I’ve been meaning to write up a post on vaping for quite a while now, because it’s a rather complicated subject and one which many people seem to be interested in. And as a long-time vaper who has spent hundreds of dollars trying out different systems, I’m sure my learnings will be useful to others. So here goes!
First of all, what is vaping?
“Vaping” is the term used for the “not-smoking” that you do when you use an eCigarette. An eCigarette (or “electric cigarette”) is a portable device that vaporizes “eJuice”—a mixture of glycerine, water, alcohol and nicotine. The vapor has many of the same qualities as cigarette smoke, without the same deleterious effects.
What are the benefits of vaping?
Because you’re not inhaling smoke, you are avoiding all the harmful substances—tar, benzine, radioactive polonium—that smoke contains. It is a pure nicotine delivery system—rather like the difference between taking two aspirin and chewing on a handful of willow bark. Of course I’m not saying that nicotine itself is the best thing in the world for you. But if you’re addicted to it, vaping is a much better way to get it into your system than cigarettes—and WAY cheaper than nicotine gum or nicotine patches. You can mix your own eJuice, dialing down the amount of nicotine gradually. Many people have found eCigarettes a great way to quit using nicotine all together, tapering off at their own pace. I myself have gotten to the point where I vape nothing more than glycerine, alcohol, water and flavoring (my favorite is anise.) Why would anyone continue to vape if there was no nicotine in it? Sheer habit. Some writers chew on a pen when they think; I suck on a vape-stick.
Where can I buy an eCigarette?
eCigarettes are quickly gaining in popularity, as demonstrated by the fact that you can now buy disposable varieties in many drug, grocery, and liquor stores. That being said, the eCigarettes you can buy in drug, grocery, and liquor stores are, across the board, complete garbage. They are not refillable, the batteries either die quickly or are dead out of the box, and they are not rechargable. I would only recommend buying them to see how you like the eCig experience. If you decide you like it, then it’s time to move up.
What kind of eCigarette should I buy?
This is where things get tricky, and where I’m hoping I can save you the hundreds of dollars I’ve dropped on experimentation. There are dozens of sites online selling eCigarettes, and some of them are incredibly shady, as are their products. After several expensive mishaps, I have come across one brand that I can recommend as dependable, reliable and well-made—and that is Joye. They have a really good line up of products. I would suggest purchasing your supplies from one of their affiliate partners to avoid getting ripped off. The site I use most frequently is myvaporstore.com. They have a good selection and I’ve never been disappointed. (Of course, YMMV—I am not affiliated with any retailer and am not here to shill for anybody in particular.)
A guided tour of eCigarette components
In general, an eCigarette has three parts:
- An eJuice reserve (either a cartridge or a tank)
- An atomizer (to vaporize the juice)
- A battery (to fuel the atomizer)
The Battery. You will be faced with a couple of different choices when it comes to batteries. Some batteries run at a higher voltage, which allows the atomizer to get hotter and create more vapor. Higher voltages, however, can cause your atomizer to burn out more quickly.
You will also need to choose whether you want an “automatic” style battery or a “button” style. The automatic style most closely replicates the action of a “real” cigarette; the act of drawing on the eCig is what makes the battery turn on. These kinds of systems, however, are notoriously dodgy. They can short out, the battery can get stuck in the “discharge” mode—and then you have a dead battery (and thus, a dead eCig) in no time. That’s why I favor the button type. You have to push and hold a button in order to activate the battery. It’s less like “real” smoking, but it’s just a better, more stable system overall. In some, the button can even be used to “lock” the battery. In the Joyes that I favor, pushing the button five times quickly locks the battery, so you can throw the setup into your purse (or pocket) without worrying about the battery accidentally discharging. I find that feature invaluable.
One nifty little gizmo you’ll want to get if you’re vaping a lot is called a USB passthrough. It’s a kind of battery that has a USB charging port at the base, so you can continue to vape while you’re charging the battery. I keep one plugged in by my computer so I can sit and vape while I’m writing. And if I leave to do errands, all I have to do is unplug it and throw it into my purse and I have a fully charged battery (and by the the way, the Joye batteries last a REALLY long time. My husband swears he can get by for days on a full charge.)
The Atomizer & Reserve. There are a few different atomizer/juice reservoir setups available. The most common is an atomizer plus a cartridge. The cartridge, or “cart” is a plastic cylinder with a wad of polyfill batting inside. The batting is saturated with juice, and the juice is delivered to the atomizer via osmosis. In some eCigarettes, the cart is separate from the atomizer, and can be removed, which allows a user to resaturate it via the “drip” method—that is, dripping juice into the batting. That method is kind of slow and messy and I can’t say that I recommend it.
Most retail eCigarettes employ “cartomizers.” In a cartomizer, the atomizer and the cartridge are one self-contained unit. They can sometimes be refilled (but not easily), and are really intended for single-use only. There is a slight benefit to these, in that every time you use a new cartomizer you’re getting a fresh new atomizer, but they’re also incredibly wasteful and expensive. If you’ve ever seen the popular “Blu” cigarettes, they use cartomizers.
Another setup, and one that I personally prefer, is a tank system (I use the Joye eGo-Tank). There is no wick, no batting—instead, you fill up a tank with eJuice and the eJuice is delivered directly to the atomizer. These are easily refillable and far less wasteful. And they last WAY longer.
In an good eCigarette setup, the atomizer itself is what dies most quickly. It’s what’s doing all the heavy lifting in the eCig system, and it can get clogged or burn out just from normal use. The next system I’m going to try is the Joye eGo-C, which also uses a tank system but which allows for easy replacement of the atomizer.
Making your own eJuice
eJuice is really incredibly simple stuff to make, and it’s cheap. It is nothing more than food-grade glycerine, alcohol, water, nicotine (if you want it) and flavoring (if you want it.) You can buy food-grade glycerine from any craft store—it’s used to thin cake frosting and is usually found in the cake-decorating aisle. The proportions are about 50% glycerine to 50% alcohol (I use vodka). For flavoring, you can use just about any regular flavoring extract, just the normal kind you buy at the store. I use pure anise extract in an alcohol base (reducing the amount of vodka accordingly.) The only important thing is to get a flavoring that has an alcohol base, not an oil base, as the oil base can clog up your atomizer.
Dangers of eCigarettes
There’s really only one big danger with eCigarettes, and that’s handling the nicotine. Concentrated liquid nicotine is VERY dangerous stuff, especially to children and pets. Nicotine is also absorbed through the skin very readily. You can transdermally absorb the equivalent of several cigarettes if you slop a bunch of that stuff on your skin when you’re refilling carts or tanks. Appropriate protective measures are strongly recommended.
And that’s it for now! I think that’s plenty of information to get started on. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments.