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Most rehab centers for alcohol or substance use disorders allow their clients to smoke cigarettes during treatment, but a third don’t. It’s the one addictive substance that is allowed, perhaps on the theory that you can’t expect someone to agree to give up all their addictions at the same time.

If you are in need of alcohol or drug treatment, you shouldn’t base your decision to get treatment on whether you can smoke or not. If it’s a deal-breaker for you, make sure to ask.

Why Don’t Some Rehabs Let Their Clients Smoke Cigarettes?

Some rehab centers prohibit their clients from smoking for several reasons. These reasons often stem from safety and health concerns. 

A lot of the treatment centers believe stopping smoking is a crucial part of being successful in the battle against drugs and alcohol. There have been plenty of studies that provide proof that stopping smoking is key to improving one’s overall health, which is essential to a successful recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. 

Many smokers have switched to vaping—inhaling vapor from heated liquids from e-cigarettes or vaping pens—but that might have its own health consequences, even when the liquids contain no nicotine. One worry is popcorn lung. 

What Is Popcorn Lung?

Popcorn lung is bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare but serious health condition. It’s also irreversible, making it important to understand how it’s caused and how to prevent it.

Popcorn lung got its name because it was discovered among the workers in a microwave popcorn factory. The culprit turned out to be diacetyl, a chemical then used to make the popcorn taste buttery. Some workers making the popcorn in factories inhaled the chemical during the manufacturing process, experiencing symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans such as coughing and shortness of breath.

Though diacetyl is no longer used to flavor popcorn, it is still present in some products, like vaping pen liquids.

According to a 2019 report from  JamaicaHospital Medical Center, diacetyl is used in more than 75% of e-cigarette liquids to complement the taste of other flavorings such as .coconut, maple, and vanilla.  

Does Vaping Cause Popcorn Lung?

Healthline.com agrees that vaping can cause e-cigarette/vaping associated lung injuries (EVALI), including popcorn lung, with black market pens containing THC (the euphoria-producing chemical in marijuana) associated with the most and worst cases. As of February 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had confirmed 2,807 EVALI cases and 68 deaths, though the rate had declined since September 2019. 

Vitamin E acetate, a common additive in some vaping products, especially those containing THC, is strongly linked with EVALI. One small February 2020 study found vitamin E acetate in the lung fluid of 94% of individuals with EVALI No vitamin E acetate was found in the similar fluid from the study’s control patients, which also included vapers as well as smokers, and nonsmokers.

How to Choose the Best Treatment Center for an Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Research reported in 2018 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirmed that allowing people with substance use disorders to smoke does not help them stay sober. Instead, they are 1.5 times more likely to resume alcohol or drug use within three years. 

Many smokers won’t consider a rehab that won’t let you smoke, but don’t let that one thing stop you from getting the help you need. It’s more important that your treatment be evidence-based and that you can stick with it.  





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