A new year is about to begin and lots of smokers are making their New Year’s resolution to quit smoking. I put together this in-depth guide for those of you out there who are new to vaping. My hope is that this info isn’t so advanced that you feel overwhelmed or confused, but that I provide enough information to make you comfortable with getting started.
Vaping is not an FDA-approved method for quitting smoking, but there are thousands and thousands of success stories proving its success. Also, Public Health England and the UK Government concluded that vaping is 95% safer than smoking.
So with that said, let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
- Basic Vape Lingo
- Battery Safety
- Different Types of Devices
- Vape Pens
- Regulated Variable Wattage Devices
- Pod Systems
- All-In-Ones (AIO)
- Mechanical / Unregulated
- E-Liquid / E-Juice
- Where to Buy Vape Products
- Product Reviewers
- Final Thoughts
Basic Vape Lingo
First, let’s talk lingo because there’s a lot of it within the vape community that might be confusing. I’m only going to cover the basic terms, but I’ll also explain other terms throughout this guide.
Mod – One of the most common terms you’ll hear is mod, such as box mod. In the early days, vape gear was so basic that people would modify or mod their gear to get more out of it. The name stuck and now pretty much any battery-operated device is a mod, even though it’s no longer being modified.
Mouth to Lung (MTL) – This is one method of inhaling vapor. It means to inhale the vapor into your mouth and then breathing it into your lungs. It’s how most people inhale when smoking cigarettes.
Direct to Lung (DTL) – This is the other method of inhaling. Rather than holding the vapor in your mouth you instead take it straight to your lungs. This is more common with high-powered devices with lots of airflow. You might also hear it described as a lung hit or straight-to-lung.
All Day Vape (ADV) – This is an e-juice that you vape all day, every day and never get tired of.
Analog – I don’t hear this one much anymore, but it’s basically another name for a real cigarette.
Coil – The coil is the wire in your tank that heats up the e-juice and creates vapor.
Draw – The draw is basically the looseness or tightness of your hit or how much airflow you get.
Vaper’s Tongue – You know how when you go into a strangers house and it smells weird to you, but after a while, your sense of smell adjusts and you can’t smell it anymore? The same thing happens with vaping and that’s why many people switch out flavors throughout the week or even throughout the day.
And one final thing. Don’t call vapor, smoke. It’s a pet peeve of most experienced vapors and you’ll get trolling comments if you say it. We are vapers who love to vape. We enjoy vaping and chucking clouds of vapor.
Battery safety is one of the most important aspects of vaping that you need to understand.
Some devices have internal, non-removable batteries while other devices have removable batteries that you need to buy separately. My suggestion for absolute beginners is to go with a device that has internal batteries.
Three popular internal battery devices out right now that have good reviews are:
Now, one quick tip if you buy an older device with internal batteries. Look at reviews and see when the review was made. Lithium-ion batteries only last 2-3 years. Vape manufacturers don’t typically continue making products for longer than six months, if that. So if you see a device that’s more than 1-2 years old, it’s probably been sitting on a shelf for a long time. That means the battery might not last very long.
If you decide to buy something with removable batteries, and this is EXTREMELY important, you need a battery case or cover for each battery. The batteries used in vape devices don’t have the same protections as normal consumer batteries. They are lithium-ion batteries, not alkaline. So they are volatile, they hold massive amounts of energy, and they could short out and explode in your pocket if the negative and positive contacts touch metal at the same time.
This isn’t a typical problem to have, but the issue comes when someone throws an uncovered battery into their pocket or bag where the batteries come into contact with things like coins or keys. Those can bridge the contacts and cause a short, and that’s when you hear stories of batteries exploding. Keep them protected!
The most typical size of battery used for vaping is the 18650, but in the last year, batteries like the 20650, 20700, and 21700 have become more popular. This is basically a combination of two numbers – the diameter and the length. The “18” in 18650 is the diameter in millimeters and “650” is the length. The larger the battery, the larger the capacity, so it’ll stay charged longer. Just make sure to check the specs of the device you’re buying to make sure you buy the right size.
Buying Vape Batteries
Not all batteries are created equal and some are downright dangerous when used for vaping. For example, Walmart sells 18650 batteries that are designed for high-powered flashlights but they can’t handle the power required for vape devices.
Also, many companies in China buy batteries from other companies and rewrap them with their own wrappers with massively exaggerated or even totally fake specs. There are also companies selling fakes. It’s scummy, but it happens a lot.
We have a battery expert in our community named John Muchow, who goes by the name of Mooch, or Battery Mooch. He tests batteries to make sure they match the ratings on the wrappers.
