Electronic Cigarettes For Dummies: A Brief Beginner’s Guide

Electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigs, are really coming on strong now. You finally have a product that replicates the sensation of smoking and delivers a dose of nicotine to your lungs — with none of the nasty tar stuff or other stuff that kills you. All you are bringing in is water vapor and nicotine. So any health problems from an e-cig will be the exact same health problems you would get from, say, chewing Nicorette gum.

We’re still in the early days, though, and everyone is jumping into the market. We are FLOODED with new choices all of a sudden. It can be incredibly confusing.

First, let me explain how an e-cig works. It’s a battery attached to something called an “atomizer”, which is basically simply a heating element, and on the end clips on a little piece — tank, cartridge, cartomizer, you’ll hear all these words for it, but it’s basically the same thing; it’s the thing that holds the e-liquid. You either press a manual button on the battery, which heats up the atomizer, or, if it’s automatic, you simply take a drag (it will detect you doing it) and it will automatically complete the circuit to the battery, heat the atomizer, and vaporize a small amount of the liquid in your cartridge, turning it into water vapor with nicotine in it. It does not taste exactly the same as smoking a real cigarette, but you will find that, if you have the right ecig and the right liquid, pretty soon you’re going to find this thing able to satisfy your nicotine craving — plus the oral fixation and habit that goes along with it.

The most important component in an e-cig is the atomizer. There are different sort of atomizers with different resistances. The lower the resistance, the more quickly the atomizer will heat up, meaning you will get more vapor, a better throat hit, and so on. Next is the battery. Now on the market are what are called “variable voltage” batteries that allow you to adjust the amount of power being sent to the atomizer, which will also help heat it up the way you prefer it (lower or higher).

Electronic cigarettes generally come in starter kits. If you want something that is going to be different than the kit provides, like a low-resistance atomizer, you will have to buy it separately, in most cases (some will allow you the option of a kit with different parts).

Next up, liquid. Liquid is also very important. There are two types: PG and VG. Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycol. I wasn’t being entirely honest when I said you’re just going to be getting water vapor; you’re going to be getting PG or VG in yourself as well, but there is no proven health risk to either of these compounds; they simply produce more vapor than water. PG has a slightly sweeter taste naturally, produces slightly less vapor, and is the more commonly used liquid. VG produces denser, thicker vapor, but may cause troubles with your vaping as it is a more viscous (thicker) fluid, so the atomizer sometimes has trouble vaping it properly and you’ll get a harsh throat hit. PG and VG come in all sorts of flavors and nicotine strengths. Around 25 mg nicotine is about the top for nicotine content; there’s higher out there, but you don’t see it that often. Obviously, you will need to choice your e-juice carefully and pick your favorite flavor, favorite sort of fluid, and nicotine strength. Also, there a gazillion companies out there making e-liquids. Comb the Internet for user reviews of what you’re looking for. Last note — they do make liquids with no nicotine at all if you want to get off the whole nicotine train entirely.

Final point on the basics before I move on a little — e-cigs basically come in three types. Mini, large, and giant. Mini e-cigs are the sort found at Blu Cigs and feel the most like a real cigarette in your hand, but they also have the smallest batteries, smallest cartridges for liquid, and so on, so you won’t be able to use them for very long before you have to change batteries or cartridges. Since I just mentioned Blu, let me give you my personal opinion on them, as they’re the most marketed e-cig out there — they suck bigtime. Great flavor — for about four puffs. I tried them when they started up, I tried them at every iteration of product design, and they still suck, trust me. Unfortunately, since they’re the most visible, you may get suckered into buying one. I hope you don’t. Some people love them, though, I do have to say. Keep this in mind all the time – you have to find the best e-cig for you, yourself, personally. If you’re a light smoker, maybe a Blu will work for you. Anyway, next up, is large, the most popular being the Joye eGo, which I use myself.  These are sort of like mini-cigars in size; if you’ve ever smoked a Hav-a-Tampa, it’s about like that. However, they have MUCH bigger batteries that will last for hours, and bigger cartridges or tanks for the liquid, as well as bigger better atomizers, so you’re going to get more vapor from them and a longer time before you have to recharge the battery or refill the e-juice. Finally: Giant. These usually come in the form of e-cig “modifications” sold separately from the kits, known in the vaping community as “mods”. They replace standard parts from your kits with different ones, the most common being the battery. I advise you, if you are a beginner, to stay away from mods entirely. They are in their infancy, and if you connect the wrong battery the wrong atomizer and so on, you run the risk of the battery exploding on you. I’m not kidding here. Try large first. Do not jump in with *any* mods yet. I’ve been vaping for about five to six years, and I have yet to try a single mod. There are mods for atomizers, cartridges, the list goes on and on. Just stay away for now. At some point I’ll write a separate post dealing with mods.

