So I used to smoke quite a bit. I remember being 15 years old and going with my mate to the local ‘tab wifey’ and getting a few illegal regals, my first real venture into the world of smoking. From there I continued to smoke for a good 5 years, trying a couple times along the way to quit. (Patches made me sick and the inhalators were quite simply bollocks..) But then, I discovered vaping! I’ve now been smoke free and using a vape knocking 6 years now, working in a vape shop for the past couple years. So I thought I’d share some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years! If you’re looking to quit smoking and venture into the world of vaping, then welcome to class 101! Take a seat.
Before I get into the main stuff, one thing I’d like to quickly cover is where to actually get your first e-cigarette. If you are thinking of quitting smoking then great! You’re already taking the right step by reading this! (I’d like to think.) However, one thing I’d strongly recommend against doing is buying your first kit online. Find yourself a good, well reviewed local vape shop, pop in and try some stuff out!
Having the knowledge of someone with experience is key to finding the right device! Too many times I’ve had people say that they’ve tried vaping and failed, because they went and bought entirely the wrong kind of kit and liquid without any prior research. If you don’t get things right at step one, chances are you’ll fail. (And most people who do rarely go back to try a second time.) Some stores even have some testers setup for you to try different styles of device and flavours, so you can make sure what you’re getting is going to be what’s best for you! Amazon? Not so much.
So what is an e-cigarette?
Kind of does what it says on the tin, but basically your standard e-cigarette consists of these parts:
Tank / Atomiser:
Tanks come in all shapes and sizes, and I’m not talking about the kind on tracks with big fucking guns. This is the section that sits on the top of your device and contains the liquid. You have several kinds of tanks; Mouth to lung Atomisers, Sub Ohms and the likes of RDA’s and RTA’s. (Some terms you won’t quite get, but we’ll explain everything as it goes.)
You fill them up with liquid, pop them on your battery and away you go! Wattage is an important factor in a tanks performance, with different ones requiring different wattage ranges, but we’ll cover that in a bit.
As the name suggests, the battery unit is what powers your device. Most are rechargeable nowadays (bar a few disposable systems out there) and come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got the eGo style pen batteries that are most commonly used on starter devices, to large ‘mods’ that take separate batteries and can pump out some serious wattage. (These being designed for larger, sub ohm devices and re-buildable setups.)
I mentioned wattage, because some mods will allow you to adjust the power output, resulting in a stronger or weaker hit depending on the tank and coil you’re using. (Each coming with their own recommended wattage ranges.) Not every device features this capability however, with some hosting just a single button to activate. These style devices normally have a maximum or set wattage output and will therefore only work with certain tanks and atomisers.
The coil is where the magic happens. This is a replaceable unit housed within the tank that actually vaporises the e-liquid. Most tanks will take a coil system (bar disposable devices once again) but these will naturally need to be replaced every 1 – 4 weeks, depending on the kind of setup and liquid you’re using. A coils construction consists of a central metal wire wound into a coil (hence the name) with surrounding cotton. The cotton absorbs the liquid as it’s put into the tank and when the coil heats, it’s vaporised.
This is one thing I’ve seen a lot of people overlook in the early days of vaping, with some months down the line complaining of flavour issues not even realising that they needed to replace anything! This is down to the cotton naturally burning over time from the constant heat, along with any sugars in the e-liquids caramelising, thus being burned as well. (Don’t panic! Doesn’t do you any harm if you do accidentally vape a burned coil, but won’t be the most pleasant of experiences.)
So to anyone who is thinking about starting vaping, remember.. Keep an eye on your coil!
Alright, now that I’ve covered some of the basics of the components themselves (don’t worry, don’t need to know the whole in’s and out’s straight off), we’ll move onto the different types of vapes out there, along with pro’s and con’s for each.
Mouth to Lung (MTL) Device:
An MTL device is the most commonly used starter kit and are designed to closely simulate the overall experience and sensation of a real cigarette. They’re normally small, skinny pen devices with a tight draw that hits the throat and tend to be used with a higher strength nicotine. You can get larger MTL devices with adjustable battery power, but for a first device most people tend to stick with a basic single button kit.
