E cigarettes or vaporizers are gaining popularity as a lesser evil compared to smoking. They make a water vapor instead of smoke, but it’s thick enough that you can still make “smoke” rings with it. It’s less disturbing to non smokers around you, smells a lot more pleasant, and though it’s still not 100% safe, it is considerably less toxic. Though the research still hasn’t proven so, it will probably also age you less quickly because of lower toxicity, less damage to the lungs, and no soot sticking to your skin.
I do not recommend non smokers starting to vape, but if you are currently a smoker, it is a better and sexier alternative. The sexier is especially true if you are into steampunk, cybergoth, or anachronist to the point where you’d carry around a small portable nargilah if you could.
Many things have changed since this article was first written, so I’ve updated it for the situation in 2016. I also have a vaping specific blog now, the Mists of Kthulah.
For awhile, there were rumors that e cigs were no better, and maybe even worse than regular ones, but those were disproven. Then there were reports of explosions of batteries, but these almost always happened because people didn’t follow normal battery safety rules. So now they’re becoming more popular again. Because of the dip in sales though, some things became harder to find, and it became a hobbyist thing, and then worse, a hipster thing. So the more complicated equipment and rebuildable stuff became more popular than beginner supplies.
Some stores still carry things for those of us who aren’t electricians and engineers though. The problem is that those stores are hard to find. So where before, I didn’t want to show too much bias, now I kinda have to. At the moment, you can’t even find a real store that doesn’t price gauge on a search engine. It takes hours to find them. It was so difficult that I decided to make a special category in my links section. I’ve had to shovel through enough wholesale sites to know what these things truly cost out of factory, so I know what a reasonable markup should be.
The only online store that I would class as a one-stop-shop for simple and feminine e-cig supplies right now is FastTech. They take Paypal, offer free economy shipping, and don’t overcharge. They also have a good selection of products suitable for all levels, and cute stuff both for women who are advanced and into rebuildable atomizers and mods, and those who prefer a compact “cigalike” style. They also differentiate between generic, and branded authentic products. If any of that ever changes, I will let y’all know.
Other stores are great for the more high end equipment, but FastTech is the only place I’ve seen that consistently stocks things beginners can feel comfortable with at a reasonable price.
First thing, you need to find a reputable seller. Though I already mentioned a great online store, your best bet when you’re starting out, is to buy them from a drugstore or head shop in person. Online from a company that is local to you used to be the next best thing, but now that is not the case. Lately, local suppliers have gotten insane because they know it’s hard to find things now. There are many sites supposedly from sources in China where most e cigs are made, but if they are charging more than $1.50 for a generic CE4 clearomizer, which is probably what you will be starting with, they are bogus. Retail, these should cost between 50 cents and $1.50, depending how many you are buying. If it’s 10 or more of the generic ones, it should be less than $1 each. If it’s an authentic Innokin CE series, it should hover around $1.50 or less.
Generally, as far as online shopping, where you find good deals on electronics, you’ll probably find good deals on e-cigarettes as well. Go with ones that have user reviews, so you can find out what others thought of specific products. Locally though, you should actually get up and go to the shop at least once. In some places, they even deliver personally, and you can invite the seller or their assistant in for coffee and a demonstration of the products. The personal touch and faster delivery makes the markup worth it.
As a beginner, I would recommend that you save the online shopping from non local stores for when you have been vaping a few months already. After you’ve seen and sampled a few things and know what you want, then hit the online stores.
You can also take advantage of someone who didn’t stick with it, but only if they have quality products. Many people bought the hype when the danger rumors were going around. In some places, they banned vaping the same as smoking. It may be awhile before some pick it back up again. Meanwhile, there’s no sense in letting all their supplies gather dust.
What Kind to Get
It is nearly impossible in most places now to find disposable e cigs that contain nicotine. You’re lucky if your local headshop has any. You may have seen some offers online, but avoid the trap of “free e cigarettes” scams with non refillable cartridges or cartomizers that will require that you subscribe to buy more things from them. Just buy the disposables if you can find them. If not, then the next easiest way to start is with a “cigalike” starter kit.
A “cigalike” is basically an automatic e cig battery with a cartridge atomizer, also called a “cartomizer”. The batteries are usually around 180mAh to 210mAh, so they will last you between 100-200 puffs. So it’s like a pack of regular cigarettes for a light smoker, in one stick. A heavy smoker may burn through one in less. That the battery is automatic means that you don’t have to push a button. The suction will turn on the power, which will heat the coil in the atomizer, which will vaporize a little e-juice for you to inhale.