Mooch keeps an updated list of recommended batteries over at e-cigarette-forum.com, so always check there to see what he suggests. The most well-known brands are usually the best bet, such as from LG, Samsung, and Sony, but there are other good brands too.
As for preventing yourself from buying fakes or falsely-advertised batteries, there are some very reputable sites online to order from.
A couple other battery-related safety tips I want to mention is that you should only charge your batteries with the charging cable that came with the device and only while you are awake. After-market cables can overheat batteries and cause fires. And on rare occasions, even the pre-packaged charger or device can malfunction, so I always recommend charging while you’re awake and in the same room.
Different Types of Devices
To vape, you need two things: a device and an atomizer. Let’s cover devices first.
There are many different types of devices to pick from and it can be overwhelming, so I’m going to keep it simple. The thing to keep in mind with all of this is that everyone needs to find what works for them and sometimes it can take different tries. Don’t let one device sour your thoughts on vaping. You’ll eventually find the perfect setup that gives you the throat hit you like, the nicotine you crave, the flavor you want, and the airflow you prefer. If you want to quit smoking with vaping, try to be patient and don’t give up right away because the next device you choose could be the one.
Below are the major types of devices you can choose from.
Cigalikes get their name from looking like a cigarette. This is where a lot of beginners like to start because it so closely resembles the act of smoking. Smokers often don’t want to draw attention to themselves with a funny looking vape device so they get a cigalike. And this is where a lot of people fail with trying to quit. Cigalikes work for some people, and it worked for me, but a lot of people say that cigalikes are too weak, they don’t have enough throat hit, they don’t deliver enough nicotine, and they are generally overall unsatisfying.
If you’re set on trying a cigalike, my number one recommendation is the NJOY Daily ($5.99 each). It’s a disposable device that lasts around 300 hits. New vapers tend to vape all throughout the day, even when they normally wouldn’t smoke, so when using disposables, try to vape at the same times and for the same duration that you would normally smoke, otherwise, disposables can get extremely expensive.
Or if you want a rechargeable cigalike, I like the Mimic E-cig from mimicecigs.com. You can get that with a 5-pack of flavored cartridges for only $15.97, so it’s really affordable.
A vape pen is a skinny pen-sized device with a tank on top. Sometimes the tank is pre-filled and sometimes it’s refillable. Some vape pens have auto-draw and give you a hit just from sucking on it and some require a button press. Some also let you adjust wattage or voltage, which is how much power you send to the tank to give you more or less vapor. These are a step up from cigalikes, but for some people, they just don’t provide a satisfying vape, usually because they are underpowered and the tanks don’t work well.
I don’t have any recommended vape pens because they are all pretty much the same, but I do really like the NJOY pre-filled tanks which work great on vape pens.
Here is where most people find pleasure in vaping. These are also the safest products you can buy.
Regulated devices have computer chips that come with safety protections and various modes. These devices will not let you run in unsafe conditions. And you don’t have to worry about technical vape stuff like Ohms law.
Some of these devices can get pretty complicated, but in general, they work by letting you adjust the wattage to your preferred levels of heat and vapor production.
Some people like low wattage, such as around 8-20 watts, some people like a lot of vapor and heat and they vape upwards of 80 watts, and some people like it in-between. It’s for this reason that I recommend buying a high-wattage device that you can grow into if needed. You probably won’t be vaping any higher than 100 watts, but it’s good to have that option.
These devices come either with internal batteries or removable batteries. Internal battery devices keep things simple, so they’re great for beginners, but removable battery devices are good for their own reasons. For example, you can buy multiple sets of batteries and have them on hand in case one set dies. Removable battery devices also have a longer lifespan since you can replace the batteries after they die. Lithium-ion batteries only last 1-2 years, so once they die in a device with non-removable batteries, the entire device needs to be thrown away. Most vape devices aren’t really built to last 2+ years though, so it might not matter anyway.
There are so many different types of devices you can get in this category; tube devices, box devices (aka box mods), or little portable kits.
- SMOK MAG 225W – $49.95
- GeekVape Aegis Legend 200W – $54.95
- Vaporesso Revenger – $54.95
- Vaporesso Revenger Mini – $49.95
Pod systems are also regulated, but they are designed for a different style of vaping. They use pods, some that are pre-filled and some that you need to fill yourself. These are usually designed for very high-nicotine strengths, so they usually have a tighter draw, like a cigarette, and have low wattage, so that you get a satisfying hit in a short draw, but not too much nicotine.
