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If you’re reading this, we assume you’re looking to try vaping. This is great news for a lot of reasons.
Cigarettes are the biggest cause of preventable death in North America, responsible for 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If that isn’t bad enough, the CDC states that roughly 37 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. Out of that group, 16 million suffer from some sort of tobacco-related disease – that’s roughly 43%.
Yes, if you smoke, there’s an almost 50/50 chance that the habit will severely hinder your quality of life. But there is hope.
The CDC reports that smoking has declined from 20.9% to 15.5% between 2005 to 2016, putting smoking rates at an all-time historic low.
While this is good news on paper, it doesn’t make quitting any easier. Many people tried patches, gums, lozenges and sprays – all to no avail. While we’re not technically allowed to claim that vaping is an effective cessation aid (research is still ongoing), there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this.
Unfortunately, a lot of vapers find that e-cigarettes don’t do the trick, causing them to go right back to cigarettes. The problem is that most – if not all – of these people are making some kind of mistake that hinders their ability to switch.
That’s why we’re here. Our aim is not to just introduce you to vaping, but also to ensure that you do it right. We can help you choose the right device, liquid and nicotine level to satisfy your needs. Among other things, you’ll learn what vaping is, how it works and receive all the detailed instructions you need to eliminate cigarettes from your life.
We understand that tobacco companies are evil. They provide a product that people buy, even if they don’t want it. These organizations have found ways to make smoking more addictive than ever. It’s time to fight back and show these people that the grass is in fact greener on the other side.
Now that we’ve thoroughly smeared the tobacco industry, let’s take a look this new vaping trend.
PART ONE: AN INTRO TO VAPING
Odds are you’ve seen people carrying around these weird gadgets. Adorned with funky lights and random buttons, they can be quite confusing to newcomers. But not all vapes are alike.
Many of these devices are actually quite simple, and this is what we’d like to address now. We’ll get to the flashy box contraptions later.
What is an E-cigarette?
An e-cigarette (a.k.a. “vape” or “vaporizer”) is an electronic device designed to deliver nicotine without combustible tobacco. It uses flavored liquid called “e-liquid” or “e-juice” infused with the addictive substance. Once heated, the liquid becomes an aerosol, carrying nicotine to the lungs, just like a regular cigarette.
Where did E-Cigarettes Come From?
Believe it or not, the first ancestor to modern e-cigarettes was patented back in 1930. It never reached store shelves, and we know next to nothing of its fate; however, it did set the stage for future inventions.
E-cigarettes popped up once again in the early 1960s, when Herbert A. Gilbert patented a device similar to the vapes we have today. Again, however, it failed commercially and passed into obscurity.
Between 1979 and 1980, another e-cig emerged on the scene. Phil Ray, an influential figure in the computer industry, helped perform research into nicotine delivery. He managed to get his device onto store shelves, but it failed due to performance issues; however, Ray is responsible for coining the term “vape”.
In the 1990s, several individuals and companies tried to create and patent electronic cigarettes. Sadly, they all failed for a variety of reasons.
The first successful e-cigarette was created in 2003. A Chinese pharmacist (and smoker) named Hon Lik created the device after his father – also a smoker – died of lung cancer.
The company he worked for called the device “Ruyan,” which, when translated, means “like smoke”. It was this device that set the stage for what eventually became a massive trend that would challenge the tobacco industry and spark enormous debate.
How Do E-cigarettes Work?
E-cigarettes vary in terms of features and complexity. But at their core, the mechanism is the same. They consist of a battery, mouthpiece and atomizer.
The battery is the largest component, taking up the vast majority of a vape. These are rechargeable lithium-ion energy sources that can either be charged via USB or regular wall adapter.
Batteries can take anywhere between 30 minutes to four hours to fully charge. Small, simple devices charge quickly, while larger, more powerful ones take longer.
Many models have a “bypass” feature, which means that users can vape while the battery is plugged in.
The mouthpiece (“drip tip”) is self-explanatory. It’s the part of the vape that users insert into their mouths. Some are removable and can even be switched with other, differently-shaped ones. This allows people to customize the vape experience.
The atomizer is actually more than one component. It’s a blanket term that refers to the tank, coil and heating element.
A vape tank is a cylindrical container – usually clear glass or metal – that holds e-liquid. They vary in size. Some can be as small as 1ml, while others reach 8ml (for higher-end vapes).
The coil is a small piece that absorbs the liquid before vaporization. They contain a wick that is made of synthetic fiber or cotton. Simpler vapes typically use the former, while the latter is meant for more complex, high-performance devices.
The heating element is the metal part of the coil that heats up, vaporizing the liquid contained in the wick.
