I’ve been a smoker for 20 years. My mom has smoked since she was 16, and her mother smoked since god knows when before she died of smoking-related health problems. My mother is currently headed down the same path, with a brain aneurism and massive circulatory problems in no small part due to her smoking for over 40 years.
Needless to say, it was time for me to quit smoking.
I’ve tried other things before and had the most success with Chantix, which actually worked pretty well for a while, and I got crazy-vivid dreams to boot. I’d quit for a few months, and then something would happen to spike my stress levels up, and I went back to doing what I always did – smoking about a pack a day of Newport Lights.
I think everyone understands that smoking is bad for you – but it’s also expensive as hell in NYC (~$13 a pack) and incredibly inconvenient (since you can’t smoke anywhere legally anymore).
I’m not here to lecture anyone that should quit smoking. That’s a decision you’ll have to come to on your own, and I’m not going to be one of those dicks who used to smoke cigarettes and now makes people who still smoke feel like douchebags. Quitting is fucking hard. Harder for some than for others, but it’s still not up to me to decide whether what you choose to do with your life is good or bad.
What I would like to do here is share with you my experiences on PVs, or personal vaporizers, sometimes misleadingly called “e-cigarettes”. It’s misleading because you’re not actually inhaling smoke, you’re inhaling vapor. In fact, other than the nicotine itself and that there is inhaling involved, there is absolutely nothing about PVs that even remotely resembles smoking cigarettes.
I’d also like to make some recommendations for inexpensive, low-maintenance starter-kits to lower the barrier to entry if it’s something you want to try, based off of my personal, unbiased experiences.
This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive piece on all PVs. There are several I haven’t tried, and I don’t claim to be an authority on all of the different available models. I’m just trying to give you the head start I wish I had when I started.
A Google search of “e-cigarettes”, “vaping” or “personal vaporizers” can be pretty daunting, as there is a whole hobby industry around folks who enjoy modifying their kits to the point where they wrap their own coils and spend countless hours discussing PG/VG levels and showing off their latest builds.
I don’t want any of that shit.
What I wanted was to find a cheap, easy, low maintenance PV that would feel as much like smoking as possible but didn’t require my to weave my own freaking wicks out of the finest Egyptian cotton, hand-raised by forest nymphs and lovingly picked by virgins. Seriously. Screw that. I just wanted something that worked.
I also wanted something sturdy – something I wasn’t going to have to fiddle with to keep it working.
What I ended up with (after some trial and error) is a small collection of inexpensive, reliable PVs that require almost no maintenance at all.
Quick note: I will be linking to specific vendors in some places throughout this post, simply because that’s where I got my stuff. If you can find it elsewhere for cheaper, by all means please do – just be cautious of counterfeits of lesser quality. I’m not getting kickbacks from the companies I’m linking to, I’m just trying to make it easier for you to get started.
I’d hope that you’ve done a little research on this already, but as I mentioned, trying to get a straightforward answer aimed at newbies can be challenging, with all the hobbyist info out there.
Most electronic cigarettes take an overall cylindrical shape although a wide array of shapes can be found: box, pipe styles etc. Many are made to look like tobacco cigarettes. Common components include a liquid delivery and container system, an atomizer, and a power source. Many electronic cigarettes are composed of streamlined replaceable parts, while disposable devices combine all components into a single part that is discarded when its liquid is depleted.
For the types of units I’ll be referring to here, I’m talking about refillable, not disposable. The disposable ones are mostly shit (for reasons I get into a little further down).
This means that you’ll have a unit roughly the size of a magic marker, that’s made up of a rechargeable battery, an atomizer or heating coil, and a refillable reservoir for the liquid.
There are lots of great FAQs out there (which you absolutely should read - this one from MyVapeSupplies is great), but many of them miss the questions of what to actually expect when using one of these things.
You’ll be replacing the heating coil about once a week, although I’ve gotten two or more weeks from them sometimes. You’ll know when it’s time to replace the coil when you hear gurgling when you pull from the PV, or when you’re pulling harder than you normally have to and you know your battery is charged.
