The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Vaping
Every beginner has to start somewhere. For vaping enthusiasts, that somewhere often falls on comprehensive guides, like our very own Beginners Guide to Vaping. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about vaping and a little bit more.
We cover the basics, from what’s in vape juices to the different kinds of vape hardware. We’ll also explain what nicotine salts are and even how to switch to vaping if you smoke cigarettes. In the end, we hope you’ll have all the knowledge needed to get started vaping.
Table of Contents
- What is vaping?
- What is a vape device?
- Vape Components (Vape Hardware)
- What is E-liquid?
- How to choose the right e-liquid?
- What are nicotine salts?
- Switching from tobacco?
- Cleaning Your Vape Device
What is vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling vapor from an e-cigarette or electronic cigarette. E-cigarettes use a liquid substance known as e-liquid that contains four ingredients: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, artificial flavorings, and nicotine.The main difference between smoking and vaping is that you burn the tobacco when smoking cigarettes, while with vaping, you vaporize the e-liquid.
Vaping has been around for a very long time. The first vaping device patent goes back to 1927. Joseph Robinson made the patent for something he called an "electric vaporizer" that would allow people to ingest vapors without getting burned.
However, it wasn't until 1963 when Herbert Gilbert created the first real patent for a "smokeless non-tobacco cigarette." While he was the first to have the idea, he, unfortunately, could not find any manufacturers to produce it, so the idea remained just a patent.
Four decades later, a pharmacist and avid smoker, Hon Lik, created the true first e-cigarette. He attributed his creation to the fact that his dad, also a heavy smoker, had died from lung cancer, and he wanted to create a cessation product. The device he made, which he called "Ruyan," meaning "without smoke," or "like smoke," became a quick success, and vaping was born.
Evolution of the vaping industry
The history of the vaping industry is a history of innovation. So it's no wonder that only three years after Hon Lik released his device to the world, making the first improvement on e-cigarettes.
While the "Ruyan" utilized an ultrasonic technology that used three parts (a battery, a cartridge, and an atomizer), the new improvement combined the cartridge and the atomizer into a single component, called the cartomizer. The cartomizer e-cigarette was the first e-cig that used a wiring element (or coil) with cotton (or wicking material). This device was considered the first generation of e-cigarettes.
The second generation was the vape pen, which was slightly bigger but used a clearomizer, a transparent cartomizer that allowed the user to see the level of e-liquid still left in the device. Although these clearomizers lasted longer than the disposable cartomizers, they still needed to be replaced after some time.
With vaping now gaining popularity worldwide, vaping enthusiasts began to search for ways to increase their devices' power. This innovation led to a DIY community that turned flashlights into vapes called "Mods" (short for modification). These "mods" became so popular that the manufacturers of vape devices took note and began to make their mods, which are now called "box mods" and are considered the third generation devices.
Fast forward to today. Vapes have gotten smaller and more discreet. These new vapes called "pod systems" are the latest craze and easily fit inside the palm of your hand. The most popular of these is the JUUL, which is now considered the most popular vape worldwide.
What is a Vape Device?
Now that you know the history let’s begin with the basics. What is a vape device? A vape device or e-cigarette, or vape, is the device used to create the vapor that “vapers” inhale.
Most vape devices are composed of three parts, a battery, a heating element (generally called a coil), and a chamber called an atomizer.
The most basic of vape devices will have these three parts, but some vapes also include microprocessors, firing mechanisms, mouthpieces, and more.
Types of Vape devices
There are many kinds of vape devices available on the market, and they come in different sizes, colors, and performance options. That means that there are vapes specifically designed for larger cloud production, while others are better suited for stealth vaping. In short, each type of vape device has its unique strengths and weaknesses.
Disposables devices are the most accessible vape devices that exist. They have no buttons, don’t need to be charged, and come pre-filled with e-juice. They are also easily found in gas stations, while other vape devices are exclusive to vape shops. After they run out of juice, you throw them in the garbage, making them perfect for travel or a night out.