You can recharge the batteries at least 50 times, and refill the cartomizers easily. Thing is, there is no such thing as a durable automatic battery. They all stop working or go wonky after a few days to two weeks of use. However, since one good disposable e-cig costs as much as a cigalike starter kit, you’re still getting a great bargain. Fiddling around with it will also get you used to the e cig routine of maintaining your equipment.
As to ejuice, dosage is important. The dosage of e juice (the liquid used in e cigs) is milligrams per milliliter. If it says “18 mg.” or the strength is 18, that means it has 18 mg. of nicotine per ml. of e juice. Bear in mind that you are probably not going to inhale that much. Most people use maybe a twentieth ml. at a time, if that. So you might, if you pull with your mouth completely over the tip and inhale fully each puff, get a bit under a half milligram. Technically, a conventional cigarette has more, but with vapor you will actually get more. If you are a heavy smoker (2+ packs per day) you will want to start at around 24. Some companies go up to 36, but this is only for people who are mixing their own ejuice. Don’t buy it just because you see it is there.
The way most female smokers smoke, at around a pack a day or less, and holding the cigarette more than puffing it, the usual starting dosage is at around 11-16mg. 16 may knock most women on their butt with a severe nicotine overdose. The reason why is that the actual smoking is giving more pleasure than the nicotine, so if you give a woman something that tastes like candy, we think of it as calorie free food and suck for dear life. So much joy in a phallic shape, you are going to want to puff longer and more often than a regular cigarette, so take the minimum dosage you can without having nicotine fits.
So get a variety of dosages and flavors of e juice, and have fun for awhile. Eventually, you will settle on a strength and range of flavors that suit you. Then you can graduate to a CE4 and eGo battery starter kit. This is what many people stick with because they give good flavor, good vapor, and they’re simple. There is minimal tinkering needed. Click here for a tutorial.
So long as you take care of them, the batteries will last up to 500 charges. I have some that I have been using for over 6 years. The oldest ones don’t hold the charge that they used to. They last about half to 2/3 of their original time, but they do still work well.
The CE4 clearomizers usually work optimally for a week or two, and they are cleanable. Once you clean them, they may or may not work quite the same again, but they will usually function reasonably.
If you think you want something a bit more complicated, you can move up to the CE5 or MT3 bottom coil clearomizers with changeable heating coils. Hit the forums and talk to people about their experiences. You will probably find that there is a kind of split in the market between those who prefer a smaller, more cigarette like e cig, and those who prefer the eGo type batteries, and some who prefer mods. Mileage varies a lot in this.
Not only do types vary, but different companies are better at different things. To skip all the confusion though, it’s generally known that Joytech and Innokin make the best batteries, and Kanger makes the best “clearomizers” (transparent cartomizers (cartridges with an atomizer attached)) for newbies just past the CE4 phase.
Now, here are some of my personal suggestions. If you want something slim like a cigalike, but more durable, go with the E Smart. There is also a 510 e Smart lookalike version. 510 is a threading standard across many e cig brands and types.
If you want to fully embrace the vaping experience to the limits before you start building your own, I recommend getting a Mini Protank bottom coil clearomizer. The eGo batteries will work fine with it, but at this point, you may want to try some variable voltage batteries and mods.
There have been some nasty incidents lately that might have been preventable if people bore in mind that they were holding an electrical appliance in their hands. Think of it like a small, battery powered humidifier or room vaporizer. If you wouldn’t do something with a tiny humidifier, you shouldn’t do it with your e cigarette.
First, there is a battery in it. Batteries of any sort should never be exposed to too much heat, and should not be smashed. If you see a dent or any other damage or corrosion on a battery, replace it. Batteries should also be disposed of properly both for the sake of the environment and for sanitation workers who might get their contents spilled on them or have to deal with explosions. Just about every photo lab and mechanic in the world has a battery disposal.
Disposable e cigs are basically made of a tube, a battery, an atomizer, and whatever is holding the liquid. It is mechanically very similar to a zip gun, just with the potential explosive inside the battery rather than outside near the possible trigger (which the atomizer would be, both trigger and part of the bullet). It is somewhat unlikely that something went wrong at the manufacturer since even in China, there is quality control, and many sellers elsewhere also do their own inspection before sending out products. However, something could go wrong at the post office or the store where you buy it. There is just as much of a chance of bad things happening with an e cig as there is with a vibrator. These are often made by the same manufacturers, and go through similar testing and quality control.
So, to minimize the chance of an accidental explosion or malfunction, use normal rechargeable battery safety methods. Don’t leave the thing laying in the sun or near heaters. Keep it stored in a cool, dry place when it’s not in use. Don’t get it wet.