Most vapes use a button to “fire” the heating element, while others automatically work when the user inhales.
Cartomizers are atomizers that come pre-filled. As a result, the vape doesn’t require a refillable tank. They’re typically found in basic vaping devices. We’ll cover the specific details in Part Three.
What are E-liquids?
A lot of people think that they’re inhaling water vapor when they use an e-cigarette; however, this isn’t true. E-liquids don’t contain any water. Instead, they are usually a mixture of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). They also contain flavorings and nicotine – although nicotine-free options are available.
Some liquids can be 100% PG or VG, but these are few and far between. Both of these agents act as “carriers,” transporting the flavors and nicotine with them when vaporized. Let’s look at these more closely.
Propylene glycol is a synthetic chemical derived from petroleum. The FDA recognizes it as safe to consume in a variety of products. Foods, cosmetics and inhalers are just a few items that use PG.
This compound is tasteless, odorless and quite watery. It also does a much better job at carrying flavors than VG and provides a harsher smoking experience.
Unlike PG, VG is a natural compound derived from vegetable oil. It’s also FDA approved for use as a food additive, partially due to its sweet taste. Many household products, like shampoo and toothpaste, contain VG because it helps absorb moisture. Consequently, VG has a tendency to cause dry mouth during vaping.
VG is more viscous (thicker) than PG, so low-end vapes have trouble absorbing it due to their small, synthetic coil wicks. High-VG e-liquids are designed for more advanced devices with wicks that are big enough to handle the substance.
Vapers choose VG if they want a smoother vaping experience. It’s also the compound of choice for “cloud chasers” who enjoy large billows of vapor.
Unfortunately, cloud chasers have to sacrifice taste, as VG is less effective at carrying flavor than PG.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s switch gears and look at something even more important.
PART TWO: Is Vaping Safe?
If you haven’t considered the safety of vaping, now is your chance to do so. After all, what’s the point of replacing cigarettes if vaping has its own set of equally bad risks?
So is vaping safe? A lot of people like to say so, but “safe” isn’t the right word. It would be more accurate to argue that vaping is safer.
Does this mean we have solid proof that vaping causes serious health problems? No. But e-cigarettes are relatively new. It’s simply too early to establish any long-term effects associated with vaping.
However, studies are promising.
One of the biggest problems vapers face is pushback from anti-vaping groups who insist that vaping and smoking are identical; even though they literally have nothing in common (aside from nicotine).
Let’s look at the studies that oppose and support vaping and see what we can find out.
There are quite a few studies trying to stifle the use of e-cigarettes. The most notable one is a study by the New England Journal of Medicine. According to them, e-cigarettes are 15 times more likely to cause cancer than regular tobacco. They blame formaldehyde, which is one of the notorious cancer-causing elements in cigarettes. This is of course quite alarming. Too bad it isn’t true.
It all boils down to temperature. The experiment was conducted at a very high power setting – too high for most vapers to tolerate. Furthermore, one of the writers of the study – David Peyton – argued that he was misquoted.
Peyton states: “It is exceedingly frustrating to me that we are being associated with saying that e-cigarettes are more dangerous than cigarettes...That is a fact not in evidence.”
Sadly this happened due to a tweet by the New England Journal of Medicine, saying “Authors project higher cancer risk than smoking” – a tweet that Peyton denies seeing or approving.
Honestly, we could dig up a lot of anti-vaping articles and experiments, but they all have flaws – or other studies – that dismiss the findings.
A lot of research is available showing the benefits of e-cigarettes. Most anti-vaping hysteria has to do with myths stemming from the dangers of regular cigarettes.
Myth: Second-hand Vapor is Dangerous
A paper published in BMC by Igor Burstyn looked at the chemical contaminants in vapor and compared the concentration to what some people might be exposed to in certain workplaces.
According to his publication:
There was no evidence of potential for exposures of e-cigarette users to contaminants that are associated with risk to health at a level that would warrant attention if it were an involuntary workplace exposures [sic].
In other words, the concentrations are so minute, that employers would have nothing to worry about if their employees were exposed to this level on a daily basis.
Of course, this isn’t a free ticket to vape anywhere you want. Bystanders may not have to worry about health impacts, but they might still find the vapor annoying.
Myth: Vaping Will Not Improve Your Health
While vaping is certainly a viable method of tobacco harm reduction, some argue that it won’t lead to better health. A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, however, shows otherwise.
They provided e-cigarettes to asthmatic smokers. The researchers found that those who kept vaping showed an actual improvement in lung function: “The e-cig may help smokers with asthma to reduce their cigarette consumption or remain abstinent and hence reduce the burden of smoking-related asthma symptoms.”