You’ll be refilling the liquid about once a day, possibly slightly more or less, depending on how much you use it, and how big the reservoir is. I typically have to fill mine once every day and a half.
It sounds like a pain, but it honestly takes less than 30 seconds to swap a coil, and less than 20 seconds to fill the tank. It’s insanely easy.
You’ll quickly learn to pay attention to how much liquid you use, and will make it a habit to stay on top of keeping it filled. You never want to pull from an empty reservoir. Ever.
If you start to notice a burning taste when you pull from your PV, check your liquid level. If you completely drain it and take a pull, it will taste like a trash can full of burning dog testicles. Seriously, it’s nasty. At that point, you’re smoking wick, and it’s not something you ever want to taste.
That said, it may happen occasionally. It still happens to me sometimes, and it’s gross, but it will become second nature for you to check and make sure you’ve got liquid in there. If you fill your reservoir after burning a wick, it may still taste funny, so you may need to swap the coil afterwards.
Again, it sounds a lot higher maintenance than it really is. This all becomes easy once you get used to it.
You can choose what amount of nicotine you want in your e-juice. Every e-juice manufacturer sells them in a variety of nicotine levels (including 0mg, for those that just love the taste). If you smoke a pack a day, you’ll probably want to start with 18mg or 24mg. I started with 24mg, but with my latest rig, I’ll be dropping down lower since I’m getting more vapor in each pull out of the kit I have now.
My goal is to keep reducing the mg of nicotine over time, which is what many vapers do. Many get down to low or 0mg (after having smoked at least a pack a day for decades), and either stop vaping, or continue to do it recreationally without the nicotine.
The nice thing is that just about every e-juice manufacturer offers sample sizes that usually run around $2-$3 a bottle, so you can try a few things out and see what works for you.
You may find yourself more thirsty than usual. This is completely normal. Just drink more water (which is kinda good advice in general anyway), and remember that the other things you drink (alcohol, caffeine, etc) can also contribute to dehydration. Many people report that the unusual thirstiness goes away after a few months, but either way, drink more water – it’s good for you!
The Throat Hit
I can’t go much further without talking about that sort of tingly feeling you get in the back of your throat when smoking an “analog” cigarette. Throat hit is SO important in vaping, and if you’ve tried the drug-store style e-cigs (like Blu, eJoy, etc), you’ll understand why.
Vaping to quit smoking is only going to work if what you replace it with is satisfying. If you’ve tried the drug-store brand and went back to analogs shortly after, chances are the reason is that the throat hit just wasn’t enough.
A good rule of thumb is that if it looks like a tobacco cigarette, it’s probably not worth buying. None of those style PVs will give you enough of a throat hit to leave you satisfied, and you’ll likely be back smoking analogs at some point soon. They’re good in a pinch, if your PV battery dies or you run out of e-liquid for it – or at least better than caving and buying a pack of analogs, but for most people, they’re not going to be great for long-term quitting. You have to drag too hard, and the throat hit just isn’t adequate.
I made this mistake when I started, and thought that vaping wasn’t for me, because my experience with the drug-store brands was so lackluster.
I started with the Katana Kit III Kanger Evod Single Kit from VapeDojo. It’s low-maintenance, cheap ($14), and incredibly easy to use. That kit is often sold out on their website, but you can have them notify you when it’s back in stock, or you can get the larger kit for $35. The larger kit is the same thing, it just comes with an extra battery, extra coils (which you need to buy anyway), and an extra reservoir.
If you get the $14 kit that doesn’t come with a spare pack of coils, you’ll want to pick some of those up for $8.
They also sell sampler e-juice packs for around $11-13, but you may just want to pick up a singleton or two of their sample size. Most of their 15ml sample sizes (which can usually get me through 1-2 weeks) cost around $3-$5.
And that’s actually all you need to give it a try with a decent PV that actually gives you a chance at quitting smoking.