When talking about vape pens, one could be talking about several devices since there are vape pens for cannabis wax, oils, herbs, and e-juice nicotine. For the sake of this blog, however, we’ll only stick to e-juice vape pens.
Usually, vape pens come with a firing button to turn the device on and off. They have to be charged and must be filled with vape juice. They are small enough to fit inside your pocket or purse and look like pens. They consist of a battery, a mouthpiece, and a tank or clearomizer, which has to be replaced after some time.
Wax pens are vape pens that use THC wax or other cannabis concentrates. Like all vape pens, they have a battery, and an atomizer, and a mouthpiece. Although they require less upkeep, loading them takes a bit more time, but they are perfect for discreet vaping once they load with wax.
Box mods are the biggest vape mods and the most powerful. They come with LED displays that offer wattage control, temperature control, and voltage control. Their parts can also be customized, and these are the most popular vapes amongst vaping hobbyists.
Pod systems are the newest and most popular. Instead of tanks, they use pods that you replace. Most pod systems have no buttons and use nicotine salts instead of traditional e-juice. They are better for smokers switching to vaping, which accounts for their popularity.
Vape Components (Vape Hardware)
Although you’ll probably start your vaping journey with a disposable or a pod system, eventually, you’ll want to graduate to using more advanced devices like a box mod. Since the latest box mods are usually only sold as mods or the units that hold the batteries, you’ll need to learn about the other components used with more advanced vape devices. Here are some of the most common vape components you’ll encounter.
Tanks are the parts of vape devices that hold the coil and e-liquid. There are many types of tanks, but most of them are clear and keep the atomizer inside. One could even say that they are technically clearomizers; however, the term tank is more widely used.
Coils are the heating element in the vape device that evaporates the e-liquid. They are wires twisted into coils. Made from different materials like kanthal, ceramic, mesh, titanium, and stainless steel, they go on top of the atomizer and hold the wicking material together.
They work by resisting the electrical current, which, when forced to go around the coil’s rings, stalls heating the coil until it is red hot, warming up the wicking material (or cotton) that holds the vape juice until the vape juice starts evaporating.
An atomizer is the vape component where the coil and the wicking material go. Atomizers are found inside tanks and are made up of building decks where the coil and wicking materials go. There are atomizers for single coils, dual coils, or more. They make the electrical connection between the mod and the tank.
Rebuildable atomizers or (RBAs) are atomizers that allow the user to build their coils. Instead of having a deck where the coil replaces, RBAs have a deck that allows for building coils. There are three kinds of RBAs, RDAs, RTAs, and RDTAs.
A rebuildable dripping atomizer or RDA is a type of rebuildable atomizer used by veteran vapers. They are called dripping atomizers because it requires that the user manually drip e-juice directly into the coil and wick and because of this they provide the best possible flavor out of all the RBAs.
Rebuildable tank atomizers or RTAs have rebuildable decks but come with tanks that hold the e-juice inside. The advantage of this is that there is no need to drip e-juice since the e-juice being enclosed in the tank continually feeds the wicking material.
Rebuildable dripping tank atomizers or RDTAs combine the storage capacity of RTAs and a similar function that closely replicates the act of dripping done in RDAs. Although how these devices process might vary, they usually work because the deck is above the tank. Since the deck is above, the wicking material hangs down toward the e-juice. The e-juice feeds upwards, where it evaporates.
Batteries are what give vapes their power. Although there are different types of batteries for different types of vapes, you’ll usually find yourself using rechargeable vape batteries when it comes to advanced vapes like box mods. These batteries come in different sizes. The most common of these are the 18650s and 26650s.
Most of these batteries are lithium-ion. And the best batteries you can find come from reputable manufacturers like Sony and Samsung. If you plan on buying a box mod, it’s best to charge it using separate chargers and to learn about battery safety since these batteries are potent.
If you’re using 18650s or 26650 batteries, then you need separate chargers. Although you might charge your box mod with a USB cable, a different charger will ensure your batteries last longer.
Also, most of the chargers nowadays come with a large set of safety features. Some of the best chargers today, like the Nitecore Q4, have to overheat protection and overcharged protection to make sure your batteries and your charger are always safe.
