Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping for Beginners March 16 2015
Are you new to the world of “vaping” (a common term for using an electronic cigarette, used in place of the word “smoking”, since you’re inhaling vapor rather than smoke?) There is a plethora of information available online, and sorting through all of the electronic cigarette websites out there is an overwhelming task, especially since many of these sites are not trustworthy, making unproven claims of weight loss, and other health benefits of e-cigarettes.
The truth of the matter is that while many claim that their health has greatly improved since switching to electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking (myself included), there have not been enough long term studies done on these devices to prove their safety. For now, we will treat vaping and electronic cigarettes as a smoking alternative, that we firmly believe will eventually be proven to be much safer than using cigarettes. This assumption is based on the drastic decrease in carcinogens and other chemicals in e-cigarettes vs. real cigarettes.
So, you’re looking for a smoking alternative, but you’re not sure how e-cigarettes work. Let’s start there.
How an Electronic Cigarette works:
There are many variations of electronic cigarettes ranging from simple devices that look like cigarettes, to larger “APV” devices, or “Advanced Personal Vaporizers”. They all function in essentially the same way, though.
An electronic cigarette, or e-cig, in it’s most basic form is simply a rechargeable lithium battery attached to a device that contains a heating element (called an atomizer) which heats and vaporizes a glycerine based liquid that can contain nicotine, if you wish, (called e-liquid) and some kind of e-liquid chamber (called a cartridge). In most simple electronic cigarettes, the atomizer and e-liquid cartridge are combined into one device called a cartomizer.
Using an e-cig is very simple, as well. There are two variations: A “manual” electronic cigarette that has a button which activates the heating element, so you simply press the button while taking a drag, and an “automatic” e-cigarette that automatically activates the heating element when you take a drag from the device.
So, if you think about it, an automatic electronic cigarette is easier to use than a real cigarette or “analog” cigarette, since you don’t have to light it. Just take a drag like you would on an analog cigarette. Even a manual electronic cigarette isn’t much more complicated. The only difference is you’re pressing on a comfortably positioned button while you take the drag off the device. By the way, “analog” is the term electronic cigarette users commonly use to refer to traditional tobacco cigarettes. You know, as in digital vs. analog. They also refer to themselves as “vapers” rather than smokers. Vaping, vapers, analogs... You might as well learn a bit of the lingo while we’re at it, right? Moving on!
Alright, so what exactly are you exhaling if it’s not smoke? Simple. It really is just vapor. It’s often odorless, but may have a faint odor of the e-liquid flavor you are using (which is usually quite pleasant). Since there is no combustion, there’s no ash, smoke, or tar. And, since the e-liquid (or nicquid, e-juice, or whatever you want to call it) is composed of only 3 basic ingredients (we’ll get into that shortly), plus flavoring, you’re not inhaling or exhaling all of the nasty carcinogens or other chemicals associated with smoking analog cigarettes.
Now, onto the breakdown of the individual components:
The Battery or Mod
The battery portion of the electronic cigarette is the part that often has an LED on the tip. They come in a wide range of sizes. Typically, the larger the size, the longer the battery life. With simple all-in-one electronic cigarettes, the “battery” refers to the portion of the e-cigarette onto which the e-liquid delivery systems is attached. When you get into larger, more advanced devices (remember APV, again, that stands for “Advanced Personal Vaporizer”), the battery refers to a removable, rechargeable battery that can be inserted into and taken out of a “Mod” in order to charge it or replace it with another already charged battery. A Mod refers to any larger electronic cigarette that has a removable battery. The devices in the picture above are all non-mod electronic cigarettes. These devices have a self-contained battery, and the entire device minus the e-liquid delivery system can be screwed into a charger when the battery runs low.
The small cigarette-sized electronic cigarettes are commonly referred to as pen-style or 510 e-cigarettes. The larger self-contained non-mod e-cigarettes are commonly referred to as ego-style e-cigs (like the big black one in the photo). These names also refer to the type of connection used to attach a e-liquid delivery system onto the device. So, for example, if you have a 510 e-cigarette, you will want to get a 510 e-liquid delivery system for that device (the e-liquid delivery systems include the cartomizers we mentioned earlier, clearomizers, cartos, tanks, etc. We’ll talk more about those in a bit). Ego devices are a bit different since they can be used with either an ego e-liquid delivery system, or a 510 e-liquid delivery system. Ok, so that’s a bit confusing. Here’s the simple version.
510 battery or mod + 510 e-liquid delivery system = Working e-cigarette (yay!)
Ego battery or mod + 510 or Ego e-liquid delivery system = Working e-cigarette (woohoo!)
One thing to keep in mind is that almost every vaper who successfully uses e-cigarettes to quit smoking ends up switching from a small pen-style or 510 e-cig to a larger device almost immediately. The larger devices typically perform better, last longer, and have significantly longer battery life. Keep that in mind when deciding on your first purchase.