These are great for beginners, for keeping as a backup, or for anyone who wants something to take on-the-go for discreet vaping.
- Lost Vape Orion DNA Go – $64.95
- Suorin Air – $17.95
- Suorin Drop – $23.95
- SMOK Infinix – $14.95
- iJoy Diamond VPC Kit – $63.90
All-In-One kits are very similar to pod devices. They are usually very small and portable and also designed for lower-wattage, tight draw, and higher nicotine. The main difference is that rather than using a pod, they have replaceable coils, which tends to be cheaper than pod replacements.
Mechanical devices (also known as mech mods) and unregulated devices lack computer chips that keep the user safe. These are advanced devices that only very advanced users should use. These require that you understand Ohm’s law and advanced battery safety. Nearly all of the horror stories you see in the news about vaping-related fires and explosions are the result of vape shops (more about this later) selling mech mods to beginner vapers.
The atomizer is where your e-juice goes and is what produces vapor. These also come in various styles, but basically, you have tanks and drippers.
Tanks are refillable and come in many sizes and styles. Most tanks these days have top-fill and are easy to fill up but you might find yourself with an older tank that requires you take the bottom off to refill. For ease of use, I would suggest a sliding top-refill tank.
You’ll usually have a removable tip, which we usually call a drip tip. It’s called a drip tip because originally, vapers would drip their e-juice down the tip onto their coils. The name just stuck. They usually come in 510 or 810 sizes. The size changes airflow and mouthfeel, so it’s just personal preference. Some tanks let you use both sizes with an adapter and some are restricted to only or the other, but you can buy replacement tips to customize your experience.
One thing to note on this, most tanks come with plastic, Ultem, or resin tips because they look good, but also to reduce heat. Old drip tips, which are still sold, used to be metal and would get really hot, so I would recommend staying away from those.
Some tanks have top airflow and some have bottom airflow. This is where the air comes in, goes through the coil, and into your mouth. You can adjust the airflow control rings to give you as much airflow as you prefer. Bottom airflow usually has the best flavor, but it’s also more likely to leak. Top airflow tends to have less flavor but those tanks rarely leak at all. Personally, I prefer bottom airflow for the better flavor.
And finally the base. Tanks use either pre-built coil heads or have rebuildable decks. And some have the option to use both. Pre-built coils are the easiest to use because all you need to do is screw it in and start vaping. They usually have recommended wattages printed on them so that you know how they should be used. The biggest drawbacks of pre-built coil heads are that they don’t last long and can be a little pricey, but that depends on your tank and how often you vape. But in general, you might get a week or two out of one coil head before the flavor become muted and you need to replace it. And prices depend on the tank and manufacturer. You can expect to spend anywhere from $10-$25 for packs of 3-5 coils.
Higher Powered Tanks:
Tight Draw, Mouth to Lung Tanks:
Rebuildable atomizers have decks that you build on your own. At a minimum, you’ll need to buy coil wire, screwdrivers, and wicking material such as cotton pads, but you might want to invest in several spools of wire and a coil building kit. This is more of a hobbyist level of vaping, but a lot of people find it fun and relaxing and it also saves a lot of money when compared to buying pre-built coil heads, so even non-hobbyists might be interested.
There’s a lot more to learn about coil building than what I can cover here, but the general idea is that you wrap a wire around a screwdriver, screw it into the build deck, and fill it with cotton. The more wire you use, the more resistance it will have, and the more wattage you’ll need to fire it. Search YouTube for coil beginner coil building videos to learn more.
You can also buy pre-wrapped coils so that you don’t need to buy them yourself. You can get some of these for pretty cheap too. For example, I really like the competition Clapton coils from Wotofo. If you buy from a U.S. based store, you can expect to spend about $6 for a pack of five coils, which I think is overpriced, but if you are willing to wait for shipping from China, you can get a box of 25 for around the $10. Search around online for Demon Killer kits and you can find packages of 48 coils for about $6.
We usually refer to rebuildable dripping atomizers as RDAs or “drippers”. They get their name for being rebuildable, obviously, but also because you usually drip e-juice onto the coils. Sometimes you can drip from the drip tip but sometimes you need to remove the top cap to get e-juice onto the coils, but they are all still called RDAs or drippers these days, even if you can’t technically drip.
They have rebuildable decks just like with rebuildable tanks, except that there’s no tank to hold e-juice. Instead, you have a small juice well that holds a little bit of e-juice. It might sound ridiculous to use these instead of a tank, but there are some great benefits. For one, they have much more space to build on, which allows people to build more intricate coils and vape at much higher wattages. They also let you change flavors quickly since you only vape 5-10 hits before adding more e-juice. And they usually produce a lot more flavor than tanks. They appeal more to advanced vapers because they are a little more complex. They’re also not great for on-the-go vaping since you have to keep dripping e-juice onto the coils.