As the name suggests, a Mouth to Lung should be used as such. You take a long, slow draw upon the device, take it back to your lungs then exhale, the same as how you’d normally smoke. (I know this sounds like a daft thing to explain, but sub ohms are also known as ‘Direct to Lung’, where you simply take it straight back.) It’s because of this that these style kits are by far the best thing to begin with. Me personally though I’ve sub ohm’d for years, a MTL was the best thing I ever bought to properly quit smoking. (And has worked for countless customers over the years.)
As I said, these devices are best used with a higher nicotine strength, and this is another key part to why they work in helping people quit. You will find however, that as you progress down the strengths you’ll start to feel less and less on your throat. It’s at that point, people tend to get curious and venture for a bigger, more powerful sub ohm device.
– Tight draw & throat hit like a real cigarette.
– Cheaper and more cost effective.
– Longer average coil life.
– Works well for high nicotine strength.
– Similar vapor production to that of cigarette smoke.
– Usually have smaller battery mAh capacity.
– Lose effectiveness with lower nicotine strengths.
Now before we move on, I’m going to quickly touch on what I’d consider a sub-category to the Mouth to Lung experience…
Aah, the JUUL. Even if you haven’t vaped, if you live in the States chances are you’ve heard of them. Though these aren’t the only pod systems on the market, they’re by far the most popular, generating $224 million a year on average.
The main difference with pod systems is that instead of buying a bottle of liquid and refilling a tank, you buy a pack of pre-filled pods and pop them onto the battery unit. This isn’t true for every pod system however, with the likes of the Breeze 2 allowing you to still buy coils and liquid to swap out as and when you please. Another key difference with your average pod system is that unlike most devices that require the push of a button to fire, these will activate simply as you draw upon them. (Helping to simulate the cigarette experience even better!)
With most pods usually coming in a high nicotine content (and some like the JUUL including salts), along with the drag activated styling, these devices can be ideal for heavier smokers to make the switch, a nigh on perfect simulation of smoking!
The only downside I’ve really got is the price point. Most pods tend to range between 1ml – 2ml capacity and come in a pack of 4, meaning you can blast through them fairly quick. (JUUL, make a bigger bloody device!) And when the price point is anywhere between £10 – £13 a pack, you’re looking at almost the same price as smoking. Compare this to a regular MTL pen where you can re-fill it with any liquid (some costing as little as £1), you’re looking at a much pricier experience.
– Closest experience to a real cigarette.
– Small, portable devices.
– Tight draw & throat hit.
– High nicotine content. (Plenty nic salt pods too!)
– Small, discreet vapor production.
– Very small battery mAh capacity on average.
– More expensive to run, many systems being similar prices to smoking.
– Found more frequent misfires with pod systems compared to any other device type.
Well, let’s move on to the big boys!
Sub Ohm Devices:
The good ol’ sub ohm, an iconic member of the vaping family and something I’m sure you’ve all seen. Guy walking down the street chucking out more clouds than the Flying Scotsman, big box in his hand the guilty source of it all. That’s me! (See my cloud chucker below, from a quick jaunt to the local! And my favourite liquid, Deep Fried Donut by Donut King. <3)
These are the big chunky devices pumping out some serious power, dense clouds and top knotch flavour! (Shout out to the HorizonTech Falcon!) Now, the ridiculously large clouds are a bi-product of design choice, with sub ohms opting for a much larger air flow slit and a wider bore mouth piece. Because of this more airy experience, you don’t want to use too high a nicotine strength, unless you don’t mind feeling like you’ve swallowed several cheese graters whilst simultaneously developing asthma. (No more than 6mg tops!)
It’s because of this I wouldn’t recommend these devices to a smoker looking to quit, unless they were very casual to begin with, only smoking a few a day max. Someone who’s a heavy smoker won’t get the satisfaction they’d normally expect and just end up coughing their lungs out first toke. Normally, it’s something people progress too after a year or two using a MTL.
