Vaping means different things to different people. For some people, vaping is only a means to an end – an alternative to smoked tobacco. Vaping eventually becomes a hobby for some. For a few, it becomes an obsession. There’s so much information available about vaping – with all of it directed to slightly different audience types – that it can be hard to know what’s relevant to you if you’re a complete beginner. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this is the vaping guide for you. In this Vaping 101 guide, we’re going to start at the absolute beginning to provide a straightforward overview of what vaping is and how to do it. Let’s begin!
Vaping is using an electronic device that mimics the sensations and physical appearance of smoking. Using a heating wire, a vaping device turns a liquid – usually containing nicotine – into an aerosol that you can inhale. Millions of people around the world have turned to vaping to replace their smoking habits, and many of those people no longer use tobacco products.
Because vaping mimics the physical sensation of smoking, many smokers have found that switching to vaping is relatively easy compared to using nicotine replacement products such as patches and gum. Vaping costs significantly less than smoking and doesn’t expose your lungs to tar. Vaping also doesn’t cause your home, clothes, hair and car to smell bad. People who have switched to vaping have almost universally said that doing so has dramatically bettered their lives.
In 2015, Public Health England published a report suggesting that e-cigarettes are an estimated 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Vaping hasn’t been around long enough – and there isn’t enough evidence – to call it safe in absolute terms. However, we do know that vaping doesn’t subject the body to tar or many of the other chemicals present in tobacco smoke. If you smoke, the best thing that you can do is quit. If you can’t – or don’t want to – quit, vaping is the next best option.
Read more: Is Vaping Safe?
No. Vaping is an alternative for those who can’t or won’t quit smoking. Nicotine is a powerfully addictive substance – one of the most difficult substances in the world to stop using. If you don’t already use nicotine, please don’t start.
In 2017, the NHS Stoptober campaign endorsed e-cigarettes for the first time as smoking cessation tools. After years of skirting around the issue, it is finally possible for us to say the truth: Vaping is not smoking. If you stop smoking when you switch to vaping, you’ve successfully quit smoking! During your switch from smoking to vaping, remember that nicotine isn’t the only active ingredient in cigarettes. Cigarette smoke also contains thousands of other chemicals, and you may not feel entirely yourself while your body works to purge itself of those chemicals. Unlike other forms of nicotine replacement, vaping creates a sensation in the throat and lungs that feels much like smoking. Many people find that those sensations make the switch much easier.
Read more: How Vaping Can Help You to Quit Smoking
Yes. Vaping can help you reduce your nicotine intake because it gives you pinpoint control over the amount of nicotine that you consume. When you vape, you can reduce your nicotine intake by using your device less times per day – many vaping devices have built-in puff counters to make stepping down easy – or by using e-liquid with a lower nicotine strength. Many people reduce their nicotine strength gradually while vaping and eventually stop using nicotine entirely. Once you’ve reached that point, you can either use nicotine-free e-liquid or stop vaping.
Businesses in the UK are generally quite tolerant of e-cigarette use, but it’s still considerate to ask before vaping in public – especially if you’re in an enclosed space. If the people around you don’t want to inhale your vapour, they have that right. Many workplaces allow employees to vape at their desks. Many pubs and some restaurants are equally tolerant of vaping.
An e-cigarette either has an automatic puff sensor or a manual activation button. To use a device with a puff sensor, simply puff on the e-cigarette as if it were a real cigarette. To use a device with a manual button, puff on the e-cigarette while holding the button. The most important thing to remember when using an e-cigarette is that you can’t use the same amount of air pressure when vaping as you would when smoking. If you use too much air pressure, you’ll get e-liquid in your mouth. To generate large, satisfying clouds with an e-cigarette, puff slowly and gently.
E-liquid is the substance that your e-cigarette heats and turns to vapour. Since using the e-liquid consumes it, you’ll need a steady supply when you switch to vaping. E-liquid contains vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol and flavours. Most e-liquid contains nicotine.
