap between puffs.  At 12 cigarettes a day, this would translate to 104 puffs per day or 38,106 per year.

So vapers’ puffing compared to smoking occurs at an almost frantic rate, making a mockery of the bizarre, die-in-a-ditch denialism often seen in vaping chat rooms insisting that vaped nicotine is not addictive.

Updated 13 Mar, 2023

Other blogs in this series 

Vaping theology: 1 The Cancer Council Australia takes huge donations from cigarette retailers. WordPress  30 Jul, 2020

Vaping theology: 2 Tobacco control advocates help Big Tobacco. WordPress 12 Aug, 2020

Vaping theology: 3 Australia’s prescribed vaping model “privileges” Big Tobacco Feb 15, 2020

Vaping theology: 4 Many in tobacco control do not support open access to vapes because they are just protecting their jobs. WordPress 27 Feb 2021

Vaping theology: 5 I take money from China and Bloomberg to conduct bogus studies. WordPress 6 Mar, 2021

Vaping theology: 6 There’s nicotine in potatoes and tomatoes so should we restrict or ban them too? WordPress 9 Mar, 2021

Vaping theology: 7 Vaping prohibitionists have been punished, hurt, suffered and damaged by Big Tobacco WordPress 2 Jun, 2021

Vaping theology: 8 I hide behind troll account. WordPress 29 Jun, 2021

Vaping theology: 9 “Won’t somebody please think of the children”. WordPress 6 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 10: Almost all young people who vape regularly are already smokers before they tried vaping. WordPress 10 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 11 The sky is about to fall in as nicotine vaping starts to require a prescription in Australia. WordPress 28 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology:13 Kids who try vaping and the start smoking would have started smoking regardless. Word Press 19 Jan, 2023