What is E-liquid?
Now that you learned about vape devices and their history, it’s time to get acquainted with the substance that makes vaping possible. Better known as e-liquid, or vape juice, or e-juice, this substance is what attracts so many people to vaping.
Unlike cigarettes that only come in a few flavors, e-liquid comes in hundreds if not thousands of flavors. Everything from cereal, to beverages, to desserts, to even alcohol and coffee, can be an e-liquid flavor, which is what makes vaping so appealing to people.
Like all beginners, you might be wondering what is in vape juice? Well, there are four ingredients in vape juice:
- Vegetable Glycerin
- Propylene Glycol
- Artificial Flavorings
Vegetable glycerin or VG is a natural chemical extracted from vegetable oils. It is used in vape juice to create the thick sensation one feels when inhaling and exhaling vape juice. It’s also less harsh on the throat and could be considered smoother than Propylene Glycol.
According to the FDA, vegetable glycerin is “generally classified as safe” and is used in beauty, food, and hygiene products; however, its effects when inhaled are still mostly unknown.
Propylene glycol or PG is a by-product of petroleum and the ingredient that stimulates the throat hit or harshness when inhaling. It is also the ingredient that carries flavor better since it is flavorless and tasteless.
As with vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol is also considered by the FDA as generally safe. However, the studies of its effects when inhaled are still minimal.
Nicotine is the active ingredient in tobacco that creates the buzz. While some people believe this is the most dangerous chemical in cigarettes, this is not true. Nicotine is mainly a stimulant and a sedative that can be very addicting, and that its long term effects are still mostly unknown.
Artificial flavorings are what gives the taste and aroma to your favorite e-juices. They are commonly used to provide food and drink a particular flavor, like the red coloring used in kool-aid. Most of these flavorings are made in labs and are considered synthetic.
How to Choose the Right E-liquid?
There are many factors you have to consider when choosing the right e-juice or e-liquid. The most important factors are the following
- Brand or Manufacturer
- VG/PG ratio
- Nicotine Strength
How to Choose Brand or Manufacturer?
Although smaller brands make fantastic new flavors, it’s better to go with brands whose mettle has been tested. Reputable brands that have already been established use laboratories and high-quality ingredients to create their e-juices.
But if you find yourself wanting to try a flavor by a smaller brand, make sure to ask around online and in vaping forums to see what the vape community has to say about the brand or manufacturer.
How to Choose VG/PG Ratio?
Another thing to consider when choosing an e juice is the VG/PG ratio. Every vape juice has its unique recipe and its exceptional quantities of both VG or PG. The more VG an e-liquid has, the more clouds it will produce. While the more PG the e-liquid has, the more flavorful it will be. Depending on what you want (more clouds or more flavor), you’ll need to pick a ratio accordingly.
Below you can find some of the most popular ratios and what each ratio is best for:
- 90VG/10PG or Max VG: Although there are no real Max VG vape juices (or 100%) since there is always a small percentage of PG in all vape juices to help carry the flavor, this ratio is perfect to create massive clouds. It’s the ratio used by cloud chasers that perform tricks with vapes.
- 70VG/30PG: Perhaps the most commonly used ratio nowadays, this provides a perfect amount of clouds due to its high VG percentage, and just the right throat hit to simulate smoking with its 30% of PG.
- 60VG/40PG: This ratio creates decent cloud production with a slightly harsher throat hit.
- 50VG/50PG: The best of both worlds. You get a more flavorful hit with adequate cloud production.
- 10VG/90PG or Max PG: Exclusively made to taste and enjoy the maximum flavor, this ratio is perfect for stealth vaping; however, since it creates very few clouds, it’s not as popular.
How to Choose an E-Liquid Flavour?
Now it’s time for the fun part, choosing an E-liquid flavor. There are thousands of flavors of e-liquids available, all waiting for you to try them. Flavor vape juice categories include cereals, beverages, ice cream, candy, coffee, and even alcoholic drinks. When it comes to e-juice flavors, the sky is the limit.
Which Nicotine Strength Should I Choose?
