Person smoking a vape pen

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine use and dependency have increased across the United States in recent years. This is often attributed to the use of vapes, tobacco and other products. If you choose to use nicotine, here are a few things to know. 

1. What is nicotine? 

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical compound naturally found in the tobacco plant. Like other addictive substances, nicotine use can cause most people to experience physical and psychological dependency. 

2. What products contain nicotine? 

There are a wide variety of products that can contain nicotine, including: 

Tobacco products 
All tobacco products contain nicotine. This includes smoking products like cigars, cigarettes and hookah, as well as smokeless products like dip and snuff. In addition to nicotine, these products often contain other harmful additives, including carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds). 

Vape pens, e-cigarettes, tank systems and mods 
Almost all vapes and e-cigarettes contain nicotine, as well as flavoring and other potentially harmful additives. It’s important to know that some vape labels don't fully disclose their nicotine content, and some liquids that are marketed as 0% nicotine have been found to contain the drug. 

Nicotine pouches have been introduced as an alternative to dip and snuff to remove the tobacco while keeping the nicotine. Common brands include Zyn, On! and Velo.  

3. What are the effects of nicotine? 

Nicotine can have a variety of effects on your body, mind and overall health. 

Nicotine works by temporarily releasing endorphines and dopamine (feel-good chemicals) into your body. While these neurotransmitters are known to reduce stress and pain, the effects can wear off quickly. For this reason, many people get caught in a cycle of continuously using nicotine in order to keep up the effects. Over time, you may find that you need higher and higher doses of nicotine as your tolerance increases, which can make it even harder to quit. 

Frequently using nicotine in this way, especially over long periods of time, can start to impact brain function. These changes can include increased stress, impacts on learning and memory, difficulty with impulse control, addiction and symptoms of withdrawal. Negative impacts from nicotine are especially prevelant in young adults under the age of 25, because the brain has not fully developed yet. 

It’s also important to know that consuming too much nicotine at one time can lead to nicotine poisoning or overdose. Signs of poisoning and overdose include things like nausea, passing out, light-headedness and seizures.  

4. Why is it so hard to quit? 

Because nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, it is easy for people to become addicted or dependent on the drug, both physically and mentally. When someone stops using nicotine products, they may experience withdrawal symptoms that can make it more difficult to quit. 

Some common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Nicotine cravings 
  • Irritability 
  • Restlessness 
  • Anxiety or depression 
  • Sleep difficulties 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Difficulty breaking habits (e.g., reaching into your pocket for your vape) 

As your body and mind adjust to not having nicotine readily available, symptoms of withdrawal will subside. 

5. What support resources are available? 

If you’re thinking about quitting, are unsure about quitting or have already quit nicotine, there are resources available for students, staff and faculty. 

Nicotine Cessation Coaching

Health Promotion offers free resources and support to students, faculty and staff including, nicotine cessation coaching, quit kits and tips for overcoming cravings. 

Nicotine Information

Get more information about nicotine, tips for quitting and free apps that can help you along the way. 

Apothecary Pharmacy

The Apothecary Pharmacy at Wardenburg offers nicotine patches and gum for sale over the counter. No prescription or insurance required. 

Collegiate Recovery Community (CUCRC)

The CUCRC offers community, support and connection for students, faculty and staff in recovery or seeking recovery from a wide range of behaviors. Recovery at the CUCRC includes substance use disorders, nicotine, caffeine, self-harm, disordered eating and other addictive behaviors. 

Boulder County Public Health

Boulder County Public Health offers a number of free support services to help teens and adults quit tobacco products, including vaping. 

Colorado QuitLine

The Colorado QuitLine offers free nicotine cessation programs, including phone and online support. Support service include free nicotine coaching, nicotine education, progress tracking and more.