Want to give up smoking but not sure where to start? Try here, with our beginners guide to vaping.
A constant cough, low energy, barely functioning taste buds and a bank balance that always seems a little light by the end of the month. Sound familiar? I’m not talking about some new variant of the coronavirus that somehow gets its hands on your debit card. No, I’m talking about smoking cigarettes. If this is how you feel every morning and you’d like to make the switch, vaping is a great alternative. But where to start, I hear you say?
In our Beginners Guide to Vaping, we’ll take you through all the steps on your vaping journey. From finding the right vaping device or vaping pen to explaining all the names and terms you’ll need to know. So let’s dive right in.
Where did Electronic Cigarettes Come From?
E-cigarettes first started appearing on these shores not so long after the indoor smoking ban. Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, invented the first e-cigarette so that he could quit smoking. His father had died from smoking, and because of his heavy habit, he worried he would go down the same path. After Lik made a promising prototype, the Chinese market embraced the e-cigarette. It began to be adopted by the UK and American markets around 2007.
The early devices were crude electronic replications of a traditional cigarette. They had poor battery life, they were leaky, and the vaping experience wasn’t particularly pleasurable. However, the idea was there, and many entrepreneurs saw this as a way to reduce their reliance on tobacco cigarettes. People started pulling apart the designs in their garden sheds and building their own mods. They began experimenting with new types of e-liquid. Slowly, new and better devices started to hit the market, and the modern vaping industry was born.
What Does the Science Say About Electronic Cigarettes?
There are decades of research about the harm caused by traditional cigarettes. Cancers of various kinds, risks of heart disease, stroke, and lung damage. It’s not pretty. But if you want to stop smoking, what does the science say?
In the UK, the NHS has cautiously and quietly supported vaping. The NHS says that while e-cigarettes are not “not completely risk-free, they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.” This is because e-cigarettes don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, which are two of the most harmful elements of tobacco smoke.
Furthermore, several studies have been carried out by Public Health England (PHE), who are in their seventh year of commissioned reports on vaping. They suggest that vaping is “95% less harmful than tobacco”.
But while that’s all well and good, how effective are e-cigarettes for people who want to stop smoking? A recent study was published this year by the Queen Mary University of London in Mile End that suggested e-cigarettes were the most effective way to quit smoking. Similar findings from a 2019 randomised trial back this up, as did a meta-analysis of 56 studies into the subject.
To recap, studies suggest that vaping is far less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and that it is the most effective way to quit smoking.
Where to Begin Your Vaping Journey?
Now that we’ve got the science out of the way let’s look at the different options that you’ll have when you want to start smoking. If you are trying to make the switch, what different vaping devices are out there? Your main choices are:
Overwhelmed? Don’t be. We’ll take a look at all of these options and recommend the best one for each person.
What Vaping Device is Best for New Vapers?
We are living through a golden age of vaping. When I first started to vape, choices were fairly limited. My first “device” was a leaky, tobacco-flavoured cig-a-like disposable from a petrol station. My second device was a big step forward: it was refillable and rechargeable. Yes, the battery only lasted about 4 hours, and it was so messy to refill that all available surfaces in my home were covered by a film of sticky e-liquid. Looking back on it, I’m surprised I stuck with it.
Fast forward to today, and there is a wealth of vape pens, vape kits, and other e-cigs available for anyone trying to bin cigarettes.
So, first up. What vape should a beginner get?
There is no contest: the new breed of disposable vape bars is the way to go.
Disposable Vape Bars
Disposable vape bars come with a few different names. For posterity, let’s round them up. Some of the other names they are called are disposables, disposable puff bars, or puff bars.
Disposable vape bars are small, lightweight pen-style devices. They are ultra-portable and come with a set amount of puffs, ranging from 400 to around 2000.
The two most important things to know about disposables are that they a) come with a fully charged battery b) they are prefilled with e-liquid. This is what makes them an amazing choice for new vapers. There is no setup at all, no learning curve, no messing around. You just open the box and they are ready to go.
And the best thing of all is that they taste incredible. A large part of this is down to nicotine salt e-liquid that is contained inside. Nic salts are a purer form of e-liquid that emerged over the last few years. For more detailed information on nic salts read this article. But for now, let’s just say that the invention of nic salts made these modern disposables possible because nic salts:
- vaporise at lower heats, so they don’t need high wattage batteries to power the device
- more closely replicate the sensation of smoking a tobacco cigarette because they hit your bloodstream quicker
- lower the pH level of the vapour, which means they have a much smoother throat hit.
Disposable vape bars are everywhere now. I’m seeing them in the hands of ex-smokers and even long term members of the vaping community. Part of the appeal is convenience, and part of it is that they just taste great all the time.