You’ll tend to find that these devices are capable of delivering a much richer experience in terms of flavour, with some tanks being designed for just that! As I also mentioned, different tanks and coils run at different wattage ranges, just like different mods are capable of delivering different levels of power. You’ll find that with a lower wattage experience, your liquid won’t drain quite as fast. Pump it into the 60+ range, you’re going to start blasting through juice and get a much warmer experience, along with some rather dense clouds!
Most of these devices also include multiple levels of safety regulations, from reverse polar protection (so you can’t blow yourself up if you put your batteries in the wrong way) along with making sure you don’t over-drain your batteries or short out from a dodgy coil or build. Mech mods are the total opposite, with little to no regulations present and everything being battery fed, meaning you need a basic understanding of ohms law so as to not use the wrong build with the wrong kind of battery. (Though not something I’d recommend a beginner to venture into.)
– Larger battery mAh capacity on average.
– Far superior flavour to MTL & Pod Systems.
– More liquids on market suited for sub ohms.
– Silly large clouds. (May be a pro for some people, though personally I can take or leave it.)
– Airy draw, doesn’t simulate cigarette experience.
– Restricted nicotine strength. (Seriously, don’t go above 6mg..)
Like mech’s, there’s a few other niche kinds of vape out there. You’ve got re-buildable decks, where you wrap your own coils using special wire and wick the cotton yourself, rather than constantly buying pre-built ones. These can range from RDA’s (drippers), where you drip liquid direct onto the cotton, allowing you to dive between multiple flavours. You’ve also got RTA’s, where you still build your own coils but a tank section is also present to hold your liquid, a lot more convenient then constantly dripping if you’re on the go! (You can even get a combination of both with an RDTA, but not my cup of tea.)
A final interesting form of vape is the ‘Squonk’, in which your mod (normally a mech) contains a bottle which can hold a fair amount of liquid, with tubing leading up to an RDA deck. This allows you to build your own coil in a dripper style, but have your liquid fed in from the bottle below, squeezing it now and again to top up the cotton. (Though these have sadly just been made illegal to sell in the UK / EU as per TPD regulations… Kill joys!)
But as with mech mods, I wouldn’t recommend any of these to a beginner. Definitely something to look into after gaining a bit of experience, but you don’t want to dive in too deep!
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the hardware, let’s move on to liquids, what they’re composed of and what works best with each kit style:
What’s actually in your average E-Liquid?
Your standard, regulated e-liquid contains 3 to 4 ingredients; Propelyne Glycol, Vegetable Glycerin, Flavouring Concentrates (all regulated, some natural) and Nicotine. I say 3 to 4 because the nicotine is optional, with shortfills being mandatory under TPD. This basically means that any bottle above a 10ml capacity must contain 0mg nicotine, with shots sold separate that can be added. (Though you can buy pre-mixed liquids in a 10ml or below format.) So let’s have a quick look at each ingredient!
Propelyne Glycol is a chemical additive from the same family as alcohol. Apart from e-liquid, PG is used primarily as an a food additive and in some cosmetic products. In terms of e-liquid, it’s the thinner of the two main ingredients and a higher PG liquid will normally look more watery. You’ll also find that a higher PG liquid will give you a slightly heavier throat hit than that of a higher VG. (We’ll get to ratio’s in a moment.)
The US and European Food Authorities have declared Propelyne Glycol to be generally safe for ingestion and has so far shown to cause no issues. By itself, it’s practically flavourless and odourless, bar a very mild sweetness.
The second primary component in an e-liquid, VG is a basic polyol compound and is a widespread ingredient used in multiple products, ranging from toothpaste, soap, herbal remedies and many more. As I said, it’s a much thicker liquid than PG and has a rather sweet smell and taste. It really helps to enhance the flavour in e-liquids, along with helping to produce denser, larger clouds. (VG being the main ingredient used in smoke machines.)
Once again, US and EU Food Authorities have deemed it perfectly safe for human consumption, to the point of being used in many pharmaceutical products.