The e-liquid Delivery System
The e-liquid delivery system, vaporizer, juice delivery, or whatever you want to call it is the piece that is screwed into the threaded connection (510 or ego in most cases) of your battery or mod. It contains the heating element (atomizer), some type of method of holding e-liquid, and a feeding system that gets the e-liquid from one to the other, usually a wick of some kind.
There is a wide array of choices when it comes to a e-liquid delivery system. Cartomizers, clearomizers, tanks, tankomizers, glassomizers, and even rebuildable atomizers.
Rebuildable atomizers are a type of e-liquid delivery system that you can actually rebuild yourself with your own wick material and heating coil. Many vaping hobbyists use these types of devices. They are certainly not recommended for beginners, though, and are not necessary, and really only for vaping enthusiasts interested in tinkering.
The simplest version, and also the kind that most of the pen-style electronic cigarettes employ, is the cartomizer. It’s simply a juice cartridge and atomizer combined into one device. They can either be refilled with e-liquid, or you can even purchase disposable ones. The photo to the left is an example of a 510 cartomizer.
For ego battery users, and also for those using larger 510 devices, the clearomizer is the most popular choice. These are also simple, and much easier to refill than cartomizers. Basically, a clearomizer is a clear tank with wick material that draws the e-liquid to the self-contained atomizer. The photo to the left is an example of some clearomizers.
With all of these e-liquid delivery systems, you’ll notice that they have a resistance rating. Something like 2.0Ω. The little symbol means “Ohms”. It’s a measurement of resistance. Don’t worry I’ll keep this simple. All you need to know to get started is that the lower that number is, the warmer the vapor will be, if used on the same battery. So if you find that you have a 2.0Ω cartomizer, and the vapor is not warm enough for your taste, maybe try a 1.7Ω cartomizer.
E-liquid, e-cig liquid, e-juice, nicquid, or other names as well, all refer to the liquid inside the e-liquid delivery system, which is fed to the heating element in the e-cigarette. The e-liquid is what gets vaporized by the atomizer. That vapor is what you inhale and exhale from the electronic cigarette.
E-liquid comes in a very wide variety of flavors. Many beginners try to replicate the flavor of cigarettes by sticking to tobacco flavored e-liquids, but most eventually move away from these types of e-juice flavors as their palate improves from cutting out the analogs. There are some e-liquid flavors that do a reasonably good job of mimicking the taste of a traditional tobacco cigarette, but it’s impossible to get it perfect because there is no combustion taking place in the device. You’re only vaporizing e-liquid, you’re not burning anything.
Once your brain gets past the desire to replicate the taste of cigarettes, a wonderful world of delicious e-liquid options becomes available to you. There are literally thousands upon thousands of different flavors out there. Everyone’s palate is different, though, so just because someone tells you an e-juice is their favorite, it doesn’t mean you will like it. In fact, it’s very common for someone to love a particular e-liquid flavor for a time, then have their palate change and suddenly they dislike that same flavor. This is particularly common when you first start vaping as your taste buds are healing from years of smoking analogs.
So, what exactly is in this e-juice stuff, anyway? Well, it’s really quite simple. E-liquid contains three primary ingredients: Propylene Glycol, referred to as PG (the same thing used in asthma inhalers), Vegetable Glycerine, referred to as VG, and Nicotine. Other than that, you have the different flavor extracts used to create the wide variety of e-juice flavors available, and that’s it. No tar, no carbon monoxide, no 3,000+ other toxic chemicals.
Now, what about the nicotine? These e-liquids come in a variety of strengths. The strength you want to purchase will vary depending on the type of traditional tobacco cigarette you smoked, the number if cigarettes you smoked per day, and how much you vape your electronic cigarette. Most e-liquids are available in 0mg, 6mg, 12mg, 18mg, and 24mg strength. What I typically recommend for someone trying to quit is to start with 18mg unless you are a very heavy smoker, in which case I would recommend starting with 24mg. If you find the e-liquid isn’t satisfying your nicotine cravings (give it a few days before you decide), try the next step up. If you find the e-liquid is making you a little light-headed or “nic’d out”, try a step lower.
Put them together and you get...
A working electronic cigarette! The e-liquid delivery system holds the e-liquid and the atomizer. The atomizer is attached to the battery, which provides the atomizer with power. Once you fill your e-liquid delivery system and connect it to your battery, siimply press the button (or not if it’s automatic), take a drag, and there you have it. You’re vaping. And hopefully not smoking cigarettes anymore if all goes according to plan.
Just make sure you give vaping a fair chance. Speaking from personal experience, I had a tough time the first couple days in particular. I was getting the nicotine fix, but I was still adjusting to vaping, because even though it’s the closest alternative to smoking a cigarette, it’s still not smoking, and there are still other chemicals in a cigarette that your body has grown accustom to having in its blood stream. For me, the real key was finding a flavor I loved. I discovered an e-liquid flavor I really enjoyed a couple weeks into my vaping experience, and when that happened, something in my brain clicked and said, “Hey wait a second.... These taste WAY better than cigarettes!”
Now it’s been over a year since my last cigarette, and I feel better than I’ve felt in many, many years. I can only hope you have the same experience I did.