A Beginner’s Guide to Vaping

Vaping word cloud concept.

Vaping is a great way to quit smoking without having to go through all the associated withdrawal symptoms and trauma normally experienced when giving up the habit. However, for those new to vaping, it can seem a daunting experience.

First, there is all the terminology to cope with – RTAs, RDTAs, Drippers, Mods, 18650s, Coils, Cartridges, Clapton Wire, the list is endless. Then there is the e-liquid, do you want to go with a 50/50 mix? Should I choose 12mg or 18mg nicotine strength? What are PG and VG?

The good news is that vaping is actually quite simple and getting started is easy. Nonetheless, having a grounding in the components and how they work together is helpful.

What is vaping?

Regardless of all the terminology and methods used, all vaping breaks down to the same process – A liquid containing nicotine is absorbed into wicking material, which is then heated by a coil producing a vapour that you inhale. Simple!

And if you want to keep it simple, then that’s fine, a starter kit, some spare coils and some liquid are all you need to get vaping, and some people will stick with this through their entire vaping journey.

For others, it will become a hobby. Many vapers will begin to build their own coils and mix their own e-liquids. Ardent vapers will have drawers full of mods and tanks of all descriptions. That’s the beauty of vaping, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

Regardless of whether you intend to keep it simple or decide to explore all the different intensities and flavours that various types of tanks and mods can produce, it is good to have a basic understanding of the concepts, equipment, and terminology of vaping.

This article describes everything a beginner needs to know about vaping. It breaks down all the equipment and consumables that are commonplace into categories so that by the end of the article, you will understand the difference between a dripper and an RTA and just what batteries you should buy for your VW/VV Mod.

A brief history of vaping

There were various attempts to produce a safer alternative to smoking before vaping in its current form hit the market. The father of modern vaping is a Chinese pharmacist called Hon Lik, himself a heavy smoker who had lost his father to a smoking-related illness. It was the loss of his father that Hon Lik says galvanised him to create a safe alternative to smoking.

By 2003 he had created the technologies that still are the basis of vaping, and by 2006 the first e-ciggies hit the European market. The first e-ciggies were almost a complete emulation of the real thing. They were designed to look exactly like a cigarette with the vape production activated when the user took a puff. However, it wasn’t long before other forms began to appear that allowed users to refill a cartridge with e-liquid.

Initially, most of these new devices were of the vape pen type, a device that remains popular and is still a common pathway for smokers looking to try vaping. But it wasn’t long before people began to get inventive, and a completely new industry of tanks, drippers, and Mods was born.

Vape Pens

Vape pens could be considered the second generation of e-ciggies. They took the original cig-a-like concept of the eciggy and added some improvements. Vape pens offered improved battery life, a microchip to regulate the power and the use of a more advanced atomiser (sometimes referred to as a clearomizer). They were also the first devices to popularise the concept of a refillable tank.

Vape pens have remained popular since their inception, and the technology behind them has steadily improved. Vape pens are still the number one choice for smokers looking to start vaping.

Tanks, Atomisers, and Drippers

The third generation of e-ciggies saw the introduction of the separate tank and mod systems. We will have a look at Mods a little later in the guide, but first, let’s discuss the various popular categories of tanks. These constitute the business end of the vaping kit, this is where the e-liquid meets the coil, and the vape is produced.

For beginners, it can also be one of the most confusing areas. Most beginners will begin with a basic tank that takes a pre-made coil that can be easily exchanged. Many will then advance onto more complex tanks and drippers. Most tanks and drippers have common features like adjustable airflow that allows you to control the tightness of the “draw.”

A description of the most common types is below:

●      Atomiser Tanks

These are the simplest to use and come in a range of different shapes and sizes. An Atomiser Tank will take a prefabricated coil and wick set up that is usually screwed or clicked into place. The tank is then loaded with liquid, screwed onto a mod, and you’re vaping!

How long a coil lasts is dependent on how much you vape, but in general, you can expect a coil to last anywhere between a week and a month.

Because of its simplicity, this type of tank is a great option for beginners or for those wanting to take the next step up from a vape pen.

●      Pod or Cartridge Systems

These are another great option for beginners. They are subtly different from an atomiser tank as they use a Pod or Cartridge that snaps onto a battery holder (Mod) designed specifically for the pod. In most cases, the pod will consist of both the tank, coil, and wick in one unit.

●      Rebuildable Tank Atomiser (RTA)

A rebuildable tank atomiser functions in the same way as an atomiser tank. The difference is with a rebuildable tank, you build the coil or coils yourself. This is not something that would be recommended for beginners, but many vapers will quickly head down this route.