Now the range of flavourings available for e-liquid is abundant, with literally hundreds upon hundreds of different flavour profiles out there, each with their own unique twist. Some are natural, with companies experimenting with infusing real blueberry juice into their liquids for the truest, most natural experience possible. Any artificial flavourings used are tried and tested and will be something you’ve no doubt already ingested via some form of food product.
When vaped, so far there’s been no evidence to suggest any harm, so long as all flavourings used are FDA regulated. (Which 99% of liquids on the market are.)
Aah nicotine, the one ingredient that gets the most flak and seems to scare people off the most. Though highly addictive, nicotine in low dosages (like featured in vapes, the highest permitted by TPD being a mere 2.0%) is fairly harmless. Though I wouldn’t recommend getting hands on with 100% pure nicotine, it’s something you’ll rarely come by, especially in any vape product.
A stimulant and alkali, when fed into your system nicotine gives you a satisfying relief from any cravings you were experiencing, relaxing you and taking the edge off. Of course, this feeds the issue because if you didn’t have any to begin with, you wouldn’t be craving anything.
As I said, 0mg liquids are available if you want to go down that route, where you’ll get all the flavour and vape production, minus the throat hit and addiction. (Though again, I wouldn’t recommend this to someone looking to quit smoking. Work your way down over time.. Christ, I’ve vaped for nearly 6 years and I still use 0.3% strength!)
So what are these ratios, and what works with what?
So, I was talking about liquids being either high PG or VG. This is because you can include more of one than the other, giving you different ratios of ingredient content. (70 / 30 being the most common, one way or another.)
Let’s look at the different ratio’s and what kind of kit you should be using them with!
High PG is any liquid that has a higher content of Propelyne Glycol than Vegetable Glycerin. These liquids are more commonly suited for an MTL style device, what with them running at a lower wattage and the liquid being thinner, therefore being easier to vape. With the PG also enhancing the throat it, you’ll find that these liquids won’t be particularly enjoyable in a sub ohm device. (On top of wrecking your coils along with possible leaking issues.)
Most pre-filled pod systems will be using either a high PG or a 50/50 mixture, but some refillable pod systems will have the option for a MTL or sub ohm style coil, so best to double check which one you’re using!
As you’d guess, a high VG liquid has a higher content of Vegetable Glycerin. Due to the increased amount of VG, these liquids are a lot thicker and are better suited to a higher wattage, sub ohm device. With the lower PG content, you’ll get less of a throat hit too, meaning it won’t be as intense pairing with the larger airflow. With the increased viscosity and lower throat hit, these liquids aren’t ideal for a MTL device. The lower wattage’s will struggle to heat the coil enough to properly vape the juice, causing clogging issues and your coil burning out twice as fast.
Again, with pod systems double check and see if a sub ohm coil is available. If so, get chucking those clouds!
Finally, you’ve got 50/50’s. Straight down the middle, they’ve got even amounts of both VG and PG. These liquids are quite versatile and can run in both device styles, but I still find them to be better suited towards a MTL pen or a pod style system. If you’ve got an ohm reading in the higher ranges (0.6 – 0.8) you should be fine, but if you’re rocking a high wattage 0.16 resistance sub ohm, you might still find it to be a tad harsher, even at the lower strengths, along with a reduced coil life.
Multiple times throughout I’ve mentioned nicotine strength, so as you may guess you can buy your liquids with varying nicotine contents. In the UK, these commonly range as follows:
– 3mg (2 – 4 Cigarette’s a day.)
– 6mg (5 – 8 Cigarette’s a day.)
– 12mg (9 – 14 Cigarette’s a day.)
– 18mg (15+ Cigarette’s a day.)
I’ve included what strength’s I’d recommend to people based upon the amount of cigarette’s they’d smoke a day on average. So if you’re curious, there you go! As with PG / VG blends, there’s certain kinds of kit you want to stick with depending on your preferred nicotine strengths. With a sub ohm for example, due to the high wattage and airflow, anything above a 6mg is brave to say the least, as it’ll give you a throat hit similar to that taking back a King Edward cigar. On the flip side, I find that once you drop to 6mg or below in a MTL device, you get better flavour but really lose out on any sort of throat hit. Once you reach this strength, I’d personally advise moving into sub ohm territory.