Additionally, because they are so popular, there is a massive range of e-liquid flavours to choose from. And lots of vape devices and e-liquid manufacturers are bringing their own disposables to the market, meaning the choices are getting better and better.
Other Types of E-Cigarettes
Of course, just because disposable vape devices are the best choice for newer vapers, they are not their only choice. There are a couple of drawbacks to using puff bars as your full-time device. Firstly, they produce a lot of extra waste from packaging. These little vape pens are made of plastic, contain remnants of e-liquid, and hold a small battery inside. As a result, you’ll need to dispose of them responsibly. This can be done at your local recycling centre or even your supermarket. Here’s a link to find your nearest centre.
Secondly, all this convenience comes at a premium. Using a vape pen or vape kit and buying your e-liquid separately is more cost-effective.
Again, this is something you’ll have to weigh up yourself. Disposables eliminate the learning curve and have zero-setup. All the friction involved with figuring out how to charge, fill, or operate a vape kit is removed, which is excellent for beginners. All you need to do is concentrate on giving up smoking. However, if you’re looking for a more long-term solution, there are many excellent vape kits that are ideal for starters.
The next type of device you should consider is a vape pen. Vape pens are light, highly portable devices that are long and slim like a pen. They work pretty simply. They have a heating element (called a coil) that is powered by a battery. This battery heats up the coil, which in turn warms the e-liquid, turning it into vapour. It’s worth noting that vapour is different from smoke. Smoke contains airborne solid and particles, while vapour is more like a gas.
Anyway, vape pens are another beneficiary of nicotine salts. As mentioned above, nic salts facilitate lighter devices because they don’t need a large battery to provide a hit. Because the devices don’t have to accommodate a large battery, users can enjoy the same vaping experience but with a smaller, and often cheaper device.
Vape pens come with pods for e-liquid. These can be refillable, or, if you prefer, you can buy pre-filled pods.
What are Pre-Filled Vape Pods?
Pre-filled vape pods are a good option for beginner vapers who don’t want to get into the process of filling their own pods. They are the next step up in convenience from disposable vape pens. Instead of throwing away the device when it’s finished, users can pop off the pod and replace that instead. Pod refills are super convenient, but they’re not the most economical option available.
E-cigarette starter kits aren’t too dissimilar to vape pens, they just come in a wider range of choices. The basic idea with a starter vape kit is that it compiles everything you’ll need to get started into a box.
Typically, they contain:
- The battery/device
- A pod or tank to hold the e-liquid
- 1 or 2 vape coils
- A charging cable
What is the Difference between a Pod and a Tank?
Pods and tanks are both used to house the coil that heats up your vape juice. However, pods emerged in recent years and have taken off because they provide some advantages. Firstly, they are leakproof. Secondly, they are often easier to fill. Additionally, one of the big differences between the two is that pods connect to the device via clips or magnets. This makes them easier to remove.
Tanks, on the other hand, have been a staple of the e-cig industry for years. Typically, they screw into a device via a 510 connection. Tanks have lots of replaceable parts and can be modified. But for newer vapers, it isn’t really necessary to dive too deep into pods to have a good vaping experience.
Advanced Starter Kits
Most of the devices that we’ve talked about so far are designed to help people start vaping in the most straightforward way possible. However, there are several more complex devices that we can touch upon so that you know what to look for. These advanced starter kits are usually bulkier, more powerful, highly customisable, and often contain removable batteries.
These devices work on a similar principle and come with a tank, coils, the device itself, and a charging cable. As mentioned above, many come with a removable battery. These batteries are standardised across the industry. 18650 batteries are the most common type used in these devices. The upside of removable batteries is that you can charge them separately. If you are out and about, you can easily pop open your device and stuff in a new battery. Of course, to house these batteries, these machines need to be a bit bulkier.
Another feature of advanced starter kits is that they have lots of different settings. Certain juices or vaping styles require different wattage (the power used to heat the coils), and these devices are great for helping vapers achieve different results.
A large number of these kits are designed for direct-to-lung (DTL) vaping. Let’s explain that below.
Vaping Styles: Direct-to-Lung (DTL) and Mouth-to-Lung (MTL)
There are two styles of vaping that deal with how you inhale the vapour. This is important to know so that you can get the right device.
Mouth-to-lung vaping, or MTL vaping, is the most common vaping style. Basically, it’s the same way that we smoke cigarettes. The best way to think of it is like drinking from a straw. It’s a two-part process; you suck the vapour into your mouth and then inhale it into your lungs. MTL produces a better throat hit.
Disposables, vape pens, and other MTL vape kits are built for this type of method. Another thing to remember about this type of vaping style is that it uses coils that are 1-ohm or above. We’ll touch on that further into the article.
