Exploring the truth behind vaping and weight loss.
Can vaping help with weight loss? Does quitting smoking cause weight gain? Does nicotine reduce appetite? We explore whether or not there is any truth behind common claims linking vaping, smoking and weight loss.
What's the science behind vaping and weight loss?
As the UK vaping market has continued to grow year on year, questions about links between vaping and weight loss have become popular searches on Google. So, we wanted to dive into the science and find out whether or not smoking, vaping or nicotine play a role in weight loss and what that means for you.
Does smoking help you lose weight?
The main thing to understand is that cigarettes themselves do not help you to lose weight. However, the nicotine they contain can suppress appetite. Therefore, safer alternatives to smoking (like e-cigarettes) can provide an alternative source of nicotine when quitting cigarettes, which can supress an increase in appetite associated with quitting smoking.
The study also finds that in terms of public perception, one in 16 English people who have smoked in the last year believe that vaping would prevent weight gain after stopping. One in 22 people who vape are using e-cigarettes for this purpose. However, should evidence emerge that e-cigarettes prevent weight gain, one in eight people who smoke would be tempted to quit smoking and use e-cigarettes.
Many smokers experience weight gain when they decide to quit, as nicotine is known to supress appetite. When stopping smoking cigarettes, baseline levels of nicotine in the body fall and appetite can therefore increase over the short term. This can cause people to feel hungry more often after they have stopped smoking.
On average, how much weight do people gain when stopping smoking?
After stopping smoking average weight gain over one year was 4.8kg, although this varies widely between individuals, with over 13% of ex-smokers gaining more than 10kg over one year.
Despite this, the study also highlights that while there is clear evidence from trials of a short-term reduction in weight gain from using nicotine, there is no evidence that short-term use prevents long-term weight gain. Vaping is not a good way of losing weight over the long term. However, due to the nicotine content some e-liquids contain, it can suppress appetite in the short term.
Smokers who are worried about weight loss when they quit could benefit the most from vaping, as they may be more inclined to attempt to quit in the first place. Smokers who switch to e-cigarettes may also be less likely to relapse once they quit, as they may not experience weight gain which could dissuade them from continuing their attempt to quit.
The study concludes:
However, if evidence that vaping could help users to control their weight during a quit attempt could be identified and communicated to smokers, they may be more inclined both to try e-cigarettes and to quit smoking.
Are there concerns around vaping and weight loss?
The study is careful to caution against using potential weight loss from nicotine as a reason to start vaping. There are still risks associated with vaping (although much lower than smoking) and the study highlights concerns around younger people becoming addicted to vaping despite having never smoked.
The study focuses particularly on the risks of vaping uptake amongst adolescents:
However, this would need to be broached carefully, in order not to make vaping attractive to non-smokers for the purpose of weight control. While e-cigarettes have been shown to be much less harmful than continuing to smoke, they are not entirely without risk (McNeill, Brose, Calder, Bauld, & Robson, 2018). Messaging regarding potential but unproven effects of vaping on weight control may encourage uptake among groups otherwise unlikely to consider using e-cigarettes, particularly those with high body image concerns (e.g. adolescents).
What conclusions can we draw from the study?
Nicotine has appetite suppressing qualities that are associated with weight loss. When people quit smoking, nicotine levels in the body drop and appetite increases. This makes weight gain common among people quitting cigarettes. Smoking alternatives like e-cigarettes can be a useful and safer replacement source of nicotine over the short term.
However, we do not recommend that someone starts vaping in order to help them lose weight, especially if they have never vaped before. Using smoking alternatives like e-cigarettes and vapes to lose weight is not effective in the long term. However, it could be a useful tool in the short-term for current smokers who are worried about weight gain to attempt to quit cigarettes.
Vaping & Weight Loss FAQ
Does smoking make you lose weight?
No. Cigarettes only affect appetite due to their nicotine content. The harm done from smoking a cigarette vastly outweighs any gain from a reduced appetite. There are safer ways to access nicotine and we do not recommend anyone starts smoking to lose weight.
Does vaping make you lose weight?
Nicotine, often contained in some e-liquids and disposable vapes, has appetite suppressing qualities which can prevent weight gain associated with quitting smoking. However, the effect is only short term. It is not recommended that someone who has never smoked or used e-cigarettes before should start vaping in order to help them lose weight.
Will I gain weight from quitting smoking?
Many people experience weight gain when they quit smoking. On average, people tend to gain almost 5kg body weight during the first year after quitting cigarettes. Nicotine has appetite suppressing qualities and stopping smoking removes the source of nicotine, allowing appetite to increase. You can offset this over the short term by using an alternative nicotine source, like e-cigarettes or nicotine patches.
Does nicotine cause weight loss?
Nicotine has been shown to cause a reduction in appetite, which can lead to weight loss. When smokers quit cigarettes, many experience weight gain as nicotine levels fall back to normal and appetite increases. So nicotine does not help you to ‘lose weight’ specifically, rather it can supress the desire to eat in the first place.