- Wotofo Profile RDA – $27.95
- Wotofo Recurve RDA – $18.99
- Augvape BTFC RDA – $24.95
- Digiflavor Drop RDA – $24.95
- Digiflavor Drop Solo – $26.95
This might sound really stupid to anyone new to the phrase, but we have a type of vaping called squonking. I have no idea where the name comes from. This is another name for a bottom-feeding device.
Squonking requires a squonk device that has a squeezable bottle that holds your e-juice and pushes the e-juice up into a squonk-compatible RDA. Most RDAs today have replaceable pins, called 510 pins, that unscrew from the bottom – one solid and one hollow. The hollow pin lets you use the RDA on a squonk device.
Squonking is great because the bottles hold a lot of e-juice and it allows you to use an RDA on-the-go without having to drip constantly. Just push some e-juice into the atomizer and you’re good.
Always remember to put the pin back into the device when exchanging the 510 pins. That pin is what transfers power from the device to the coils. You need it.
With any type of atomizer, always make sure that the e-juice has time to sit and soak into your wicks, otherwise, you’ll get a disgusting dry hit that will ruin your wick and make every hit taste burnt until you replace it.
With any type of atomizer, you don’t need to clean it out before changing e-liquids. It won’t harm you at all, but you’ll probably get some subtle hints of the old flavor for a while. That will eventually be replaced by the new flavor.
Ok, now for e-liquid, which is more commonly called e-juice, or more simply juice. There are thousands of different brands and flavors to pick from and if you watch reviews on YouTube, you’ll find that everyone has their own opinion about different flavors. Flavors are very subjective, so what one reviewer says about an e-juice might not be the same experience you’ll have. I like to look at e-juice reviews as a way to learn about new flavors that might appeal to me. And if I see enough people giving it a thumbs up, I might get it.
Aside from the flavoring and nicotine, there are only two other ingredients in e-juice, which are vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, but more commonly referred to as VG and PG. These are thicker liquids that allow the e-juice to turn into vapor. They are the same ingredients you find in foods to keep them moist on the shelf. PG is also used in the liquid that goes in fog machines.
E-juices come in different VG and PG ratios.
VG is much thicker than PG. It has a smoother throat hit and produces more vapor. Because it’s so thick, some tanks have a hard time soaking it up, so if you vape too fast, the wicks will dry out and you can get a dry hit. It also carries less flavor than PG.
PG, on the other hand, is very thin, so in some tanks, it can cause leaks. It carries flavor very well, but it has a very strong throat hit. High PG e-juices are usually used for tight-draw atomizers since they wick fast and for people who like the extra throat hit.
You can find e-juices in pretty much every ratio, but the most common are
- Max VG
Higher PG ratios aren’t very popular but they have their purpose. If you want more throat hit, check them out. They are also usually pretty good in low-wattage tanks and pod systems.
The most common e-juices these days are higher VG, with 70vg/30PG being the best at covering everything for most people. You get good flavor, good throat hit, and it wicks well. It’s what I prefer and what works well in most atomizers.
Max VG ratios are different depending on the brand, but it’s usually 90VG or higher. These are best for RDAs since you don’t have to worry about wicking as much in RDAs, but they work well in tanks that are designed for higher wattages too.
Nicotine levels are one of those things that you’ll have to experiment with to find what you like best, but in general, higher nicotine will help with cravings for smokers who are switching to vaping but it will also have a strong throat hit.
There are two types of nicotine; regular and salt-based. Most e-juices are made with regular and if not, it will be specifically labeled as being a salt-based e-juice. The main difference between the two is that salt-based has a drastically reduced throat hit, which allows people to vape e-liquids containing 30-50mg nicotine. You can’t vape regular nicotine at those levels because it would hurt your throat way too bad.
30+ mg nicotine is best for very heavy smokers. If you’re looking for something comparable in regular nicotine, you might start with 18mg nicotine. That will have a pretty strong throat hit.
When you’re just getting started, I recommend looking for smaller, cheaper bottles of e-juice, like 15ml or 30ml bottles in various levels of nicotine so that you can get a good idea of what you might like best. Then when you find what you like, you can order bigger bottles.
A lot of smokers who switch to vaping tend to seek out tobacco flavors, believing that they want to mimic smoking as much as possible to have the best chances of replacing smoking with vaping and eventually quitting. I did too. We all do. But it never works out that way.