Now that we’ve gone over the more ‘sciencey’ bit, it’s worth noting that there’s an absolute plethora of flavours out there, some being absolutely spectacular! (And others utterly foul, heh.) You’ve got ones ranging from your basic tobacco’s, menthol’s (fruity or otherwise) and desserts galore with every cake, donut and ice cream imaginable! (My personal favourites!)
In my experience, most new vapers tend to lean towards the tobacco or menthol route since it’s closer to smoking the real thing, but some do occasionally dive straight in and attempt to distance themselves from the stinkies all together with a good vanilla custard or fruit salad.
Well, I’d say we’ve covered mostly everything. Just a couple final things to note…
I’ve talked about coils a few times throughout this guide and if there’s one key thing to note, it’s about priming up before use. So when you get yourself a brand new coil, the last thing you want to do is fire it up immediately after filling your tank. The cotton will have had no time to absorb any liquid and you’re looking at a burnt out coil in one little press of a button.
The trick is to pop a few drips of juice onto any exposed cotton you see before putting your coil back in and filling up. (Try not to go too crazy though, otherwise you’ll flood the coil and get a mouth full of juice first pull!) Once you’ve done that, I’d recommend taking a few dry tokes on your tank without pressing any buttons just to pull the juice deep into the cotton, then leave it standing for a good 5 minutes. This ensures that every possible spot of cotton gets saturated, giving you a good experience from the off without burning anything out.
Make sure to start on the lower end of the wattage range too then work your way up, rather than jumping straight up to 100W.. If you don’t ease your coils in, you’re going to be looking at a pretty short life expectancy. (The coils.. Not you.)
And again, make sure to get yourself into a good, reputable vape shop! There’s too many examples out there of people opening up vape stores purely down to the hype and to make some money, without having any knowledge or passion for the industry. If you get the right vape shop with the right person behind the counter who’s got honest, knowledgeable advice and doesn’t try to up-sell you, you’re off to a good start! If you really must go down the route of ordering online, then make sure to do some research! (Which you obviously have if you’ve got this far!)
But no, go and check out reviews for any kits you’re interested in and look up some videos on YouTube. There’s plenty of knowledgeable, honest and down to earth reviewers out there who can give some great advice and steer you in the right direction.. At the very end of this, I’ll pop some recommendations and links to some kits I’d personally recommend for people to get started with! 🙂
So yeah, that’s it! I hope this has helped in some way, and if you are looking to quit smoking and venture down the road of vaping then I wish you the best of luck! It can be a tough road, but with the right piece of kit and a positive mindset, there’s no reason you can’t conquer that habit, save yourself some money and your health! (I was going to include a segment on the health benefits, but there’s a fair bit to go through so I’ll do a separate post. If you are interested, then here’s an article from Public Health England going through some in’s and out’s about all the recent studies conducted.)
And if you’re wondering about the money saving aspects, then it purely depends how far you take it! In the early days, I found myself saving a small fortune compared to what I was spending on pouches of tobacco, skins and filters. (For example, you can get a decent MTL kit for around £15 and a 10ml TPD bottle for as little as £1.) Once it becomes a hobby however, things can get a tad more expensive.. But that’s purely down to you! (If you’re like me, you’ll have at least 8.. And they’re rookie numbers compared to some people I know!)
As promised, here’s a few recommendations for some good starter setups: (All links are for UK shipping only, though Google is your friend! ;D)
Mouth to Lung (Anyone looking for that cigarette experience.)
Innokin T18E Starter Pen
Innokin Kroma Zenith 75W Kit
Sub Ohm (For clouds, flavour and low nicotine strengths.)
Smok Vape Pen 22
Voopoo Mojo 88W Kit
Thanks and have a good one! 🙂