Now that you have the basic idea, I’ll tell you what the best setup for me has been so far (I am eternally searching for a better setup). Bear in mind that I was almost a 2-pack a day smoker. I have a Joyetech eGo-C Type A (eGo-Changeable “tank” system, tank meaning the liquid is not held by any sort of wadding, but simply straight liquid in a cartridge; Type A is just a difference in shape), with low resistance (“LR”) eGo-C atomizers, and I use 25 mg nicotine Basic brand banana-flavored VG liquid. My batteries are Joye eGo Twists, which are “variable voltage” batteries; they have a dial on the end of them that can change the voltage so you can try to get the optimum amount of power to the atomizer. Vaping heavily, I will have to change batteries roughly every three to four hours. For some people, they last for days. They come in different sizes, and I have the smallest, but the bigger they are, the more unwieldy they are. You’ll have to decide what you want to do yourself here. It’s a tradeoff. More size is better, but looks goofier. I still smoke regular cigarettes but have cut down to almost less than half a pack a day. In the morning, ALL I use is my electronic cigarette, and I never feel a craving for the real thing. Sometimes, in fact, when I’m smoking a real cigarette, I’ll wish I was vaping, put the cigarette out, and pick up my e-cig.

This has probably confused you already, even though I’m trying to do the most basic explanation I can; honestly, it still confuses me half the time, seeing all these kits and mods and whatnots out there. And, as I said, I’ve been doing this for six years.

So I’m going to wrap up with the last thing you’ll need to learn to master the basics — the technique of vaping. If you try to smoke it like a regular cigarette, it’s not going to work as well. Here’s what you want to do. You want to take a long, slow, steady, controlled drag, bringing it deep into your lungs (or the back of your throat, or whatever works for you; the key is the long slow drag). Alternatively, you can take a quick puff to heat up the atomizer, then take a longer, less quick drag. That will bring you more vapor, as you’ve pre-heated the atomizer with the initial drag.

I hope this has been a good starting point for you. I will end with my personal, unbiased, honest, sure-as-hell-not-paid-for opinion: Start your vaping experience with a Joye 510, 510-T (same as the 510 but a tank system), eGo, eGo-T or eGo-C (the T and C are both tank systems; the basic eGo is not and the liquid is absorbed in wadding). Joye is sort of basically the industry standard. They were one of the first in the game and they’re one of the best. Most of the ecigs you see out there are ripoffs of genuine Joye products; make sure you get a GENUINE Joye product. I get mine from http://www.cignot.com, mostly because the owner, Vicki, is incredibly good about responding to my questions promptly and efficiently. They have also have genuine Joye products (branded with the CigNot logo — they’re still real Joyetech).

Happy vaping, my friends.

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7 Responses to Electronic Cigarettes For Dummies: A Brief Beginner’s Guide

  1. Yes, tell all your friends you know to search on the web for e-cigs to check how big
    this business is, and how gigantic the choice is
    for these excellent products is. What really gets
    my goat, though, are the growing number of articles in the media saying how
    bad they are. Apparently drugs firms – the manufacturers of end-smoking little helpers are supporting an anti vaping smear
    campaign – less so the fag firms (as you might
    suppose) – as they cigarette manufacturers are putting money into them.
    I can really appreciate the benefits of e cigarettes.
    Just FYI – that there is always a hidden agenda with these
    b*stards trying to ban e cigarettes … our country’s politicos must do a lot more to help. This makes me so angry. Thanks Electronic Cigarettes For Dummies: A Brief Beginner

    • Kip says:

      I agree. You’re welcome for the beginner’s guide; I’ll try to put up some more tips soon, although I like to keep my own personal setup a secret. :-) I think the solution to some of this is to get the Big Tobacco companies onboard and manufacturing e-cigs themselves. Also, when they talk about “danger”, they’re often talking about PG, and never mention that you can get (and many vapers use) VG, which is just vegetable oil. They also talk about “unregulated” nicotine and fail to mention that you can easily get 0 nicotine juice. I’m hoping some of the more libertarian-minded Reps and Senators will take this on. Electronic cigarettes are SAVING LIVES. I have my dad on one now after he had a triple bypass and he says, without a doubt, if he didn’t have the e-cig, he’d be back to smoking again. Take care and happy vaping!

      • Barbara says:

        Hi Kit – nice article. I would just like to clarify a couple of things.

        VG is not ‘vegetable oil’, it’s vegetable glycerin. Totally different animal. You would not want to be inhaling any type of oil into your lungs.

        Also, you said ‘Alternatively, you can take a quick puff to heat up the atomizer, then take a longer, less quick drag. That will bring you more vapor, as you’ve pre-heated the atomizer with the initial drag.’. What you’re talking about here works with ‘automatic’ batteries (such as the Blu) but not ‘manual’ batteries (where you push a button to send power to the coil). With the manuals, most people simply hit the button as they’re lifting the e-cig to their mouth, thereby giving the battery a second or so to heat up the coil before they actually start inhaling.

        Thanks again for a nice, concise beginner’s guide.

        • Kip says:

          Good point. With manuals, you just press the button once, let it go, and press the button again if you want to pre-heat it. I’m using a tank system now and I never need to do it, though (tank cartomizers — better flavor than clearomizers, which I also have a few of). Yes, VG is vegetable glycerin, sorry about that. I just meant it’s vegetable-based and not anything akin to the propylene, which can be found in antifreeze, and while that hasn’t proven to be harmful (yet), I still don’t want to be inhaling anything to do with antifreeze. Happy vaping!

  2. Jenna says:

    I have been vaping for several months now, however was still confused by all of the options and coils and variable voltage batteries, etc. Thank you for breaking it down so well!

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