No. Most e-liquid flavours are available without nicotine for those who have weaned themselves from nicotine and no longer require it.
Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine are the two most abundant substances in any e-liquid. They dilute the nicotine and flavours to the correct concentration and form the clouds that you exhale. Today’s premium e-liquids have complex flavour profiles resulting from the skilled mixing of many different flavouring compounds. PG and VG are excellent emulsifiers, holding the flavouring compounds in suspension to ensure that a bottle of e-liquid tastes the same from the first puff to the last. PG and VG are common ingredients in foods and cosmetics.
A few e-liquids contain only VG or PG, but most contain blends of the two. VG is thicker and sweeter, while PG is thinner and a better carrier of flavours. An e-liquid containing mostly VG produces large vapour clouds and has a full, creamy mouth feel. A high-VG e-liquid is also very thick, though, and it requires a high-power vaping device and tank designed for more viscous e-liquids.
Read More: PG/VG Ratios Explained
Like cigarette smoke, e-cigarette vapour with nicotine is slightly irritating to the throat. Vapers call that sensation “throat hit.” It’s a feeling that former smokers strongly associate with cigarettes. For that reason, many people who have switched from smoking to vaping never feel truly satisfied unless they feel a strong throat hit when using their e-cigarettes. Over time, you’ll find that the superior flavour of e-cigarettes causes you to reminisce less about the tobacco cigarettes that you once smoked. At that point, you may find yourself buying e-liquids with lower nicotine strengths because flavour has become more important to you than throat hit.
In its natural state within the tobacco leaf, nicotine is a salt. However, the ammonia used to extract liquid nicotine from tobacco raises the pH of the nicotine and converts it into a free base. Nicotine salt e-liquid is a new invention. A nicotine salt e-liquid contains an acid that lowers the pH of the nicotine and converts it back to a salt. Studies suggest that a nicotine salt e-liquid can contribute to higher blood-nicotine levels than would be possible with standard e-liquids. If you feel a nicotine rush when you smoke – and you need that feeling in order to switch to vaping successfully – a nicotine salt e-liquid might be the right choice for you.
Switching from smoking to vaping is far easier than switching from smoking to another form of nicotine supplementation such as patches. That’s because the act of bringing the e-cigarette to your mouth, inhaling and feeling the throat hit closely mimics the ritual of smoking. E-cigarettes, however, lack the thousands of other chemicals present in cigarette smoke. Tobacco smoke, for example, is an MAO inhibitor that disrupts the brain’s functioning and reinforces the addictiveness of the nicotine. Nicotine itself isn’t an MAO inhibitor. During the initial days after you switch from smoking to vaping, you may not feel entirely normal even though you’re still using nicotine. Your body will right itself after a few days.
We highly recommend committing yourself to making the switch fully from smoking to vaping rather than smoking and vaping concurrently. If you continue to smoke while vaping, you’ll rob yourself of many of the potential benefits of vaping.
At minimum, you’ll need the following to get started with vaping:
Your first starter kit should include as many of the above components as possible, but most vaping devices with tanks do not include e-liquid. Tastes vary too greatly; no single e-liquid could possibly please everyone. When you buy a vaping device, it’s important to know whether it has a built-in battery. If it doesn’t, you may need to buy at least one battery separately.
If your vaping device includes a tank, the tank will most likely have a replaceable atomizer coil. Many vaping kits include just one or two coils, so we recommend including extra coils with your order. It’s also wise to buy more e-liquid than you think you need to ensure that you’ll have an ample supply during the transition from smoking to vaping.
An e-cigarette tank is an enclosure that stores your e-liquid and provides the heating coil necessary to vaporize it. Tanks are the most popular attachments for e-cigarettes because they produce ample vapour clouds while holding enough e-liquid for hours of vaping. Tanks are easy to fill – just remove the top or bottom of the tank and add e-liquid. Replacing the atomizer coil in a tank is as simple as twisting the old coil out of the tank’s base and twisting in a new coil. Tanks generate enough vapour to please almost anyone.
