With a history now extending more than 10 years, it’s virtually impossible that you aren’t at least a little familiar with vaping if you’re a smoker. Whether you’ve held off on trying vaping because you weren’t confident about the technology – or you tried vaping a few years back and didn’t like it – the good news is that there has never been a better time to switch from smoking to vaping than right now. Vaping devices work better than ever, and e-liquids taste better than ever. The best part is that competition has made vaping much less expensive than it was in the past.

Are you ready to jump in? Our Beginner’s Vaping Handbook will get you off on the best possible start. Let’s begin.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping is a way to simulate smoking by inhaling vaporized liquid rather than smoke. Most vaping liquid contains nicotine, thus providing a smoking alternative that allows you to absorb the nicotine through your lungs as you would when using tobacco. Most people who vape find it much more satisfying as a nicotine delivery system than products such as nicotine gums and patches. Many of the people who have switched successfully from smoking to vaping did so after failing to quit smoking with other nicotine replacement products.

Why do people find vaping so satisfying?

  • You can find literally hundreds of different e-liquid flavors in the world. There’s no chance that you’ll ever get bored.
  • Since vapor has a mouth feel similar to smoke – and you absorb the nicotine through your lungs – vaping feels much the same as smoking.
  • Vaping doesn’t force you to break the addiction of smoking’s hand-to-mouth ritual.
  • Smoking has become extremely expensive in many areas. Vaping often costs dramatically less.

Why Is Vaping in 2018 So Much Better Than It Used to Be?

If you’ve waited until now to consider making the switch from smoking to vaping, you couldn’t have picked a better time. When the e-cigarette industry was still new, there wasn’t as much competition as there is today. Sellers of vaping products could charge much higher prices because consumers had few alternatives. Even at the higher prices, vaping still cost less than smoking. Today, though, you can buy a completely serviceable vaping kit for as little as $20. You might want to upgrade to a better vaping device later, but you can expect even the most inexpensive of vaping kits to work as advertised and to provide a fair representation of what vaping is like.

The second reason why vaping in 2018 is so much better than it once was is because the products are better. Progress is swift in electronics, and several generations of vaping hardware have already come and gone. The earliest e-cigarettes stored their e-liquid in wet sponges that dried out quickly and might even melt if they got too close to the heating coils. Today’s e-cigarettes store their e-liquid in reliable pods and tanks that don’t leak and always deliver vapor reliably. The difference is like night and day.

The final reason why the vaping experience is so great today is because you have access to an incredible variety of flavors. During the early days of vaping, most companies’ e-liquids would have nondescript single-flavor names like “Tobacco,” “Chocolate” and “Coffee.” Today, you’ll find e-liquids blending a myriad of notes to create flavor profiles such as that of a sweetened fruity cereal with rich milk poured on top. You could try a new e-liquid every day for years without experiencing everything on the market today.

How Do E-Cigarettes Work?

An e-cigarette stores a flavored liquid called e-liquid in a tank or disposable cartridge. Although it isn’t a requirement, most e-liquid contains nicotine. The e-cigarette contains a heating coil which, when power is applied to it, becomes hot enough to vaporize the e-liquid. When you inhale the vapor, you absorb the nicotine through your lungs. If you use a nicotine-free e-liquid, you merely enjoy taking part in an act that simulates smoking – without the addictive stimulation of nicotine. As mentioned above, many people find vaping a far more satisfying way to consume nicotine than any nicotine replacement product. Vaping also means that:

  • You’ll inhale no tar.
  • You’ll inhale no carbon monoxide.
  • You’ll inhale none – or extremely small amounts – of many of the other undesirable chemicals in cigarette smoke.
  • Your breath, skin, clothing, hair, car and home will no longer smell like smoke.

What Types of E-Cigarettes Are There?

Note: Check out our Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Vaping Device to learn about the different types of vaping devices in much greater detail.

E-cigarettes fall loosely into these five categories. As you move down the list, the devices in each category become more powerful and more complex.

  • Disposable E-Cigarettes: A disposable e-cigarette has a non-rechargeable battery and an e-liquid cartridge that’s permanently attached. You can remove it from the package and use it immediately. When the e-liquid cartridge runs out – or the battery dies – you throw the entire unit away.
  • Cigalikes: A cigalike is any e-cigarette with the same size and shape as a tobacco cigarette. Most cigalikes have replaceable cartridges and rechargeable batteries. Those that don’t are disposable e-cigarettes.
  • Pod Vaping Systems: A pod vaping system stores its e-liquid in a translucent pod that drops into a receptacle at the top of the battery. Pod vaping systems often use nicotine salt e-liquids. Learn more about those in our Ultimate Guide to E-Liquid.
  • Vape Pens: A vape pen is a larger vaping device with about the same size and shape as a ballpoint pen. Vape pens typically store their e-liquid in large refillable tanks.
  • Advanced Mods: An advanced mod is usually larger than a vape pen and may have a box-like shape. Advanced mods have the greatest battery life and power range of all vaping devices.