Healing is an important reason to quit smoking. Thankfully, e-cigarettes appear to do just that.
Myth: E-cigarettes Contain Nicotine, So They’re Just as Bad as Cigarettes
Nicotine – the addictive compound found in tobacco – has received a lot of negative press. Cigarette packaging and anti-smoking groups claim that it’s more addictive than heroin or cocaine. While nicotine certainly is addictive, dependency can vary from person to person. A lot of the time, it’s a psychological addiction. This means that people associate smoking with certain emotional states. For instance, we often depend on cigarettes to calm down when we’re stressed (even though it only puts more strain on our bodies).
Another myth is that nicotine allegedly causes cancer or other lung problems. Again, this isn’t true, as experts have found no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the effects of nicotine are comparable to that of caffeine. This is one of the reasons why cigarettes cause a spike in heart rate and blood pressure. While these physiological responses aren’t good for you, they’re not responsible for lung cancer, emphysema, COPD or the other list of long-term illnesses brought on by tobacco.
In fact, vapers can choose nicotine-free e-liquids if they want to keep the hobby after kicking the habit.
But are we saying that you can include nicotine as part of your daily routine? Absolutely not. At the end of the day, nicotine affects our bodies. It may not cause cancer, but it’s far from good. As a vaper, your goal should be to eventually wean yourself off of nicotine altogether.
The Bottom Line
Realistically, e-cigarettes aren’t nearly as dangerous as smoking. But again, they’re not completely safe. A lot of the concerns are based on what we don’t know.
We don’t know what happens after decades of vaping. We also don’t know how inhaling propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin affects the body. It’s these unknowns that should be a cause for concern.
In the end, we can all agree that inhaling any foreign substance is a bad idea. Our lungs exist solely to take in air. Anything else is basically a wildcard.
This is why many experts label vaping as “tobacco harm reduction”. In other words – as we said before – it’s safer, not safe.
PART THREE: Basic Vaping
As a new vaper, you’ll want to start at the easiest possible level, which is usually a simple vape pen. But some newbies are intrigued by massive clouds and cool vape tricks.
This is where the vaping lines diverge into two categories – basic vaping and sub-ohm vaping.
Basic vaping is as simple as it sounds. Simple vape pens or “cig-a-likes” (vapes designed to look and work like regular cigarettes) fall into this category.
Basic vapes are the best choice for beginners, and there are plenty of reasons why. There are also some specific features worth noting.
First, these devices are very easy to use. They usually involve simple one-button operation, but in many cases, just inhaling at the mouthpiece fires the atomizer.
Cartomizers are in a category of their own – despite still functioning like a standard atomizer. As we mentioned earlier, they don’t require manual filling like regular tanks. Unlike refillable devices, cartomizers use pre-filled cartridges.
Many of the best starter kits, such as the JUUL, use this method – and for good reasons.
A big problem vapers face is spillage during the refill process. Not only is this annoying, but it can be dangerous if a few stray drops get past your visual scanning and end up on the floor. Pets and small children will love the flavor, but it doesn’t take much nicotine to poison a dog, cat or baby/toddler.
Cartridges typically come in multiple flavors. In a standard tank, switching flavors while using the same atomizer can cause the previous taste to seep into the new one. This is called “ghosting” and it really ruins the experience.
Switching flavors also puts a strain on the coil – especially if the PG and VG levels are different from the previous e-liquid. This often dramatically reduces the life of a coil, requiring more frequent replacement.
With cartomizers, trying something new is as easy as removing the cartridge and replacing it with a new one. It’s a great way to keep things varied without affecting the overall experience.
Aside from ease of use, there are other reasons to start simple.
Higher Nicotine Content
A major problem with nicotine in vapes is that it gets harsher as levels increase. This is what vapers call a “throat hit,” which is the tingling, burning sensation common to inhaling cigarettes.
Many people actually enjoy this experience. But whether they do or not, simple pens are the only option. Although some e-liquids exceed this point, the typical maximum for nicotine in the high PG e-juices these devices use is 24mg – 2.4%. This is a substantial amount.
Higher end devices can’t contain so much nicotine, because the amount of smoke produced would deliver so much of the substance that the throat hit would be intolerable. People who use these liquids will be limited to between 3mg (0.3%) and 12mg (1.2%) – although the latter is still pushing it.
When it comes to cloud production, basic vapes are much more discreet. This is due to two things.
First, simple devices don’t have the power that bigger ones can boast. Consequently, they don’t vaporize as much liquid at once, resulting in smaller billows of smoke. This is a good thing, because it lets people vape discreetly without annoying those around them.