Some people like to build, modify, or repair their own, and this is cool so long as they know what they’re doing. If you trust a person’s electrical skills, then that’s cool, but testing should be done with syringes and pumps, not with mouths.
Another safety concern that has come up lately is possible lung damage. Any time you inhale steam or vapor from anything from sniffing freshly baked cookies to being in the shower, you will have temporarily reduced lung capacity. The damage caused by e cigarettes is about the same level as being in a shower with a little nicotine in the steam. So it’s not 100% safe, but it is considerably less harmful than regular “analog” smoking. It is very similar to the inhalers used in respiratory therapy, just with nicotine in it. Well, in the best case it is.
In the worst case, especially for those who prefer “sub ohm” vaping, it can be like inhaling a butt load of artificial flavoring and colors. Most ejuice makers use natural or at least professional level “food grade” or “therapeautic grade” or water soluble flavorings, and pride themselves in this. Aside of the nicotine, if they wouldn’t eat it or smoke it in the normal way, they wouldn’t put it in their ejuice. Bear in mind though, that food safety regulations aren’t all that great, so ejuice standards are going to vary as well. Some people don’t like the idea of real tobacco being used as part of the source of nicotine in ejuice, but personally I like this better than synthetic flavorings. So long as you aren’t burning it dry like in analog cigarettes, the possible damage is the same or less than synthetic tobacco flavor. There are, by the way, many other flavors aside of tobacco.
About flavors and safety though, if you have sensitivity to a food, don’t use the flavoring. Be mindful of what some flavors contain, and avoid those that could trigger bad reactions. If you have seizures from cloves or other eugenol containing spices for instance, don’t use the clove or pumpkin pie type ejuice.
Other Stuff Newbies Should Know
There are a few more things I wish someone had told me before I started vaping that would have made it easier. I’ve managed to stick with it and come to enjoy vaping much more than smoking, but not knowing these things is why many I’ve known have quit and gone back to analogs. In my opinion, this is a mistake, so I tell those who’ve reverted the following, and have managed to bring some back.
It’s like a bong hit. Inhaling vapor is very much like taking a hit off a bong or nargilah/hookah. Take it easy at first. It will take some getting used to.
Many people around you may be confused. Non smokers and people who don’t know the details might not understand what you’re doing, and don’t realize that you’re not smoking and that nobody’s going to get second hand smoke or something. The people around you are in no danger of getting any of your nicotine or even getting any bad smells from you, but they might not get it, so until people are more informed, excuse yourself to a smoking area if you can. If you can’t or don’t, be prepared to explain.
…which brings me to the fact that many people find vapor as annoying as smoke. People who use normal vapes at normal voltage and resistances don’t usually produce enough of a cloud to be annoying. Sub ohm vapers though, can fill up a room or blow vapor up to a meter and a half around them. Even though it’s not smoke, some folks just don’t want to have the visible evidence of your breath on them. Please be considerate of the people around you, so that you don’t give more ammunition to the ban-happy.
Because e cigs are becoming more popular again since Rolling Stone’s article reporting that they are indeed safer than burning cigarettes, thieves will steal your stuff. Personalize or carefully engrave all your batteries and other gear. Get the lanyards and necklace holders. When you are out, don’t sit it down on the bar or someplace thinking nobody would take it. They are less likely to take it if you make it somehow distinct though.
You will probably lose weight. This was a bit of a surprise to me, as I didn’t lose weight from smoking. Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and a stimulant, and without the other side effects from inhaling carbon monoxide and other harsh toxins, it does exactly those things. You may even get some insomnia, so again mind your dosage. If you find yourself unable to sleep or eat for too long, your dosage is too high. Either get new ejuice or cut it by a quarter or third with a zero nicotine ejuice.
Synthetic fruity flavors and menthol can make you lose your sense of taste/smell. This didn’t happen to me, but some people report that fruit flavors and menthol caused them to be less sensitive. Try it, and if you notice it’s messing with your taste, switch to a tobacco or creamier flavor. The effects will wear off in a few days.
Milky flavors make some people nauseous. Mango and melon may have that effect on others. So take the advice in the next paragraph.
Buy small first, and bulk when you know what you really like. I prefer the Mini Protank type bottom coil clearomizers or the good old fashioned CE4 cheap top coil ones and eGo T type batteries at 650 or 900 mAh. When I started though, I got a bunch of cartridges and other things I eventually abandoned. Some of my atomizers got so old they got slightly corroded. When you know what you like, and understand the lifespan of your equipment, buy in bulk. It is only a matter of time before these things start being taxed like cigarettes.