Direct-to-lung vaping is a little different. In fact, when you first try it, it feels almost alien. DTL is more like drinking a liquid. It’s a one-part process. Imagine taking a glass and just drinking it in. That’s what DTL is like, one constant stream of vapour. DTL vaping uses sub-ohm coils. Again, we’ll get into this further below. DTL vaping will produce more vapour.
One of the biggest considerations that you need to think about in MTL vs DTL is that they use different types of nicotine.
What Type of Nicotine is Best for New Vapers?
When it comes to choosing vape juice, there are a few things that you need to think about.
Nicotine Strength: 0mg to 20mg
There are lots of different nicotine strengths available. Some people who want to give up regular cigarettes choose to go nicotine-free. Giving up nicotine altogether can be a little difficult at the start, because the cravings will be fairly intense.
How much nicotine you choose will depend on your previous smoking habits.
Heavy smokers should choose a nicotine strength of around 20 mg. If that proves too much, try to cycle down.
Light smokers might do better with 10mg. Again, if that isn’t satisfying, cycle up to 20mg.
Lower than 10mg
Lower than 10mg concentrations, like 5mg, are best for sub-ohm vapers, i.e. DTL vapers. Again, while you might choose to migrate to this type of vaping, they require a bit of learning. So stick with disposables, pens, or pod mods at the start.
Nicotine Type: Freebase Nicotine or Nic Salts
When you go to buy your e-liquids, nicotine strengths aren’t the only thing you’ll have to consider. You’ll also notice that you can buy freebase nicotine or nicotine salts.
Freebase nicotine e-liquids are a form of nicotine that is found in regular cigarettes.
Nicotine salts are a natural form of nicotine that is found in tobacco leaves. By using benzoic acid, nicotine salt manufacturers reduce the pH levels in nicotine. This helps to produce a smoother throat hit. Additionally, nic salts deliver a more satisfying hit that is closer to the experience of traditional cigarettes. These e-liquids have really taken off in the last few years and are highly recommended for new vapers.
PG VG Ratio
PG and VG stand for the types of liquid that you can use. E-liquid is made of three things:
- either PG or VG, or a blend of the two.
PG stands for Propylene Glycol. It’s a colourless substance that is used as a food preservative and across the medical industry. PG is less viscous (i.e. thinner) than VG liquids.
VG stands for Vegetable Glycerine. Again, it’s used commonly across the food industry, usually as a sweetener. It’s a little thicker than PG liquids.
One of the funniest parts about vaping is all the weird and wonderful e-liquid flavours that are available. Dessert flavours, fruit flavours, methol, tobacco — there’s too much to really get into.
Shortfill e-liquids are another option that you might see when you are browsing vaping equipment and products. These products became available on the market when the EU’s Tobacco Product Directives limited the bottle size of e-liquids to 10ml. Many vapers had become used to having e-liquid in 50 ml bottles.
So, as a compromise, e-liquid manufacturers started offering 60ml bottles that were filled “shortfilled” with 50ml of zero-nicotine e-liquid. From here, you can open the bottle and add nic shots inside, so you’ve got a 60ml bottle of liquid again.
We’ve mentioned coils a few times in this article, but it’s time to go a little deeper.
Coils, also known as atomisers, are an essential part of any e-cigarette. If you buy a disposable vape bar, or vapes that use pod refills, replaceable coils won’t be something you need to think about too much. They’ll already be inside the device or pod.
However, if you buy any of the other e-cigarette devices on the market, you’ll need to know about coils.
Coils are a small metal device that is housed inside a tank or pod. They contain a thin wire coil and wicking material, like cotton. This wicking material soaks up the e-liquid which is then heated by the coil when your device is powered up.
The reason you’ll need to know about coils is that there are two main types of coils that are used for different vaping styles. They are high resistance coils and sub-ohm coils.
High Resistance Coils
As a beginner vaper, high resistance coils are the type of coil you’ll most likely run into. These are coils that are typically 1-ohm or above that are used for mouth-to-lung vaping. They produce smaller amounts of vapour and use less e-liquid.
Low Resistance Coils
Low resistance coils are used by higher-powered devices, like sub-ohm vaping box mods. They produce more vapour and use more e-liquid. Sub-ohm coils are usually between 0.01 to 0.9-ohms.
So there you have it. There is a lot to know about vaping, but the basics are easy to get your head around.
If you want to make the switch from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes, there are a lot of choices. As mentioned above, disposable vape bars are the easiest because they don’t require set-up, maintenance, or any knowledge. You just pop them out of the box and enjoy vaping them.
But of course, there are lots of pod mods available now that come with either pre-filled pod refills or refillable pods. These devices are light and easy to operate, making them the second most convenient choice for new vapers.
And then, of course, there are the more advanced mods that come with an external battery and other more complex settings. An advanced e-cigarette starter kit isn’t the best choice for a beginner, but it’s something you might want to use as you get deeper into the fun and innovative world of vaping.