When you’re new to vaping, everything can seem a bit overwhelming at first. There are a lot of words of advice and information floating around the web that might be inaccurate, or might simply just not be good advice for you.
These are issues that I personally dealt with when I switched from smoking to vaping more than two years ago. Since then, I’ve made a point to educate myself on topics of e-cigarette use and use that knowledge to help hundreds of smokers make the switch as well.
So if you’re looking to learn the basics of vaping, you’re in the right place. Here is a list I’ve compiled of 10 things that every new vaper should know.
1. How vapour is made
It’s pretty easy to see how smoke is made from a cigarette. You light the cigarette, and it creates smoke. Vapour, on the other hand, relies on technology that’s a bit more complicated.
Essentially, vapour from an e-cigarette is produced within a component called the “coil” This unit is made up of a wire coil (sort of like a spring) with cotton wicked through or around it. The cotton serves as an absorbent material for e-liquid. The wire coil connects to the base of the tank, and into the vape battery, which runs a current through the coil when engaged, heating the wire and vaporizing the absorbed e-liquid off of the cotton.
With this method, burning of any kind is avoid, meaning that the carcinogens that are created in burning cigarettes are completely absent in e-cigarettes.
2. What kind of device is best for you
There are thousands of different e-cigarettes available worldwide, some of which might be right for your personal needs, and others which may not.
To make things more simple, we can break these models down into two general types: mouth-to-lung e-cigarettes and direct lung e-cigarettes.
Mouth-to-lung e-cigarettes are styled to mimic a cigarette-like inhale. Named after the style of inhale of a cigarette, mouth-to-lung devices will allow you to draw vapour into your mouth before inhaling. These devices will give you a smaller amount of denser vapour. This style is often preferred by new vapers, as it gives the same kind of pull as the puff of a cigarette.
Direct lung e-cigarettes are crafted to produce higher amounts of less dense vapour. The draw on a direct lung device is much airier and similar to hookah smoking. Vapour made from these devices is intended to be, as the name suggests, directly inhaled into the lungs. These devices are usually more popular among shisha smokers or more advanced vapers.
Making an educated decision about which style device is right from you is especially crucial to your success in switching to vaping.
3. Why device settings are important
Depending on the type of device you decide on, you may or may not have the ability to adjust the settings.
Devices that do not allow power or airflow adjustment are called fixed e-cigarettes. The power and/or airflow are specifically set at the optimal level for the device.
On the other hand, devices with adjustable wattage and airflow can be customized to suit your vaping style and preferences. Normally, the coil you are using in your tank will give a range for wattage settings. Optimally, you want to be somewhere in the middle of that range, but never lower or higher than the range allows (too low won’t be hot enough to vaporize the liquid, and too high will burn the cotton).
Airflow is a very personal thing and can be adjusted to your liking. Opening the airflow creates a looser draw and more voluminous vapour. The more you close the airflow, the tighter and denser the vapour becomes. You never want to close off the airflow completely, as this won’t allow any air to pass through the coil and potentially burn it.
4. How much nicotine is optimal for you
How much nicotine you should use is very dependent on a number of factors, including what style of device you’ve chosen and how many cigarettes you currently smoke per day.
There is already a Vape University post entitled “How Much Nicotine Should I Use?” about this topic, but I’ll restate that information here.
18mg/ 1.8% Nicotine – Full Pack of Cigarettes Per Day (25) or More
12mg/ 1.2% Nicotine – Half Pack of Cigarettes Per Day (10-15)
6mg/ 0.6% Nicotine – Quarter Pack of Cigarettes Per Day (5-10)
3mg/ 0.3% Nicotine – Less Than Quarter Pack of Cigarettes Per Day (<5)
0mg/ 0% Nicotine – Zero Cigarettes Per Day
Direct-Lung (Sub-Ohm) Devices
18mg/ 1.8% Nicotine – NOT RECOMMENDED
12mg/ 1.2% Nicotine – NOT RECOMMENDED
6mg/ 0.6% Nicotine – Full Pack of Cigarettes Per Day (25)
3mg/ 0.3% Nicotine – Half Pack of Cigarettes Per Day (10-15)
1.5mg/ 0.15% Nicotine – Less Than Half Pack of Cigarettes Per Day (<10)
0mg/ 0% Nicotine – Zero Cigarettes Per Day
5. How to maintain your device
Keeping your device well-maintained is often an afterthought, and generally underrated in terms of your success in switching to vaping. Without maintenance, your device may not be performing at an optimal level and deter you from continuing.
Here are some important maintenance aspects to consider:
Changing your coil
As I mentioned in #1, e-liquid is absorbed into the absorbent (usually cotton) wick inside of your coil. After a certain amount of use (2 weeks on average), this material will start to break down and lose its ability to hold the liquid. Imagine using a wet paper towel to clean up a juice spill—it’s not very effective, and would be much more efficient to use a new dry piece. This also applies to coils, and is the reason why they should be changed out regularly. Coils that are switched out on a regular basis will give you better quality vapour and flavour, and prevent issues such as leaking or spitting.
Cleaning your tank
Keeping your tank clean is a small maintenance activity that can help you to continue having enjoyable vaping experiences. If you do not clean your tank every so often, you may find a residual buildup of e-liquid in the seals and threads of your tank. This can lead to leaking, lower performance and all-around wear on your tank.