Second, the synthetic coils in these vapes need to use high levels of PG in order to soak efficiently. We already mentioned that PG is not the best choice for “cloud chasers”.
Overall, basic devices and their liquids are much cheaper. It’s easy to pick up a full starter kit for under $20.00, whereas it’s not uncommon for complex e-cigarettes to reach a price tag of $100 or more.
Basic vapes are far from perfect. There are areas where these fall flat, and it’s important that we understand them.
The cheap, high PG e-juices are mostly made of artificial chemicals and flavorings. This is because of the limitations associated with synthetic coils.
The devices themselves are also less solid. While there are kits that are known to be quite complex and durable, the cheaper ones won’t measure up to their more expensive counterparts; however, the silver lining is that they’re cheaper to replace.
Yes, we did mention this as an advantage, but for some, it’s a negative. Some prospective vapers like the idea of big clouds. But if they’re heavy smokers, they can’t expect to get their nicotine fix and enjoy the novelty of big billows of smoke.
PART FOUR: Sub-Ohm Vaping
This is where things get interesting. Sub-ohm vaping is where the action is, so to speak. When we picture massive clouds and an array of settings, we’re thinking about sub-ohm.
What is Sub-Ohm Vaping?
In order to understand sub-ohm vaping, we need to learn about Ohms law. Without getting too technical, ohms are a measure of electrical resistance. Every time we fire up a vape, the battery sends and electrical current to the atomizer coil. Lower resistance means more power, leading to larger clouds and heavier nicotine delivery.
Anything at 1.0 ohms or above falls under basic vaping. Devices that go under 1.0 ohms are sub-ohm.
Keep in mind that some new basic devices can actually go below 1.0 ohms, but the difference is typically quite small – usually around 0.9 ohms – which is barely sub-ohm at all.
Sub-ohm vaping has come a long way. Performance, quality and overall features are much more complex than a few years ago.
Higher-end sub-ohm devices offer a lot of settings, specifically wattage and temperature. This allows users to find a “sweet spot” where their e-liquid of choice evaporates the best.
These large, rectangular devices – or “box mods” – blow their basic counterparts out of the water.
Box mods are confusing to newcomers, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. There are sub-ohm e-cigarettes that look and function like basic vape pens.
These “tube mods” are essentially vape pens on steroids. The power demands are higher, which requires larger batteries. As a result, the bodies will be much bigger.
The great thing about these devices is that they offer the same one-button operation typical to vape pens. It’s the perfect stepping stone for people who want to reach sub-ohm, but aren’t ready to master the different settings.
The sheer power, combined with larger wicking holes in the coils, allows more liquid to be absorbed and vaped at once. As a result, the cloud production is much larger.
This is how talented vapers come up with crazy vape tricks or simply create enormous, room-filling billows of smoke.
Sub-ohm vapes are designed to use high VG e-juices. These “premium” liquids often use better ingredients and are even available with 100% natural flavors and colors.
These products are also a lot smoother, making them ideal for people who aren’t into throat hits.
Like basic vaping, sub-ohm options aren’t perfect.
Again, sub-ohm devices are more expensive. This makes sense, since the builds are more complex. Even the simple tube mods are pricier than basic vapes – although marginally so in many cases.
The liquids are also a lot more expensive.
Sub-ohm vaping isn’t a viable starting point for heavy smokers. In fact, anyone who smokes more than five to 10 cigarettes a day won’t get enough nicotine from a sub-ohm device.
Unfortunately, there’s no real solution to this. If you’re adamant about starting here, pick up a simple device for nicotine delivery and use your sub-ohm as more of a novelty. Eventually, you can make the switch once you wean yourself off of high-nicotine e-liquids.
Higher E-juice Consumption
The large coils, coupled with the power of sub-ohm vapes, cause a lot more liquid to vaporize at once. Expect to go through your e-juice supply a lot faster than with a typical vape pen.
PART FIVE: Nicotine Salts
Even people who start simple find that they’re not getting the nicotine “hit” they need. This is where a lot of vapers switch back to cigarettes; however, recent developments in e-liquid technology gave rise to nicotine salts. Juices containing these substances have helped a lot of people stay on track.
What are Nicotine Salts?
Up until recently, e-liquids used “freebase” nicotine. This nicotine is the type found in regular cigarettes. It’s more bioavailable (more easily absorbed by the body) and was designed to make cigarettes more addictive.
Nicotine salts are nicotine in its purest form, extracted directly from the tobacco plant. Manufacturers add benzoic acid to the mixture. This makes it more bioavailable and smoother to inhale.
The single benefit to nicotine salts is their higher concentrations. Although they may not be as easily absorbed as freebase, salts are less harsh. This means that they can be added to liquids in much larger amounts.
While freebase liquids can’t exceed 24mg without being ridiculously harsh, salt products easily hit the 50mg mark. As a result, you’ll probably experience the nicotine rush we all remember from our first morning cigarette.
More importantly, it takes care of the cravings, increasing your chances of ditching cigarettes altogether.
If you find your regular vape doesn’t cut it, then try salts before giving up.
The issue with nicotine salts is that they sadly still won’t work in sub-ohm devices. These vapes create way too much vapor, causing massive levels of nicotine to be delivered in a single drag.
Salts also come in high PG liquids, which also deliver a harsher vaping experience.
PART SIX: Troubleshooting
Like any device, vapes do fail– or seem to fail – at times. Whether we’re dealing with simple pens or large devices, users often encounter common issues at times. Let’s look at them and see how they can be fixed.
Gurgling and Spitting
After filling your tank, you may hear gurgling and notice hot liquid spitting through the mouthpiece. There are two potential causes.
A flooded atomizer occurs when there’s too much e-liquid in the tank, or some excess liquid managed to slip into the center opening of the atomizer.
In order to solve this issue, remove the tank and coil, then wipe up any pooled or excess e-liquid with a paper towel. Replace the coil and try again.
Different coils require different wattage levels to work. If you look at the coil itself, you’ll see a wattage range. If you’re vaping below this minimum range, the coil won’t heat properly. Consequently, e-liquid doesn’t evaporate and stays behind, causing gurgling and spitback.
If you have a customizable sub-ohm vape, make sure the wattage is set to the correct level. Pens and tube mods don’t have that feature. Instead, the work on “direct output”. This means that their wattage slowly goes down as the battery drains. If you notice gurgling and spitting, try charging your device for a while.
Also known as a “burnt hit” or “dry hit,” this happens when there isn’t enough liquid in the coil, causing a painful burning sensation in your lungs. It’s the worst experience imaginable, so let’s see why it happens and how to avoid it.
Lack of Priming
While this is truer for sub-ohm vapers, every user should prime their coils. The process is simple. Before vaping, drop some e-liquid onto the exposed synthetic fiber or cotton in the coil. Let it absorb and repeat the process two or three times.
Next, fill your tank and leave it standing on a flat surface for roughly 10 minutes. High VG liquids require the most time, since their thickness makes it harder for coils to absorb them.
Sub-ohm vapers run into this problem a lot. E-liquids will large amounts of VG are particularly notorious for gunking up coils with burnt VG. It typically shows up on the cotton as a black, gooey buildup.
One way to solve this is by wiping the substance with a paper towel. Just open the tank and gently clean out the black goop, then try again. This should extend the life of your coil by a few days.
Another thing you can do is fire your vape for about five seconds. This burns away some of that residue; however, it also can put a strain on your coil, so be careful.
A leaky tank is particularly annoying. Nothing ruins your day like a pocket lined with sticky, greasy liquid. But what causes this and how do we fix it?
Sometimes, user error is the cause of a leaky tank. It’s important to always close the lit of your tank tightly to keep any liquid from spilling out.
On a side note, never leave liquid in your tank when carrying it on a plane (you can legally do so in your carry-on baggage). The pressure changes will cause even the sturdiest of tanks to leak.
The O-ring is a rubber ring found near the top and bottom of many tanks. This acts as a seal to keep liquid from leaking through the ends of the glass. If one of these break, so too does the protection they provide.
At this point, your only option is to replace the rings; however, don’t panic. O-rings cost a couple of bucks and are super easy to replace.
Cracked glass is an easy thing to come by, especially if you drop your vape. Like an O-ring, the only option here is to replace it.
Fortunately, glass is also cheap and simple to switch. You just need about $5.00 handy. Then, just fit the glass into the tank.
Vaping isn’t an easy thing to master. Whether it’s an initially unpleasant experience, lack of nicotine satisfaction, technical issues or all of the above, there might be times when you’re ready to give up.
Just remember, however, that once you learn the ropes, vaping will be easy. It’s not as simple as just taking a lighter to a stick of tobacco, but you’re trading smoking-related diseases for a bit of inconvenience. It’s a fair trade.
We hope that we gave you a solid starting point for your journey, but there’s simply too much to cover without writing a novel. That being said, there’s lots of help out there.
If you’re having issues with your device, go ahead and call the manufacturer. You’ll also find that the vaping community is very open and helpful. If you’re struggling, just ask your vape shop owner. Odds are a customer will interject and pitch in as well.
Whatever your situation, we wish you the best of luck and hope you enjoy vaping as much as we – and millions of others – now do.