Unlike cigarettes that come with a set amount of nicotine, vape juice comes in different nicotine levels. You can choose from 0mg of nicotine (which means no nicotine at all) to 24mg or higher.
The advantage of this is that when trying to quit nicotine for good, you can gradually reduce the amount of nicotine you intake, which is essential for vapers trying to stop.
However, choose the wrong nicotine level when you start. You could either not get enough nicotine, which will make you want to quit vaping and go back to cigarettes or get too high a nicotine dose, which will make your vaping experience intolerable.
That’s why choosing the right amount of nicotine at the start is so important. According to the Canadian Vaping Association, some close approximations equate the nicotine milligrams to cigarettes smoked in a day.
- 0mg/ml: Zero nicotine might work for casual smokers who only smoke during social situations or on the weekends. For them, vaping zero nicotine might do the trick.
- 3mg/ml: Equals to about 5-10 cigarettes a day in low powered devices. On high powered devices, it equals 15 cigarettes a day.
- 6mg/ml: Equals to about half a pack a day on a low powered device. On high-powered devices, it equals half a pack to a pack a day.
- 12mg/ml: Equals to about a pack a day on a low powered device. On a high powered device, it would equal 35+ cigarettes or more.
- 18mg/ml: Equals to a pack and a day on a low powered device. On high-powered devices, not many people smoke this high nicotine level.
- 24mg/ml or more: Reserved only for very high smokers; this equals smoking two packs or more a day.
You also have to remember that most people absorb nicotine differently, which means that the level that works for some people might not work for you, so don’t worry if you need to have a higher or lower nicotine level than the ones described above. The important thing is to find the nicotine strength level that works best for you.
What are Nicotine Salts?
The latest craze that has appeared in the vaping industry is nicotine salts. Nicotine salts are a type of nicotine that’s more potent and less irritating than the traditional freebase nicotine found in vape juices.
Developed by JUUL Labs, the makers of the most popular vape device available, the JUUL, nicotine salts are created when benzoic acid is chemically added to nicotine. This mixture accomplishes several things. First, it makes nicotine salts more easily absorbed by our bodies. Second, it makes nic salts vaporize at much lower temperatures, and third, it lowers the pH levels for a smoother throat hit.
Should you try Nicotine Salts?
If you find that you can’t get the same buzz as cigarettes when vaping, you should give nic salts a try. They provide a better headrush with none of the harshness that traditional vape juices cause. However, you should be aware that nic salts only work with low powered devices like pod systems. Although you can vape nic salts with high-powered devices like box mods, you’ll get an unhealthy dose of nicotine.
Nic Salts vs. Freebase Nicotine
Nicotine salts and freebase nicotine have their strengths and weaknesses, and they each serve their purposes. Let’s explore what each does best and what they are best suited for.
Some of the strengths and weaknesses of Nicotine Salts include:
- Longer shelf life.
- Ideal for new vapers.
- Provide a smoother throat hit.
- Allow for higher nicotine strengths.
- Tend to be more expensive.
- It can only be used with low wattage devices.
- Creates fewer clouds
- Easier to get sick because too much nicotine is ingested.
Some of the strengths and weaknesses of Freebase Nicotine include:
- Can handle more complex flavors.
- Creates bigger clouds
- Is less expensive
- Has more flavors available.
- Has a lower absorption rate
- It is harsher on the throat.
- It has a shorter shelf life
- Can be used with both high power and low power devices
Switching From Tobacco
If you’re looking to switch to vaping from tobacco but are still undecided, in this section, we cover some of the best reasons why you should switch and answer some of the common questions smokers who are transitioning have when switching to vaping.
Vaping Doesn’t Make You Smell
Another reason to leave cigarettes behind and take up vaping is that vaping does not leave nasty odors on your clothes, body, hand, or mouth. With vaping, you can vape inside your car, in your office, and your home, without worrying about leaving stains or smells in your furniture, blinds, or any other items.
Vaping also does not create any ashes, so there is no need for ashtrays that can spill and cause a mess or the need to clean ashes that accidentally fall on your clothes or car seats.