What Is the Liquid in an E-Cigarette?

The liquid in an e-cigarette is called e-liquid. It generally contains four ingredients:

  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Propylene glycol
  • Flavors
  • Nicotine

Although you might not be familiar with them, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol are common ingredients in products such as food and cosmetics. You’ve probably eaten both of them many times before. In addition, the flavors used in e-liquids are always food grade.

Do I Have to Vape With Nicotine?

Definitely not. E-liquids come in a variety of nicotine strengths to suit different needs. Nicotine-free versions of most e-liquids are also available. If you have stopped using nicotine, you can still use a nicotine-free e-liquid to mimic the rituals, tastes and sensations of smoking. You can also lower the nicotine strength of your e-liquid gradually as you wean yourself off of nicotine.

What Are the Parts of an E-Cigarette?

You can simplify most vaping devices into three main sections.

  • Base Unit: The base unit is the main body of an e-cigarette. It provides the buttons that you use to control the e-cigarette. It contains the digital firmware that keeps the e-cigarette operating within safe parameters. It also supplies the e-cigarette’s power. Some e-cigarettes have permanent built-in batteries. Others have removable batteries.
  • Tank or Cartridge: Most e-cigarettes use tanks or cartridges that store e-liquid. You can normally vape for at least an hour or two before you’ll need to replace your cartridge or refill your tank.
  • Atomizer: The atomizer contains the heating coil that vaporizes your e-liquid. Over time, the heating coil weakens due to buildup or residue. When the quality of the vaping experience begins to decrease, you’ll need to replace the atomizer.

How Do E-Cigarettes Work?

When you press the button on your e-cigarette, power from the battery causes the atomizer coil to heat up and vaporize the e-liquid held against the coil by a wick. The wick uses capillary action to draw more e-liquid toward the coil from the tank. Since the capillary action keeps the wick wet, the e-cigarette is automatically ready to use when you press the button again.

How Do I Use an E-Cigarette?

When you open your new e-cigarette, you’ll begin by charging the battery. If the e-cigarette uses a tank, you’ll fill the tank and wait several minutes for the e-liquid to saturate the wick. If the e-cigarette uses pre-filled pods or cartridges, you’ll simply connect the cartridge to your e-cigarette. Puff on the e-cigarette as if it were a real cigarette. If the e-cigarette has an activation button, hold the button while puffing. Keep your battery charged. If your e-cigarette has a tank, refill the tank well before it is empty to avoid burning the wick.

What Are Some Vaping Tips for Improving My Experience?

  • Puff slowly and gently on your e-cigarette. If you take quicker puffs – as you might with a tobacco cigarette – you’ll get e-liquid in your mouth. Quick puffs will not make an e-cigarette generate more vapor.
  • Keep your atomizer coil wet. If you use your e-cigarette when your tank is completely dry, the wick could burn. When you notice that the level of e-liquid is low, fill the tank right away.
  • Experiment with different e-liquid flavors. You may not love the first flavor you try – but keep trying. We guarantee you’ll find something that you enjoy far more than any cigarette you’ve ever smoked.

Are E-Cigarettes Safe?

Although many scientific studies have painted vaping in a positive light, no one would say that e-cigarettes are absolutely safe. The safest thing to inhale is plain air. If you don’t smoke, please don’t vape. If you’re a smoker who can’t – or won’t – quit, though, vaping may be a better alternative for you. We encourage you to search online for peer-reviewed studies and come to your own conclusions.

How Does Vaping Differ From Smoking?

These are a few of the key differences between vaping and smoking.

  • An e-cigarette generates no smoke – it heats a liquid to create an aerosol that you inhale. As a result, e-cigarette vapor contains no combustion byproducts such as tar. Although e-cigarette vapor does contain a few of the same compounds as cigarette smoke, those compounds are present in far, far lower concentrations.
  • Vaping leaves no lingering odors. Switching to vaping will immediately improve the smell of your breath, hair, skin, clothing, home and car.
  • Vaping costs less than smoking. While cigarettes become more expensive with each passing year, most states and cities have not yet applied tobacco taxes to vaping products. Most governments would rather encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes and reduce the burden that smoking causes to the healthcare system.

What Do Health Experts Say About Vaping?

Governments and healthcare experts around the world have struggled with how best to address the vaping trend. Among public health officials, the National Health System in the United Kingdom is strongly in favor of e-cigarettes. According to the NHS website, e-cigarettes are “a great way to help combat nicotine cravings.” The NHS also says that they “carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes.”

In the United States, preventative medicine physician Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University is among the most outspoken proponents of e-cigarettes in the healthcare community. Dr. Siegel says that vaping is “literally saving people’s lives” and that e-cigarettes can “reduce the toll of cigarette-related disease.”

For every health expert with something positive to say about e-cigarettes, you can find another expert with a negative opinion. We suggest that you read experts’ opinions online, consider the credentials and potential motivations of the people with those opinions and decide for yourself whether it would be wiser to continue smoking or switch to vaping.