There are cost savings to be made by doing this. But most vapers build their coils because it allows them loads of customisation options. We will touch briefly on some of the options available a little later in the article, but aspects like the type of wire, the build of the wire, and the resistance of the coil (ohms) are amongst the options.

●      Dripping Atomiser

These are generally rebuildable atomisers, but what sets them apart from RTAs is the fact dripping atomisers have no tank to store the liquid. As the name suggests, with a dripping atomiser, the dripping e-liquid is dripped straight onto the atomiser by the user.

This may seem inconvenient, but disciples of dripping atomisers will tell you that they produce the most flavour of all types, and for those who like to “chase clouds”, the dripping atomiser is the preferred choice.

This is another atomiser type that is more suited to advanced vapers.

●      Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomiser (RDTA)

This is a hybrid system that combines the benefits of a tank system with the flavour and clouds of a dripper. It works by holding a reservoir of liquid below the coil, the wick or wicks drop down into the tank, and this feeds up to the coil.

These are the main types of tanks, there are some others like a squonking atomiser that is another take on the RDTA approach, but for all intents and purposes, that covers 95% of the tank types you are likely to come across.

Mods

The Mod is basically the device that provides the power to heat the coil and produce the vape. There is a massive variety of mods of all shapes, sizes, and cost on the market.

Most mods, tanks, and drippers, work with a standard fitting called a 510 connector. In practice, what this means is that all your tanks and drippers and mods are interchangeable.

All Mods use at least one battery for power, although some have the battery built-in and are charged through a USB port. Some more terminology comes into play when we discuss Mods with interchangeable batteries, this is where terms like 18650 get mentioned a lot. Basically, this is just a reference to the size of the battery, 18mm (diameter) x 650mm (length).

Most mods will use batteries of two main sizes:

  • 18650
  • 20700

As most mods don’t come with batteries, it is important to buy the correct size when you are purchasing a mod. It is also crucial to buy good quality batteries, these are high discharge batteries, and cheap brands can be dangerous.

●      VV/VW Mods (Regulated Mods)

These days most mods are of this type. If you see VV or VW, then this refers to the Mod being Variable Voltage / Variable Wattage. This allows you to change the amount of power supplied to the coil and therefore vary the amount of vape produced.

Some Mods offer temperature control functions. These will cut power to the coil once it reaches a pre-set temperature. This is a more advanced function that isn’t suitable for beginners.

Regulated mods have safety devices as standard, which protect the user from short circuits and overloading coils with too much power.

●      Unregulated/ Mechanical Mods

Unlike the regulated Mods where the amount of power that is pushed through the coil can be controlled, an unregulated Mod doesn’t have such control. Instead, it simply supplies the power that the battery has left.

Because of the lack of safety features, these should only be used by advanced vapers that have an understanding of electrical circuitry and ohm’s law.

Everything you need to know about e-liquids

Once again, at its heart, this is a simple aspect of vaping that can become more complicated if you choose.

For beginners, the biggest factor they need to consider is the strength of the nicotine. This is something that varies hugely from person to person and even on the system being used (some systems produce more vape, therefore many people will drop the nicotine level), so it is impossible to offer a definite answer about where to start. However, smokers just starting vaping commonly begin with a higher nicotine level.

The nicotine level is usually expressed in mg, and the most common strengths are:

  • 18mg ­– This is considered a strong liquid, and many heavy smokers just starting to vape will use this
  • 12mg – A medium strength liquid
  • 6mg – Low strength
  • 0mg – Nicotine free

E-liquid flavours

This is not a choice that smokers are used to! Cigarettes are tobacco flavoured, and that was pretty much the choice. With vape, the choice seems endless, all manner of fruit flavours, custards and puddings, menthol and menthol variations, coffee and tea, and of course tobacco.

There is no right or wrong choice. New vapers usually begin with a tobacco flavour e-liquid and then maybe try a fruit flavour. Most vapers will end up chopping and changing the flavours they are vaping, sometimes each time they refill a tank!

One of the great pleasures of vaping is trying different flavours and building up a collection of your favourites.

PG and VG

E-liquid comprises two main ingredients Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerine (VG). The amounts of these present in the liquid is expressed as a ratio. For instance, 60/40 is 60% PG and 40% VG, this is a common mix amongst most manufactured liquids. Liquids that vary from this will usually prominently display the ratio.

VG is a thicker liquid that holds more flavour and produces a denser vape. PG is thinner and gives more of the “throat hit” that smokers are used to.

Most people start with an off the shelf liquid of about 60/40 or 50/50, and as they learn their preferences, they start to try other ratios.

