Figured it was time for someone to make one of those e-cigarette threads on here, now that we’re really reaching the mainstream here. It’s a fun hobby, and an excellent alternative to smoking – (1) Estimated at 1% the damage of cigarettes, (2) significantly cheaper, (3) no bad smell, (4) 100x the smoke cloud of an analog cigarette
Only recently have the improvements in battery technology allowed the now popular vaping to exist, and hence why it’s a new development. In the US an estimated 3.7% of adults vape, versus around 15% who smoke, so if you haven’t already, it’s the perfect time to kick the habit.
Components of a modern vape:
Mod: This is the box that holds the lithium batteries and has the safety circuits to prevent it from blowing up, as well as control the voltage and current to match the resistance of your coil. For vapes not from the dollar store, these will have an LCD/LED screen, a few buttons, and a charging port. You can adjust your power (wattage), type of coil, puff counter, type of vape mode, etc.
-Batteries: Almost all the mods support the 18650 (18mm diam and 65mm length) lithium ion battery size, which is standard throughout the car and other battery industries. Mods support anywhere from 1-4 of these batteries. More batteries means a higher capacity, and a higher maximum power output (as batteries are limited by their discharge current, around 20A for modern batteries). Generally 1 battery mods will be capable of 40-80W max power, 2 batteries 150-220W, 3 batteries 250-320W, 4 batteries 300-350W. Most people don’t get larger battery mods for the power, but rather the expanded capacity.
-Atomizer: This is the component that heats the e-juice, and turns it from a liquid to a gas through vaporization (not combustion). It does this using the principle of an incandescent lightbulb. Putting current through a resistor that is submerged in the liquid, usually made of kanthal (iron, chromium, and aluminium alloy), stainless steel, nickel, or titanium. The atomizer has several components:
- 1) Tank: Now it depends on your setup, there’s a few different kinds, RDA, RTA, RDTA, etc… But an RTA is the most practical for all but enthusiasts. Tanks that store your e-liquid come in sizes of usually 2-6mL of e-liquid.
- 2) Coils: Current runs through the coil, with time these will wear out and need to be replaced. Generally speaking, 3-4 weeks is the average recommended time for coils, but of course it depends on your frequency of vaping, wattage when vaping, material of coils, etc. A replacement coil usually costs around $5.
- 3) Cotton: If you have a tank and you purchase new coils, then the cotton which is used as a wick for the e-liquid is already there. However, if you purchase an RDA or RDTA, then you need to buy wire and wrap your own coils, as well as purchase your own cotton. It can save some money in the long term, and allows more customization.
E-Juice: This is the liquid that’s vaporized and inhaled. Almost all juices will have a base being a mixture propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). PG has been around for a long time, used as the chemical in smoke machines to produce smoke, and hence has been extensively studied, it’s less viscous, generally known to dissolve flavors better, and provides a bigger throat hit. VG is extensively used in the food industry as a solvent and sweetener, as well as pharmaceuticals, for example the base of body soap. VG is very viscous, sweeter, provides a thicker vapor, and feels smoother when inhaled. Due to the higher viscosity, it clogs up the coils and cotton a little bit more, as well as due to its sweetness it crystalizes on the cotton, and therefore the higher the VG mixture, the more often the coils will need to be replaced. Most commercial e-juices will be a mixture of 50-80% VG and 50-20% PG. There are other bases that exist like PEG400, but don’t worry about these, as 99.9% use a mixture of VG and PG.
Nicotine is an optional addition, and is measured in mg per mL, though in the industry, the per mL is usually dropped. Nicotine provides a bit of a throat hit that some appreciate, and helps alleviate cravings that ex-smokers will have. An e-liquid is mixed with a ratio of a highly concentrated solution of nicotine (which is also dissolved in VG or PG). Common concentration for e-liquid are 0, 1.5, 3, 6, 12mg, though it’s not difficult to spike differently by yourself, or in the store you’re purchasing at. A cigarette results in an absorption of around 0.9-1.0mg of nicotine, and from that, a smoker can choose his initial concentration. Studies suggest around 75% of the nicotine in e-cigarettes is absorbed, and it’s recommended that you start a little bit higher than your smoking nicotine levels because vaping doesn’t have additives that hasten absorption and open the airways, like ammonia. It depends on how much you vape, but for me and my peers, we vaped around 3mL’s when we started. Generally it goes:
1 pack+ per day = 12mg
½ pack per day = 6mg
¼ pack per day = 3mg
Any less and you wont have a strong physical dependence, so maybe you want some for the taste. Long time vapers usually settle for 3mg as the sweet spot for the taste, but it really depends on you. I started at 6mg, and right now I do 4.5mg. If you need, you can go higher, though the taste will start to degrade due to a higher concentration of nicotine, and really it would only be recommended as temporary switch to subdue cravings. Going a bit higher doesn’t hurt, as I’ve had friends who choose too low of concentrations to start with, and it’s not enough for them to stop smoking, and then you end up doing both, eek.
Now the last thing that goes into the E-juice is the flavoring themselves. These are created in the lab, and don’t require any ingredient stickers, so if there is harm to vaping, this is where it would be. Traces of a couple PPM of diacetyl, acetyl propionyl, and acetoin occasionally appear, these have unconfirmed health effects, so its better to be careful and play it safe when you can. That would mean pick juices that are tasted at independent labs, trying to pick the more natural flavors, etc. There are thousands of flavors of out there, as mixing your own e-juice is very easy, it creates low barrier to entry, and mark up on them is high.
Cost of Vaping
For most people vaping will be significantly cheaper than smoking, for some very dedicated sub-ohm vapers buying premium juice, it can potentially get very expensive ($20/day), so breaking down the costs in USD.
Upfront costs will be $40-$80 on the kit (mod and atomizer combo), I recommend getting a nice one to save money down the road. A classic go to is the Smok Alien 220W, 2 batteries is an ideal tradeoff between capacity and portability, and 220W will be sufficient power for almost every vaper forever. You’ll need to purchase batteries, generally around $15 per pop, so add $30 there if you’ll be going down the 2-battery mod route. As mentioned previously, you’ll need replacement coils, so I’d get a 5-pack for $20-$25. This depends on the exact brand you go with, after much research I am a fan of Smok (and also since they are so popular they’re available everywhere), and the exact atomizer you go for. For example, Smok has 3 different sizes, based on the different tank sizes you go for. So around $5/month there.
Juice will be the largest cost. A moderate vaper (so someone who isn’t just sitting at their computer and vaping the whole day) will go through 3-5mL per day. A 60mL bottle usually costs $25-$30 for the brand ones, though many vape shops offer discounted brands they mix themselves for closer to $20. Either way, it will cost you around $1-$2.5/day. Much cheaper than smoking, but you can save 70-90% by making the juice yourself (like me). Outside the realm of this initial post, as I want to keep it simple. If you end up making your juice, remember the words, “measure by weight, not volume”, will make it much easier for you.
I think that covers everything I wanted to cover on a basic level, I’ll be happy to answer some questions, and if anyone feels like anything is missing OP, feel free to mention it, or write it yourself and I’ll happily add it in (unless it’s stupid ). Just wanted to get a discussion going here, it’s a fun hobby, lots of subtleties, and discussing some flavors we mixed or purchased will be fun and helpful. See if any deals come up, stuff like that, generally teamliquid can be trusted pretty well in threads like these to be objective, so I like taking this kind of information from the forums rather than what I see on a youtube video.
Speaking of youtube videos, my two favorite most educational channels would probably be "The Straight Vape" and "IndoorSmokers", if vaping interests you, I'd probably start there.
Post your setup and collection! Cheers and happy vaping!