You’ll Save More Money
Another benefit of switching to vaping is that you’ll save money in the process. Depending on the type of smoker you are, you could be looking at USD 1000 a year if you smoke a pack every other day and live in a state where cigarettes aren’t heavily taxed. In New York, for example, a pack could cost around $12 as opposed to Florida, where they only cost around $7.
However, with vaping after the initial cost of buying a vape and figuring out the e-juices you like, you could be looking at $250 to $350 a year since every bottle of e-juice usually costs between $10 to $20 and lasts about a month.
New Flavors to Discover
Also, with vaping, you’ll discover that you have more options when it comes to flavors. Thousands to be exact. In vaping, there is a flavor for everything. Cereals, seasonings, fruits, desserts, alcoholic beverages, candy, beverages, coffee, energy drinks can all be e-liquids. However, if sweets and fruits or drinks aren’t your thing, you can also get a classic Virginia tobacco flavor or menthol or mint flavor.
Side Effects of Switching to Vaping
Although not everyone experiences side effects when switching to vaping, it’s vital to list them so you know what to expect. Some of the side effects of switching to vaping from smoking include:
- Coughing: Like with cigarettes, you’ll probably cough as you learn to inhale the vapor. Since vaping is entirely different than smoking (the vapor is thicker), you need to know to take slow, and longer drags to inhale more vapor instead of short and intense pulls.
- Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is a common side effect since propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin are hygroscopic, meaning that they draw water away. Fix this by drinking water.
- Headaches: Small headaches are common if you recently quit cigarettes. Although not a side effect of vaping, instead of quitting cigarettes, these headaches are caused because your body will crave other alkaloids found in tobacco. That, or you might be merely dehydrated.
- Dizziness: Or the headrush experienced when smoking or vaping, can be attributed to the nicotine level. The higher the nicotine level, the stronger the dizziness or headrush experienced. This side effect is common amongst smokers who switch to vaping, especially with nicotine salts, which have high nicotine concentrations.
How Hard is it to Switch to Vaping?
Switching to vaping has its challenges, but it’s not impossible. If you want to succeed on your first attempt, keep these things in mind:
- Do your research: You want to learn all about vaping before making the jump. What to expect and what products to buy are some of the things you should research before buying your first vape device.
- Remember to pick the right nicotine strength: This is half the battle. Remember that there are different types of nicotine strengths. However, you probably won’t get the perfect amount of nicotine right away. Remember to keep the approximations found in this guide in mind, and raise or lower the nicotine strength until you hit the perfect amount.
- Pick a flavor you love: Not all e-juices flavors are created equal, even if they are both trying to replicate the same thing. For example, you might find yourself preferring a vanilla custard flavor from one brand but not from another. Or you might find yourself vaping a taste you never thought you would like. The key is to try new flavors until you find the right one.
- Be patient and give it time: Remember that there might be some discomfort at first, and you might experience some side effects, but give time, and you’ll soon be vaping with zero discomforts.
How Easy is it to Quit Vaping?
Quitting vaping is more comfortable than quitting smoking. Many people take up vaping to quit nicotine, and in the UK, vaping is considered a cessation tool that helps people quit nicotine and smoking outright.
The best way to quit vaping and nicotine is to gradually wean off by slowly decreasing the nicotine strength found in your favorite e-juice. Some of the most common nicotine levels include 18mg, 12mg, 6mg, 3mg, and 0mg. So, to gradually wean off, you’ll want to lower your nicotine intake by the lowest next lowest amount. So if you usually vape 12mg, the next level would be 6mg, and on and on until you reach 0mg.
If you use a pod system and vape nicotine salts, you’ll find the nicotine levels are much higher, for example, 50mg, 48mg, 30mg, 24mg. Once you reach the lowest nicotine salt level, which will probably be 24mg, you should switch to using an open pod system that will let you refill your pods and cartridges with traditional e-juice. From there, continue lowering the nicotine level until you reach zero.