If you decide you like vaping, you can upgrade different parts of it depending on what you’re looking for, and still not have to mess with anything too much. A larger battery will usually mean a longer charge, a bigger tank means fewer refills, etc.
Right now I’m using a Kangar Protank 3 and an Innokin itaste vv (variable voltage) battery and I’m really happy with it. My boyfriend is using a Vapeonly CE5 BDC clearomizer (in purple, ‘cuz he’s fancy like that) with a standard eGo battery and he’s loving it.
We also tried the Kangar S1, which is smaller and lighter with a squared profile (so it doesn’t roll off the table – WHY IN GOD’S NAME ARE THEY NOT ALL SQUARE??) He liked it well enough, but I was having to fiddle with it too much in order to get it to work consistently, so in general, I wouldn’t recommend it. I loved the features (inset battery, squareness, and overall lightness), but I had to mess with it too much.
It’s hard to write about e-juice in a useful way, since my tastes are likely different than your tastes. I tend to like creamy flavors like caramel and butterscotch, but lots of people prefer flavors with more menthol, mint, or fruit.
BUT - I have a spreadsheet. (Of course I have a spreadsheet.) We’ve not even come close to exploring all of the flavors out there, but we’ll be adding our comments and ratings to the stuff we try. My current obsessions are Salted Caramel (SO good) and Gingerbread (seasonal) from Artisan Vapors. I also love Berries and Cream, Boston Cream Pie, Vanilla Custard and Butterscotch from VapeDojo. All of the yum without the calories of the real thing.
My best advice when choosing e-juice is to research the company first, and always read the reviews. There’s currently no regulation on the manufacturers of e-juice and what they put into them, but the vaping community tends to be pretty self-policing so far. Check with the community to make sure your distributors are trustworthy. (There is currently a movement promoting responsible self-regulation – check out AEMSA for more info.)
E-juice is usually clear, but can sometimes be slightly pink or brown based on the ingredients that were steeped to give it its flavor. In general, steer clear of opaque or weirdly colored juices, or at least ask the manufacturer what gives it that color. (I won’t use anything opaque or that I know has artificial coloring.)
Side note: I was going to build a web app for folks to be able to submit their own e-juice ratings, find similar flavors, etc – but it seems someone else beat me to it. Check out JuiceDB for ratings and reviews!
I am not a doctor, and none of this is meant to be medical advice. This is just my experience. I can say that since cutting down and eventually eliminating analog cigarettes, I can breathe better and have lost the subtle smoker’s cough that I hadn’t even realized I had developed. My skin and clothes smell better too, which is a bonus, especially since my sense of smell has come back. (My hands now usually smell just faintly of salted caramel, which is my current favorite e-juice flavor – not a bad thing!)
While money wasn’t a primary motivator for me to switch to PVs, in NYC I was spending $13 a day on cigarettes. That’s $91/week, $364/month, or over $4k/year.
Let’s say you started off with the kit I suggested above, and used it for an entire year, replacing the coils every week. A 5-pack of coils costs $8, putting them at $1.60 a coil. E-juice costs about $4 for a week’s supply (and that’s assuming heavy use, more expensive juice and no savings for buying bigger containers than the 15ml sample size),
That’s a $14 (kit), plus $83 in coils and $208 in juice for the entire year – which comes to $300 annually. Obviously, if you decide you like vaping and want to make the switch, you’ll want to pick up a few extra batteries and some other things you’ll want spares of, but overall, you just can’t even compare the math.
How to Quit
How you quit is up to you. Some people claim (erroneously) that the only way to completely transition from analogs to PVs is to stop smoking analogs altogether. In the same way that people that have quit smoking traditionally all have different stories (cold turkey, medication, patches, gum, etc), figure out what works for you.
For some people, it’s going to be a mix of analogs and PV, until the analogs don’t taste good anymore. Other people have flipped a switch and converted. Whatever works for you is the right way to do it.
And if you happen to be into infosec and want to learn more about vaping mods, you should check out the SteamSec: Infosec Blowhards group on Facebook. They’re great.