Manual/button activated batteries are better than automatic ones. Nobody seems to want to say this, but there is no real debate anymore. Automatic batteries break and malfunction very easily. Even the newer ones stop working after about a week for me. So don’t bother with them unless you are okay with the fact that they are disposable/throw-away like those little flashy toys for rave parties.
It raises you about a point in SMV. Not smelling like an ashtray, and having breath like peaches does quite a bit for your attractiveness. So you get all the sexy of displaying your oral skills without the unsexy of being awash with soot and tar. Bonus, again you will probably lose weight. If not then at least you’ll be able to balance guys’ perception of your having low impulse control with being intelligent enough to minimize harm to yourself.
Burnt Taste in E Cigs With Separate Atomizer and Tank Cartridge
This is one of the most common problems most beginners have with e cigarettes when they “graduate” to refillable tanks. The burnt taste with tank cartridges is because of a dry atomizer. If you gave up on vaping because you didn’t understand why it tasted like burning plastic, there is hope for you.
Solutions that work without disassembling or replacing the atomizer:
Give it time at first.
First of all, when you first put the tank in, you have to wait a bit before vaping because the atomizer needs a chance to get moist. Also, if you are a smoker who likes to take deep draws, or take too many in fast succession, you can dry out an atomizer in just a few puffs.
Keeping the atomizer wet while vaping
A common mistake made in the conversion from disposables to tank is sitting on the button too long. Disposables generally use a sort of cartomizer (cartridge and atomizer all in one). They are also usually automatic, meaning the suction triggers the switch, which is usually only activated for a couple of seconds. With a tank and atomizer separate with a manual switch, you can’t just smoke freely like this. You must push the button, and at first most people push it far too long. You should only be pushing the button between 1 to 5 seconds during your draw. If it doesn’t seem to make enough vapor, that is just the nature of that particular product. Quality varies. It could also be that your atomizer has too high a resistance for your battery. Higher resistance needs higher voltage to heat the atomizer’s coil to the correct temperature.
Switch to cartomizers/clearomizers.
Honestly, very few people use the old fashioned atomizer and cartridges anymore except those who bonded to it for some reason. Cartomizers/clearomizers and for the fancy-pants rebuilders, drip atomizers are what most people are using today.
…not that there isn’t still a place for the separate atomizer and cartridge. The shift to other things could just be part of the techy and then hipster shift in vaping. Those who invested in quality products back in the early years of vaping have many things that still work beautifully. I still use my old Joytech eCab and my old manual 510T’s with cartomizers when I want something light and ladylike. So these things could make a comeback.
Leaky CE4/Top Coil Clearomizer
Many people have had their batteries die a premature death due to “juicing”. That’s when too much e juice runs down into and floods the battery. Sometimes some juice gets into the middle, doesn’t get vaporized, and you get droplets. There are easy solutions for this. You have to know your equipment.
First, do not over-fill a CE4. You should only fill it to just below where the wicks go into the center shaft. They usually have a little guide printed on the side that tells you how much e juice you have. Don’t fill it quite all the way. If you accidentally do overfill, just pour out the excess or suck it up with a pipette or syringe. You may want to keep a spare empty bottle for this. This bottle can be your “suicide” mix where you have a mix of all the flavors you have, for emergencies or something.
Second, make sure there is no space between the top gasket and your “drip tip”. CE’s have a threaded tip that is supposed to set on top of the rubber gasket that covers the chimney. If it doesn’t, then reach in there with some tweezers and gently nudge it upwards. Then when you put the tip back on, it should adjust itself.
Third, don’t screw too much. Trying to make things more secure, some people get heavy handed with screwing in the tip, and with screwing the clearomizer onto the battery. Remember that these things are basically electronic atomizers, not your tires. You don’t need to screw that hard. Doing so strips the threading more quickly, and causes other issues, which brings me to…
Leaking From The Center Pin Issue
The CE4 has a center pin that must connect to the battery in order to work. When it is pushed up too far, it causes leakage. Fortunately, this is easy to solve with some needle-nose pliers.
Finally, keep your equipment clean. The threading and the connections should be kept clean. You can use paper towels and cotton swabs for this.
Top Coil or Bottom Coil?
I personally prefer top coil clearomizers because for me, bottom coils mute the flavor of my e juice. Generally though, which to use depends whether you’re a more horizontal or vertical vaper. If you hold your e cig more horizontally, top coil is best. If you smoke more vertically, then bottom coil is best.
Mamasan Blowing Smoke Rings
Here is some video of me blowing vapor “smoke” rings. Just about any smoke trick you can do with a regular cigarette, you can do with vapor.