The only real downside of e-cigarette tanks is that replacement coils cost about £1-2 each. Depending on factors such as e-liquid sweetness – sweet e-liquids decrease coil life – a coil may last anywhere from a day or two to several weeks. If you find yourself needing new coils frequently, e-cigarette tanks may become too expensive to use.
A rebuildable atomizer is an e-cigarette attachment with an atomizer coil that you build yourself out of heating wire and cotton. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Thousands – possibly millions -- of people across the world build their own atomizer coils. A rebuildable atomizer provides a large platform on which to build coils – and since a coil’s surface area largely determines how much vapour it produces, rebuildable atomizers have the greatest potential vapour production of all e-cigarette attachments. An additional benefit of rebuildable atomizers is that cotton and heating wire are inexpensive when purchased in bulk. Building a new atomizer coil costs just a few pence in supplies.
Although a rebuildable atomizer can give you a truly excellent vaping experience, some people have no interest in wrapping heating wire into coils and would rather use tanks with drop-in atomizer coils. In addition, rebuilding an atomizer may take up to 30 minutes depending on your skill level. Some people would rather spend their time in other ways. To choose between an e-cigarette tank and rebuildable atomizer, you’ll have to decide which is more important to you: speed and convenience or vapour production and low cost.
As we mentioned above, tobacco smoke and pure liquid nicotine interact with the body in different ways. While your body detoxifies itself from the other chemicals in tobacco smoke – and because the body absorbs liquid nicotine and smoked nicotine differently – you may find that you increase your daily nicotine intake slightly when you switch to vaping. For that reason, we think it’s best to err on the high side when choosing your e-liquid nicotine strength. If you are currently a daily smoker, you should choose a nicotine strength of 12 mg or higher unless you’re buying a sub-ohm device. We’ll explain why in a moment.
It’s best to buy a higher nicotine strength than you think you need because if you feel like you’re consuming too much nicotine, you can always use your e-cigarette less. If you select a nicotine strength that’s too low, though, you’ll vape so often that you’ll empty a bottle of e-liquid every day or two – and you still won’t feel satisfied. You may even continue smoking.
Before settling on an e-liquid nicotine strength for your new vaping device, check the device’s specifications for the resistance of the device’s atomizer coils. The above advice generally applies to devices with atomizer coil resistances of 1.0 ohm and higher. If your device has a coil resistance of under 1.0 ohm, you have a “sub-ohm” device capable of generating very large vapour clouds and should order e-liquid with a lower nicotine strength as a result. The most popular nicotine strengths among those with sub-ohm devices are 3 and 6 mg.
Nicotine is a poison. Although it would be extremely difficult to vape enough to make yourself ill, drinking e-liquid is a serious event that could potentially lead to a nicotine overdose. Store your vaping device and e-liquids where children and pets can’t get to them. Keep your e-liquid away from air and sunlight to minimize oxidation and degradation of flavour.
Every atomizer coil has an electrical resistance – measured in ohms – that describes how much it restricts the current flowing through. A sub-ohm coil has an electrical resistance under 1.0 ohm. Sub-ohm vaping has become popular because people love to blow huge vapour clouds. Creating a room-filling vapour cloud requires an atomizer coil with high surface area, and creating a coil with high surface area requires thick low-resistance heating wire.
The extreme vapour production of a sub-ohm vaping setup is the greatest benefit of using one. Large vapour clouds deliver nicotine to the bloodstream efficiently. Blowing huge clouds is also a lot of fun. The atomizer coil isn’t the only aspect of a sub-ohm vaping setup, however, that contributes to the vapour production. Open airflow is the other aspect. The tightly packed tobacco in a cigarette causes some air resistance. When you smoke a cigarette, you draw the air into your mouth before inhaling it into the lungs. Sub-ohm tanks, however, have little air resistance. People use them by drawing the vapour directly into the lungs. If you’d rather have a vaping setup that simulates smoking more closely, a sub-ohm setup may not be right for you.