A short guide to vaping
What is vaping?
Electronic cigarettes are designed to be a less harmful alternative to smoking. You still deliver the nicotine to your system but with e-cigarettes you don’t burn anything, thus it is nowhere near as harmful as inhaling smoke. Everything depends on your endgame so if you intend to wean yourself slowly off nicotine and quit altogether it is doable.
If you smoke, you are smoking – if you inhale vapour, you are vaping, easy as that.
What is an e-cigarette?
The e-cigarette is an electronic device that consists of 2 main parts: the power source (usually a battery) and an atomiser. E-cigarette batteries have a button on them that activates the atomiser – since those silly things don’t know when you are inhaling you have to press that button to let them know every time you intend to take a puff.
How do they work?
The atomiser that sits on top of your battery has a reservoir, a tank that holds the liquid. Inside that tank you can find a small heating element as well, which is usually replaceable. Every time you press the button the heating element boils a small amount of liquid and as you draw air from the mouthpiece with your mouth the vapour is created.
Most devices are user refillable and the heating elements are user replaceable to make vaping more economical and environment friendly than single use cartridge systems.
What is the liquid?
E-liquid is the fluid that we evaporate in those devices. Usually they are made up using four main ingredients: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavourings and usually nicotine as well, however, most liquids are available without the latter ingredient. To achieve that satisfaction tobacco smoke provides for smokers we use a tiny amount of nicotine that is inhaled with the vapour and as nicotine is absorbed it stops the cravings.
Propylene glycol and glycerol are commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics and food industry and they are safe to consume.
What liquid do I need?
Flavour and strength is always preference. There are no hard and fast rules. However, based on your smoking habits you have a ballpark figure what nicotine level you might enjoy.
If you smoke tailor made cigarettes and more than 20 a day, you need 18mg strength respectively. If you smoke 10-15 regular cigarettes or 10-20 roll-ups 12mg is what you need. If you smoke even less, lets say 5-10 cigarettes or rollies a day there is 6mg strength for you. It is always worth having one stronger and one weaker if you are new to this, thus you can try them both and see which one you prefer.
For example, if you smoke 25 roll-ups on a daily basis you might grab one bottle of 18mg and one bottle of 12mg. If you enjoy the 18mg more than the 12mg you can always get a bottle of the same flavour in 18mg and mix it with the 12mg bottle to get twice as much 18mg and no liquid has to go in the bin. Yes, you can mix them to make different strengths or unique flavours.
How does the atomiser tank work?
The atomiser tank needs to be connected to the battery in order to work. The threaded bottom on your tank provides the mechanical and electrical connection to the top of your battery so you must keep them both clean. Every time you refill your tank give that screwy bit a wipe to ensure proper connection.
The tanks are refillable and in most cases transparent as well so you can keep an eye on the liquid level in them. Never run them dry, top them up in a regular manner.
New tanks fill from the bottom, so you have to take them off the battery and hold them upside down. The base of the tank can be unscrewed from the reservoir part and that is how you can get access to it. Make sure you pour the liquid in along the wall of the tank. You don’t want any of it in the tube in the centre – that is the airway. If the liquid gets in there it will end up in your hand, table or in your mouth since that airway leads to the mouthpiece. For the same reason you have to stop filling before the top of that tube. If the tank is refilled, screw the base back on to reseal the tank and assemble it with your battery. Remember, these connections have to be only finger tight so never screw them together too hard!
What is the heating element?
The most important component inside your tank, the heart of the system. The metal base you unscrew when refilling holds the heating element. On the inside there is a heating coil and some wicking material that might be organic cotton or silica wick. The wick delivers a certain amount of e-liquid to the coil. That is the white, slightly fluffy thing you see on either side of your heating element. Do not pull it out, do not wash it, do not even touch them.
That element is going to wear out after a while since it has a stressful job heating up and cooling down rather quickly and thus it has to be replaced regularly. Most heating elements can use up to 20-30 ml of e-liquid, in normal use that translates to about two weeks. If it gives you burnt flavour, less vapour, restricted airflow just unscrew the old heating element from the base of the tank and install a new one. It has to be screwed down firmly – if it is loose the tank might leak.
Bear in mind, new heating elements arrive dry on the inside so in order to prevent burning them out straight away put a drop of liquid on the exposed wick and wait a few seconds until it gets absorbed. After that screw the heating element in the base, screw the base back in the tank and leave it there sitting upright for 15-20 minutes so the liquid can get everywhere it needs to go.
What does the battery do?
Every time you press the fire button the connector on top of the battery gets electrified. If you have an atomiser tank on top and they have a good connection the heating element starts working during button presses. Since the batteries contain the actual battery cell, the switching and the safety electronics it is rather important to keep them clean and dry. If you have leakage due to a broken tank or an overused heating element you must take that off the battery!
The button has another feature, too. As you can imagine, if it is in your pocket or handbag the button might be pressed accidentally. If no one is taking a puff during that the heating element can overheat and burn the liquid instead of boiling it. The end result is rather unpleasant: nasty burnt taste and a ruined coil.
To prevent this batteries have locking features. Click the fire button five times quickly until it blinks a few times and shuts off. Now the battery is deactivated and if you press the button no light should be seen behind it. If the battery is switched on the button is lit when pressed.
Some batteries tell you how charged they are. The colour of the button refers to the charge level, see product page or user manual for specific info.
Is the battery rechargeable?
E-cigarette batteries are rechargeable lithium-ion batteries just like mobile phones or laptop computers. If you buy them in a starter kit you get a charger with the devices – usually a USB charging cable. If you don’t have a computer or a wall plug that has a USB socket on it you might need a wall adapter. Since most people already have these things the mains adaptor is not included in most starter sets.
The regular USB charger found in a starter kit has a black box on one end with a threaded connector. Your battery needs to be screwed in there but only after a good cleaning: make sure your battery’s top connector is clean and dry. You don’t want to transfer any liquid into the charging electronics. Plug the other end into any USB socket and wait until the indicator light on the black box turns solid green. Also, you neither have to fully charge your battery every time, nor completely drain it – you can top them up any time and as much as you like.
There are some more advanced devices as well that require a different charging method. With them you can find a micro USB socket on the device and usually they come with standard micro USB leads as well. Those batteries can also be used while they are charging (if you don’t mind being tethered) and in that regard they are exactly like a mobile phone.
The overall lifespan of the battery can vary between 1 to 3 years. The more you look after it the longer it will last.
How do I use it?
First you have to make sure your tank has substantial amount of liquid in it, your heating element is primed and ready to go and your battery is charged.
If you have a regular starter kit, press the button shortly to see if the battery is on. If the button lights up you are good to go.
Keep your finger over the button but do not press it just yet. Pop the mouthpiece in your mouth and press the button as you take a drag. Try to suck with your mouth and not with your lungs – if you suck with your lungs and take it straight back it might make you cough. Fill your mouth with the vapour, let the button go and inhale the vapour from your mouth.
Can I change the flavour?
The atomiser tank is washable and reusable. Indeed, sometimes it is worth giving it a good rinse to keep it hygienic. If you intend to change the flavour in your tank you have to remove the coil and wash the other parts of the tank until the scent of the previous liquid disappears. Be careful, do not lose any of the gaskets and seals, use a sieve if you can.
Screw a new heating element in and prepare the wick with the new liquid as described before.