The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Vaping
Getting into vaping after years of smoking cigarettes can seem a little bit daunting. Because there are so many different types of devices, liquids and accessories, just the thought of jumping into vaping can be a little anxiety-inducing. Thankfully, there’s a simple and easy way to figure out what you want and what you need. Start by seeing if these questions sound true for you and then jump to the relevant section to get guided in the right direction:
- I’m a 1-2 pack a day smoker and I’m looking for a simple experience that is similar to what I’m used to in my daily life.
Please scroll down to: Vape Pod Systems
- I’m a smoker that needs to replicate the feeling of smoking that I’m used to.
Please scroll down to: Vape Device Systems
- I already know about vape systems, but I want to know more about the stuff you actually vape.
Please scroll down to: Vape Juices
Vape Pod Systems
The easiest way to get into vaping – by far – is through the use of vape pod systems. Pod systems are sometimes confused with cig-a-likes, but they’re materially different in their functionality, usefulness and operation. Cig-a-likes are just what they sound like, they’re vapor devices that are designed to look like – and occasionally feel like – traditional combustible cigarettes. Most often, these devices have a battery portion that looks like a traditional combustible cigarette with a cartridge that screws on. Most often, these cartridges are disposable and don’t last very long. Cig-a-likes also have a long history as being unreliable devices as the majority of them tend to ‘overheat’, resulting in frustrating wait times when you just want to use your device. Cig-a-likes most often come in pre-packaged kits with the battery, a cartridge and some kind of recharging cable or device. Pod devices on the other hand tend to be much more reliable.
Most pod devices are small devices that resemble a portable USB thumbstick that come in pre-packed kits. Kits generally contain the device’s battery, some sample pods and a usb charging cable. Virtually all pod devices use a rechargeable lithium battery. While the most commonly known pod device is a JUUL, there are countless alternatives on the market such as the JUNO, BO, BATON, MyBlue, along with the fact that most vape hardware manufacturers such as SMOK and Uwell make their own pod systems.
Pod systems have seen a surge in popularity in recent years largely due to their portability. Since most pod device systems are only a couple inches long to about half an inch wide, they tend to be a perfect fit people smokers that looking to minimize the space in their pocket or purse while not having to worry about getting the nicotine they personally want.
Pod systems all use “pods”. These pods generally easily pull out and lock into place of the pod device, making it easy to switch flavors or nicotine strengths throughout the day. There’s a variety of types of pods as well. Closed pods are pod systems that use pods that come pre-filled with a liquid traditionally made by the manufacturer or their partners. These pods are disposable and can usually be purchased from retailers or online in pod packs that contain two to four pods. The other type of pod comes in refillable pods. These are pods that can be filled with most types of vape juices.
Vape pods are generally made up of an internal coil that can’t be removed, some cotton and then the body of the pod itself. Because the coil is relatively small, it can burn out quickly. This is one of the major reasons why the closed pod systems have become so popular in recent years, versus the refillable systems where users can run into coil burnout after a week or two, resulting in one of vaping’s most unpleasant experiences – the “dry” hit. Dry hits taste like the burning of the coil or cotton and is a deeply unpleasant experience when you’re expecting a flavor that you’re used to vaping.
That being said, flavor production from most vape pod systems can achieve relative parity with traditional combustible tobacco, but most smokers want true parity. This prompted the introduction of what are called “nic salts”. These are vape juices that use a form of nicotine that forms in tobacco leaves. Traditionally, these salts are processed to form freebase nicotine, but nic salt vape juices add benzoic acid to make the salts usable in a liquid. This makes it possible to vape much higher levels of nicotine that better replicates the feeling of a traditional combustible cigarette, that would otherwise be too harsh when using freebase nicotine. This doesn’t mean that every pod system uses nic salts, but it is something to examine when choosing which pod system you want to go with.
Vape pods can carry some risks. As has been well-documented, underage nicotine users have been using pod systems obtained illegally through disreputable businesses – the most famous example of which is the JUUL. The small form factor and relatively small amount of vapor production associated with pod systems can make it easy to discreetly vape and this has made it difficult for schools and parents to detect and enforce policies that would prevent underage nicotine users from using the systems. It is important to remember that if you use vape pod systems, to keep them away from any children and to help explain to kids why it is not appropriate for them to use these devices and about the dangers associated with nicotine addiction.
With that being said, so long as you’re educated on them, vape pod systems are a great way to dip your toe into vaping without making a large financial commitment to the hobby.