To clean your tank, you want to remove your tank from the device, and remove the coil (do not wash the coil piece. It is easiest to clean your tank when you are already doing your scheduled coil change, and have the coil removed from the tank). The top and base of the tank can be cleaned under warm running water. If you have some built up residue, you can use a cotton swab or toothpick to dislodge it and then rinse the tank of the debris. Leave your tank to dry completely before re-installing the coil and filling.
Whatever you do, do not use soap or other cleaning products to clean your tank. These products will leave remnants in your tank that can potentially be absorbed into your e-liquid and inhaled.
Another good time to empty and clean your tank is when you’ve experienced a burnt coil. The flavour of e-liquid left in a tank with a burnt coil can become tainted with the burnt flavour, and still have a foul taste, even after changing the coil. It’s best to start with a clean tank and fresh e-liquid if your coil burns.
Keeping your batteries charged
This seems like a fairly obvious way to keep your device maintained, but it’s especially crucial for reasons you might not not think.
As you use your device, the charge in your batteries will weaken and eventually stop working. This is easy to detect, since most e-cigarettes will automatically notify you when your device doesn’t have enough charge to fire.
However, even before the batteries are empty, you may notice that the vapour produced by your device will also become weaker. This can lead to a lower dispersion rate of nicotine, and you can begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. A solution to this is to keep your charger on you as much as possible, and to have a source of power, such as a portable power bank, if you are often away from home. This will ensure that your device is consistently performing at its optimal level.
6. How to stay safe
Batteries are pretty common in everyday life, so we don’t often think about how we use them. However, Lithium-ion batteries (most often used in e-cigarette devices) are a specific subset of batteries that can be potentially dangerous and must be handled with care.
Most e-cigarette models sold now are regulated devices. This means that they are set to a specific output and are safe to use. Unregulated devices, know as mechanical devices (a.k.a mech mods), will directly give complete unregulated output of the battery to the tank, without any indicator of electrical shorts. Mech mods should only be used by vapers with a thorough understanding of ohm’s law and battery voltage, and must be used with caution. When you hear stories in the media about e-cigarettes “blowing up”, these are the devices they are referring to.
Regulated devices prevent this problem. Still, you must be careful when transporting or storing your batteries outside of the device. If any metallic material touches either end of a lithium-ion battery, the battery will discharge completely, creating fire or explosion. Lithium-ion batteries, when not being held in a device or external charger, should always be kept in a case or skin that covers the ends of the battery.
7. Possible side effects of vaping
Once you start vaping, you may experience some side effects, the majority of which originate from the detoxification of your system.
When you smoke, your body becomes just as accustomed to taking in the toxins found in cigarettes as the nicotine. When you take these toxins out of the equation (i.e., vaping), your body begins to rid itself of these chemicals, which sometimes creates a feeling of general illness. This is completely normal and may last up to two weeks before your body adjusts.
In addition, the ingredients in e-liquid (propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin) are foreign elements to the body, and can create some irritation initially. Propylene glycol, specifically, is what’s called a humectant—it absorbs liquid from its surroundings. This can lead to a sore throat, dry mouth, and potentially dehydration. It’s important to always drink water when vaping in order to counter these effects.
8. How to find quality e-liquid
Although it’s all made to do the same job, not all e-liquid is of the same quality.
Some e-liquid can contain harmful additives in order to achieve certain flavour profiles.
Diacetyl, for example, is one element that has gotten a lot of media coverage in the last year for being the cause of “popcorn lung”, an incurable form of bronchiolitis. This chemical is sometimes added to e-liquid to give it a buttery flavour (it is also used to flavour microwave popcorn).
Sweetener is another additive that, although not as damaging as diacetyl, can put a damper on your vaping experience. When heated, this ingredient can create a glaze-like build up on your coil, making its lifespan much shorter.
There are a few ways you can avoid these sorts of e-liquids. In terms of taste, if they are “too good to be true” in terms of buttery flavour or sweetness, the e-liquid most likely contains one of these additives.
Another way you can ensure that you are getting quality e-liquid is to buy from a trusted source. This means avoiding no-name brand e-liquid or e-liquid sold at non-vape stores (unless they are produced by a known brand).
9. Always being prepared
When you first start vaping, everything is great—until you run out of something you need. E-liquid. Coils. Battery power. Unlike smoking, these aren’t usually things that you can find at the corner store. Furthermore, most devices take specific coils, so you can’t just use whatever ones you find.
This is why it is essential to be prepared. Vaping is an investment in your well-being, so carrying your device’s accessories with you becomes the barrier to taking up past habits.
I recommend carrying spare e-liquid and at least one new coil with you at all times (you never know when you might run dry or when your coil will suddenly burn out). And, as mentioned before, having your charger and a power source with you when you go out can keep you on the straight and narrow if you charge gets low.
Vaping is not an all-or-nothing journey, so don’t try to make it one. Mistakes happen sometimes—we’re all human after all. And so you shouldn’t let one slip up (or a few) deter you from getting back on the vape train. Transitions take time. At some point in the future, reaching for your e-cigarette will become second nature. In the meantime, all you can do is just keep trying.
If you have any information that you think should be added to this list, please let me know in the comments below!