Can My E-Cigarette Explode?

E-cigarette battery fires and explosions make national headlines, but they are extremely rare among the many millions of e-cigarettes that have been sold and used. Incidents with lithium-ion batteries have also occurred with phones, computers, hoverboards and many other consumer products. To use your e-cigarette batteries safely and minimize the chance of an incident, follow these rules.

  • Charge your e-cigarette batteries only with manufacturer-recommended chargers. Don’t use a USB wall adapter from a mobile phone or tablet.
  • Don’t charge your batteries unattended. If a battery overheats during charging, quick action on your part can prevent the incident from becoming a disaster.
  • Don’t use mechanical mods. Only use e-cigarettes with built-in protection features that guard against short circuits, unsafe currents and overheating.
  • Don’t use a tank with a lower atomizer coil resistance than what your device supports.

Does Vaping Cost Less Than Smoking?

With cities and states everywhere struggling to meet their revenue requirements, governments around the world have levied extreme taxes on tobacco purchases in an attempt to make up the revenue shortfalls. In most regions, though, tobacco taxes do not apply to vaping purchases. Most people who switch to vaping after smoking a pack of cigarettes per day find that they save up to $2,000 per year by vaping.

Why Do Some E-Cigarettes Cost So Much More Than Others?

The cost of an e-cigarette usually has much to do with its capabilities. A more expensive vaping device might have features such as a large included tank, capacity for multiple batteries and a power range exceeding 200 watts. In most cases, though, such a powerful e-cigarette isn’t the best choice for a beginner. Less expensive e-cigarettes are typically smaller and simpler to use while operating at lower wattage levels.

Why Are E-Cigarette Cartridges So Expensive?

E-cigarette cartridges are expensive because each one is a self-contained unit that contains e-liquid and an atomizer coil. Each one gives you a completely fresh vaping experience. In addition, many e-cigarettes aren’t interchangeable with cartridges from other makers. Since most cartridge-based e-cigarettes use proprietary designs, the makers can get away with charging a little more for the cartridges while charging less for the starter kits. If you want vaping to be as affordable as it can be, we suggest buying an e-cigarette that uses a refillable tank rather than pre-filled cartridges.

What E-Cigarette Should I Buy First?

We suggest starting with a smaller e-cigarette that uses a refillable tank. Bottled e-liquid costs substantially less than pre-filled cartridges or pods. In addition, cartridge- and pod-based e-cigarettes generally only have a few different flavors available. Bottled e-liquids, on the other hand, are available in hundreds of different flavors. Buying bottled e-liquid gives you access to a greater variety of flavors at a lower cost.

Should I Buy My First E-Cigarette Online or From a Local Vape Shop?

That depends on what your local vape shop has to offer. Buying locally gives you the benefit of not needing to wait for shipping. However, local vape shops have expenses that online shops don’t – so you’ll probably pay a little more if you buy locally. In addition, many vape shops primarily serve experienced e-cigarette users and stock few products for beginners as a result. If you visit a local vape shop – and a salesperson tries to sell you a 200-watt mod – you should probably buy your first e-cigarette elsewhere.

Why Shouldn’t a 200-Watt Mod Be My First E-Cigarette?

Large vaping devices are configured to produce the biggest possible vapor clouds. To get big clouds from a vaping device, you need to inhale the vapor directly into your lungs. As a smoker, though, you’re used to drawing the smoke into your mouth before inhaling it into your lungs. Smaller vaping devices use smaller tanks, and smaller tanks have the slight air resistance necessary for you to inhale in the way that you’re used to. Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Vaping Device.

Glossary of Common Vaping Terms

  • Analog Cigarette: Tobacco cigarette.
  • Atty: Short for “atomizer.”
  • Cartomizer: An e-cigarette cartridge with a built-in atomizer. The vaping industry created the word by combining “cartridge” and “atomizer.”
  • Dripping: Adding e-liquid directly to an atomizer from a bottle every few puffs rather than using a tank system.
  • Dry Hit: Puffing on an e-cigarette with a dry atomizer or empty tank. Creates a terribly harsh sensation in the throat and lungs.
  • Nicotine Salt: A form of e-liquid with acid added to lower the pH of the nicotine and change it from a free base to a salt. Some people find nicotine salt e-liquids more satisfying than e-liquids with freebase nicotine.
  • Ohms: The electrical resistance of an atomizer coil. A lower-resistance coil operates at higher wattages and draws more power from the battery.
  • Personal Vaporizer, PV: An alternative name for an e-cigarette.
  • Propylene Glycol, PG: One of the two bases found in almost all e-liquids.
  • Steeping: Keeping an e-liquid in extended storage to allow the flavors to blend and mellow.
  • Throat Hit: A slight irritation in the throat caused by inhaling nicotine. Many smokers and vapers find the feeling intensely satisfying.
  • Vegetable Glycerin, VG: One of the two bases found in almost all e-liquids.