Vape Device Systems
Vape Device Systems are where vaping begins to get a little more complicated. While this won’t be a deep dive into every aspect of vaping, we will go over the most popular aspects of vape device systems. Most vape devices tend to be composed of three parts: the device (commonly referred to as a “mod”), the tank and the batteries.
There are countless different types of vape devices. These can range from cylindrical devices that take only one battery to high-capacity devices that can take up to three. The purpose of the vaping device is to transfer enough power from the batteries to the heating element connected to the tank and to do so in a way that is regulated by a small chipset in the device.
There are older devices and some rare modern devices known as “mech mods” that don’t contain any chipset to regulate the flow of electricity to the heating element of the device, but safety concerns and advances in technology have led to them falling out of popularity.
Devices can seem complicated, but most feature intuitive user interfaces that allow you to change how much energy is being transferred when you “fire” the device. Firing generally means you’re pressing a button that sends the energy from the batteries to the heating element on the tank, which vaporizes the liquid you are using for inhalation. Combined with the regulation of the energy flow, this allows vapers to control the amount of vapor they receive in their hits. There’s no rule for how this is regulated, so each device can perform a little differently.
Because of the variation in devices, it is recommended to research which device is best for you, as prices can range from $15 to up to $1,000 depending on the rarity and specifications of the device. The easiest method for researching devices is generally to go into a local vape shop where the staff can help you sample and review which devices you’ll be comfortable with using. They’ll also be able to help you with setting the device up and can help with education on how to properly take care of your devices, how to properly maintain your batteries, how to use your tank correctly and answer any other questions you have about your device.
That being said, not everyone has a local vape shop they can access or the free time to do so. Online research through video and written reviews can help identify a device that would be right for you, along with tutorials through sites like Youtube for any set-up or questions you might have regarding vaping devices. It can seem daunting at first, but once you learn about one device, you’ll quickly notice that the knowledge gained from that first experience is transferrable to virtually any other device.
Tanks for vape devices can also seem complicated upon first approach. While there are many types of tanks that can require physical knowledge of electric resistance principles and the process of building them, there is a plethora of moderate to easy-to-use tanks on the market. Tank complexity tends to boil down – in descending order – RBA (rebuildable atomizer, tends to break down into RTA (rebuildable tank atomizer) and RDA (rebuildable drip atomizer)), Sub-Ohm (tanks that use coils that come pre-built in packages ranging from one to multiples that utilize low-resistance coils), clearomizer (see-through tanks with pre-built coils, most commonly used on the “vape pen” devices) and cartomizer (the all-in-one “tanks” that screw into cig-a-likes).
The general function of these tanks is that it screws into your vape device (mod). The tank is filled up with e-liquid, which is drawn into cotton that is situated next to or inside the coils. The tank has a contact plate that draws energy from a contact plate on your mod and feeds that energy up to the atomizer, which passes energy through coils of different resistances. This is represented by the Ohm symbol Ω where lower resistances means more current can pass through the coil, meaning it produces more heat the lower the Ohm resistance. This heat then makes contact with the liquid in the cotton and turns that liquid into a vapor for inhalation. Generally, the coils that conduct the heat are made from different types of metals, but coils are also made out of other materials – the most popular of which is ceramic.
Thankfully, there are many vape devices that come with tanks and also have easily purchasable replacement coils. It’s good to know however that you have the option to explore more complex tanks if necessary.
Batteries for vape devices are the easiest aspect to approach. Devices will either have a rechargeable lithium device built-in to the vape device or you’ll be able to purchase batteries separately for your device. The most common type of battery that devices use is called an 18650 (named for its measurement of 18mm x 65mm) and is slightly larger than a AA battery. These are rechargeable batteries that can be placed in charging ports, which are sold next to batteries at most vape shops and online hardware retailers. Certain devices require different battery sizes and types, so it is also best to check the vape device’s documentation for what battery is required, ask a vape shop employee or research online prior to making a battery decision.
Vape Juice is our simplest category. They come in a variety of strengths and come in both regular nicotine formulas and salt nic formulas. Almost all vape juices are flavored and there are virtually endless choices to choose from. Once you have identified a nicotine strength that you’re comfortable with, there’s really only the option of choosing a juice through research and experimentation with brands and flavors you might enjoy. Generally speaking, you want to look for responsibly packaged and produced vape juice that is produced at a reputable company with responsibly designed lab facilities and obeys all requirements laid out by the FDA, such as proper warning documentation and not having labeling that can be construed as appealing to children.
The Right Vape for You
It is important to remember that getting into vaping can be as simple or as complicated as you would prefer. Find what you enjoy and enjoy doing it responsibly.