You might find yourself having to choose a new flavor that has a lower nicotine level, that's okay. Remember that the goal here is to lower your nicotine consumption. It's also important to note that while quitting, you might be tempted to vape more than usual; try to prevent this, as you'll end up vaping more e-liquid, increasing your dosage of nicotine.
Cleaning your Vape Device
Finally, the last order of business is learning how to maintain your vape device. Since you can't wash disposables and pod systems, we'll only go over how to clean vape pens and box mods. Let's start with vape pens.
How To Clean a Vape Pen
To clean a vape pen, you'll need the following four things:
- Hot Water
The first step is to take apart your vape pen. You should have three parts after disassembling the vape pen, the vape pen's body (that holds the battery), the mouthpiece, and the clearomizer or tank.
After you have all the parts laid out, you'll want to fill your syringe with hot water, and just as if you were loading the vape pen with e-juice, you would insert hot water into the tank using the syringe. Next, you'll want to close the tank with the mouthpiece and shake the tank for a few seconds. You'll then open the mouthpiece and pour the water out; it should have gotten rid of all the gunk and dirt. Repeat until the tank, and the wicks inside are completely clean.
Next, you'll want to pour the mouthpiece into a bowl of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. After ten or more minutes have passed, take the mouthpiece and, using the q-tips clean the area where you inhale and the place that attaches to the tank.
Before putting the parts together, make sure they are completely dry (you can use a blow dryer for this), mostly the tank since there is a good chance that it might dilute the next vape juice you use.
How To Clean Your Box Mod
To clean your box mod, you'll need the following items:
- Paper Towels
- Hot Water
- Dish Soap
Again the only part you'll be cleaning in a box mod is the tank. So detach your vape tank from your box mod and then disassemble your tank. Now that all the parts are laid out, you'll want to run them under hot water and then put them in a bowl. Fill the bowl with hot water and add a few drops of dish soap. Stir the water with your hands and leave the parts under the soapy water for 10 minutes.
Next, take every part and examine it. Are there some parts that still have e-juice dirt or gunk? If so, take the q-tips and gently remove the vape juice residue. Make sure every component is free of gunk. Next, you'll want to put all the tank parts on paper towels and let them completely dry, or you can use a blow dryer to avoid stains. After they are dry, put them back together. Congratulations, you just learned how to clean your box mod.
Why should you clean your vape device?
Cleaning your vape device is essential to extend the device's lifespan, not to mention better for your health. If you don't clean your vape regularly, you'll find that dirt, saliva, gunk, and other residues will build up around your mouthpiece and tank, and this will affect your device, the taste of your e-liquids, and your health.
When should you clean your vape device?
It will help if you clean your vape pen or box mod regularly, especially when switching between e-liquids. You should clean your vape once a week if you have the time, but at least once per month. This will ensure that you always have the best flavor and performance possible.
With this extensive and thorough guide, we hope that you learn everything a beginner like you needs to get started in the wonderful world of vaping. We hope we covered all the basics, but if you still find yourself with some questions, don’t forget to reach out to us, and we’ll help you with whatever you need.
- Center for Tobacco Products. (2020, June 3). Chemicals in Cigarettes: From Plant to Product to Puff. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/products-ingredients-components/chemicals-cigarettes-plant-product-puff
- Brueck, H. (2019, November 15). The wild history of vaping, from a 1927 “electric vaporizer” to today’s mysterious lung injury crisis. Insider. https://www.insider.com/history-of-vaping-who-invented-e-cigs-2019-10#in-1927-joseph-robinson-dreamed-up-what-might-be-the-very-first-electric-vaporizer-a-device-he-said-was-for-medicinal-compounds-2
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020a, April 1). CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=184.1666
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020b, April 1). CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.1320&SearchTerm=glycerin
DISCLAIMER: EjuiceDB articles and blogs are meant to entertain and educate. However, we are not medical professionals and do not intend to give medical advice through them. Furthermore, Vaping products and nicotine use are only meant for persons over the age of 21.
Children, breastfeeding and pregnant women, persons with risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or that take medications especially for depression or asthma should not use nicotine or vaping products. Always consult a licensed physician prior to use.