Once you try some of the amazing flavors available, you’ll find that you’ll probably prefer something different. There are flavors that taste like fruits, candy, cereal, desserts, or even adult beverages like whiskey. And yes, there are many tobaccos as well.
Now if you are absolutely dead-set on a tobacco flavor, I recommend a brand called Black Note ($23 to $29 per 30ml bottle). They are a little expensive, but they have some of the best tobacco e-juices I’ve ever tried and are probably as close as you’ll ever get to real tobacco.
Where to Buy E-liquid
There are fake e-liquids on the market too, just like batteries, but it’s not common. Avoid shady looking sites and places like eBay and you should be fine.
I would recommend buying directly from the manufacturer that you’re interested in or from places like ultimatevapedeals.com, ejuiceconnect.com, and ejuices.com. I would also trust the recommended online vendors I list below.
Where to Buy Vape Products
There are lots of places to buy vape products and all of them have their pros and cons. I’ll give you my opinion on all of them.
This is where most people try their first vaping product and it’s usually the worst place to start since most of the vape gear in these places are low-quality and they just plain suck. But sometimes these products work for some people.
Here is where you’ll find things like vape pens and “cigalikes”.
The main benefit of going to gas stations and convenience stores is that they are easily accessible. Some towns don’t have vape shops and this might be the only option to buy locally. It’s also an easy way for people to grab a basic vape on a whim.
Local shops, which you’ll often hear referred to as Brick and Mortars or B&M’s, are useful for several reasons.
For one, you can talk to an employee in person and ask questions. Being able to talk to someone is a big benefit, but you should also know that a lot of vape shop employees are not experts in vaping. A lot of times, these are people simply people hired to run a cash register just like any other store. There are lots of stories online of vape shop employees giving customers very bad, and sometimes dangerous, advice. For example, some shops will sell a beginner a mech mod, which is not safe for beginners. So just keep that in mind when going to a vape shop.
Another nice benefit is that you can hold and test products in person. You won’t usually be able to test tanks or devices unless the shop has one set up for the purposes of testing, but you can look at them in person. And most vape shops will let you sample e-liquids for a small cost, which is a great way to find out what flavors you like.
Another big plus of going to a local shop is that you can pick up vape gear right away without having to wait for shipping.
As for some of the cons of local shops, they almost always have much higher prices than online stores. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a necessary side effect of hiring employees, paying rent, and stocking products. While it does suck, just remember that when you buy from a local shop, you’re getting some nice benefits while also supporting your community.
Another con is that some shops do not cater to beginners. Some shops are filled with vaper, play loud music, the employees are hanging out with friends rather than helping customers, and some have a bad reputation of being a haven for vape douchebags. Not all shops are like this, but if you visit enough of them, you’ll eventually find one.
Online stores have their pros and cons as well.
One of the biggest benefits of shopping online is that the prices are usually pretty low. Most of the biggest and well-known shops price competitively. You do have to be careful of scammy sites though. And there are sites that sell clones or non-authentic versions of original products.
Some of the best deals come from sites based out of China, so don’t worry too much about those. The biggest drawback from China sites is that it can take 2-4 weeks to get your order. Fastech.com, for example, has amazing prices, but it can take 4-6 weeks or more to get your gear. Gearbest and HeavenGifts.com are other great Chinese sites.
One of the cons with online stores is that many tend to have poor customer service and it can be a challenge to make returns, even when a product is broken.
My favorite trustworthy shops:
Anytime you buy a vape product, I highly recommend checking out reviews for those products first. There are lots of reviewers out there, but not all of them are trustworthy, so I always check with a few that I trust the most.
Personally, I subscribe to many other vaping channels, but I’m a hobbyist vaper so I wanted to give you just a short list of the reviewers who I think are the best, the most trustworthy, and who also review enough products that you can usually find any product on one of their channels.
Vaping is different than smoking and it’s very likely to make you cough at first. Some people find the coughing so difficult to get through that they give it up and go back to smoking. Just know that the throat irritation goes away. For some people, it might be days and others it might be a couple weeks. Salt-based nicotine also tends to increase throat irritation, so if that’s where you started, consider trying regular-nicotine e-juices.
Ok, so that’s about it. I’ve covered a lot and there’s so much more that I could talk about, but I think this should be enough to get a beginner going. If I’ve left anything out or if you have questions about anything, I’m always happy to help, so feel free to reach out anytime either by leaving a comment here, any of my videos on YouTube, or by sending me an email.