Wire and Resistance

Finally, let’s touch briefly on some other topics. Advanced users will find this part of the guide rather simplistic, but it is aimed at giving new vapers a grounding on some of the other aspects of vaping, without going into too much unnecessary detail.

●      Resistance

In vaping terms, resistance refers to the electrical resistance of the coil they are using. Like all electrical resistance, it is measured in ohms.

Sub-ohm coils are coils that have a resistance of less than 1, and the lower you go with the resistance, the more vape you produce. One common metaphor used to describe resistance is by likening it to a garden hose. A hose with a thicker diameter can let more water through, the same applies to coils, coils that use thicker wire let more electricity flow and provide more heat to vaporise the liquid. Of course, this comes at the expense of battery life.

Most tank systems will offer a range of coils to cover different resistances.

●      Wire

The wire referred to in vaping terms is the wire that is used to build the coil. In the early days of vaping, this was usually Kanthal wire that was available in different thicknesses (this affects the resistance).

There are now 5 main wires that are used, and all have different properties. This is really something that will only be of concern to advanced vapours, but for the record, the common types of wire are:

  • Kanthal
  • NiChrome
  • Nickel
  • Titanium
  • Stainless Steel

Just to complicate the matter a bit further, as well as being available in different thicknesses, wires are also available in different configurations, such as Clapton wire, where a smaller gauge wire is wrapped around a thicker centre wire. However, this is an article in its own right, and for beginners, it isn’t something they should be concerned about.

Vaping Etiquette

Smokers are used to being something of a pariah in public life. And although vaping does not have the same risks associated with the “passive smoking” concerns that have seen smoking banned from most indoor and some outdoor public spaces, for the most part, the same rules that apply to smoking are applied to vaping.

To play it safe, it is best to avoid vaping in public spaces such as bars and restaurants unless you are told it is okay to do so.

One of the great factors about vaping is it doesn’t leave the stale tobacco smell that lingers after cigarettes are smoked. For this reason, many vapers are comfortable vaping in their own homes even when they wouldn’t smoke indoors. However, when it comes to other people’s space, it is always polite to ask before subjecting them to a plume of rhubarb and custard vape, no matter how pleasant the scent is.

While studies have shown that second-hand vapour poses no health risk, many people remain ignorant of this, and vapers should always take this into consideration when vaping in public.

How to get started vaping

By now, you should have an understanding of the concepts and hardware of vaping. As we noted earlier in the article, vaping can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. However, for those just getting started, the best advice is to keep it simple at first and discover just how deep you want to delve into what, for many people, becomes a hobby.

Keeping it simple doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. These days even starter kit vape pens produce loads of flavour and a vaping experience that is akin to smoking. There are plenty of pod and pen systems that are great starter kits, and for many vapers, it is all they will ever need to satisfy their craving and keep them off the cigarettes.

For those wanting to try something a little bit more advanced, a good mod with a tank system that uses replaceable coils is the next step up.

How to vape

Smoking a cigarette has a definite cycle – you light the cigarette, smoke it through to its conclusion, and that’s it. One of the major differences between smoking and vaping is the lack of this cycle. For this reason, many vapers will initially experience a condition known as “nicotine headache.” This is due to vaping too much.

This happens mostly with new vapers and is easily remedied. Firstly the novelty of vaping means that new vapers tend to vape more. Also the initial stopping smoking phase causes this too. Simply dropping a level in the nicotine concentration will alleviate this.

A good guide is for each cigarette you smoked, a vape session of around 10 minutes would be the equivalent. This assumes that you puff your vape device with the same frequency as you would have done with a cigarette.

The draw of a vape is different from a cigarette too. There are two methods common amongst vapers they are:

  • Mouth to lung – This closely emulates the draw of a cigarette.
  • Direct to lung – This is mostly used by advanced vapers and needs lots of airflow, this would always be used with a low or even zero nicotine juice.

Most people begin with a tighter draw or the “mouth to lung” method. The tightness of the draw is controlled by an airflow regulator that loosens or tightens the draw.

The difference between smoking and vaping will be quite noticeable at first, but vaping will soon become second nature with continued use.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this guide to vaping for beginners. Vaping is a fantastic method of kicking the smoking habit that has helped millions of people all over the world quit cigarettes for good.

Vaping can become a hobby for many people, and this means that there is a huge amount of kit on the market. For the beginner, this can be off-putting, but we hope this article has shown you that this needn’t be the case. Vaping can be as simple as you want to make it.

If you need any help choosing the right kit, contact our friendly team today for expert advice.