I have spent a lifetime putting harmful and horrible shit into my body, not the least of which has been cigarettes. I've quit a thousand times, and even spent over a year free of the habit. But this time (just like many times before) I'm serious, and a small electronic gizmo is going to help me. I can tell.
To start with, I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you that using electricity to vaporize propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or both with pure nicotine infused into the mix is not bad for you. Forget biased studies from either side, and forget the crazed E-vangelists or the tobacco lobby. All these folks have an agenda to get you on one side or the other of the E-cig issue. I'm no doctor (and you should really consult one before listening to me), but I think it's safe to say that puffing on a vaporizer isn't good for you. At a minimum, it's probably harmful in the same way eating red meat or using caffeine is. Or it could be as bad for you as the cigarettes I'm trying to replace. I can tell you that after just a day using the vaporizer in lieu of the cancer-sticks, my lungs told me they feel better — and I can't wait to see what they tell me in a few months.
How does all this work?
To start with, we're talking about vaporization and not combustion. Nothing is burning, and the "smoke" you see is vapor produced by super-heating the inert (hopefully) PG or VG in the liquid you're heating up. The active ingredient — in this case nicotine — is instantly vaporized and made available to the lungs because it vaporizes along with the propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine. It's the same theory the 420 crowd uses to vaporize medicinal marijuana, only without the tasty bud and sucking down all the giggles. It's also a valid theory, no matter how batshit crazy it sounds. Manipulating the temperature and knowing what temps you need to reach to vaporize — without actually burning anything — is the key. Yes, there is real science and engineering behind all of this.
To put these theories into practice, your E-cig will use electricity to power a wire (or series of wires) to a certain temperature. When those wires come in contact with the E-juice (we'll talk more about E-juice in a little bit) The nicotine vaporizes, as does the inert ingredient. Your body then absorbs the nicotine it craves, as well as some of the inactive ingredient used as a carrier. This gives you both the substance you're addicted to, and the feeling that your smoking both in your throat and when you see the white cloud of exhalation.
The methods used to get the E-juice from the on-board storage to the coil, then to your lungs are pretty diverse. And of course, some work better than others. If you're already a Vaper, you have your own favorite method whether it be dripping, cartomizers or tanks. If you're just getting started like I am, you're going to need some help sorting through all of this and finding a method that works for you.
If you want to dive into this and become a Vaper, you're going to be facing a confusing and impossible selection of equipment. Some of it looks and feels mostly like a cigarette, and will give you a satisfying familiarity when you cradle it between your fingers. Others look like a fat ball-point pen, and others look like some sort of industrial or scientific testing equipment.
When I first got the idea to get serious about vaping, I started with the cigarette look-a-like "mini" models. These come in both disposable and reusable styles, and chances are you've seen them for sale in some "mainstream" store. The disposable models are easy to use — just peel off the sticker and suck, while the reusable style takes cartridges that are filled with juice and are attached to a rechargeable battery. These look and feel familiar, but I found them lacking. The don't deliver the copious amounts of nicotine that a real cigarette does, and they get expensive if you compensate by puffing on one non-stop all day long. I soon realized that I needed to move on to something more exotic if i wanted to make this work.
Next I tried various mid-sized models the size and shape of a cigar. Anyone serious about vaping needs to start here, because this is where you no longer have a cigarette substitute and have a true vapor-delivery device. There are plenty of different models to choose from, and all of them use a refillable mouthpiece that holds a coil and your E-juice. They are also mostly manually operated, which means they heat while a button is pressed. This gives control over the amount of vapor generated as well as the duration, and for the most part can provide enough "satisfaction" to help with your nicotine habit.
I had a long and expensive road to get to a unit that works for me, and I finally realized that I was lost and needed help.
The next step up, and where I ended up going in the end, is the full-blown APV — Advanced Personal Vaporizer. These are the big daddy, and they leave any resemblance to a cigarette by the wayside. Because they aren't trying to mimic the shape or feel of anything else they come in a myriad of styles and sizes, with a full range of features and functions like variable voltage control, digital readout, and a long list of tank styles. This is where vaping gets serious, and for a gadget nerd, can get fun.
I had a long and expensive road to get to a unit that works for me, and I finally realized that I was lost and needed help. I knew that the mini E-cig style vaporizers didn't cut it, and after trying several different mid-sized vapes I got tired of the horrible taste of raw E-juice and poor performance and went to an expert.
Enter Stephen and his crew at VaporRise who took the time to explain both the problems I was having with my old equipment, and helped fit me into something that works for me. After seeing that what I wanted and needed was going to require the investment in an AVP, I was shown the different models and told the pros and cons of each and ended up buying an INNOKIN iTaste MVP 2.0 with a spare INNOKIN iClear 30S Dual Coil Clearomizer as well as a month's worth of E-juice — all for the price of two cartons of cigarettes. If you live in the west-side DC suburbs, take a trip to Martinsburg and drop in. If you don't, find a retailer who will take the time to get you started. The Internet is a great resource, as always, but talking to a professional will both save you money and and help you figure out what you need in a vaporizer. This isn't a vendor review, but seriously — without these guys and their help, I'd have said screw it and bought a carton of cigs.
Reading the description of one of the countless flavors of E-juice is a lot like looking at a review of a craft beer. You'll see words like woody and aroma, and it all sounds like a product perfected by monks in ancient, far-away monasteries over the centuries. In reality, it is simply a mixture of base ingredients, flavors, and nicotine if desired.
Yes, there are plenty of bottles and brands of E-juice out there that have absolutely no nicotine in them, and are designed for people who want to vape but don't want or need nicotine added to their body. After a taste of some of the delicious flavors of juice, I can see why.
There are at least 100 different brands of E-juice, and the supplies to mix your own are readily available online along with countless recipes. If you go for nicotine in your juice, you'll find varying strengths available, as well as unflavored base ingredients with nicotine infused. Right now, I'm puffing on Craft Vapes brand Irish Coffee flavor. I can taste the coffee, as well as something that reminds me of Harvey's Bristol Cream each and every time I take a hit. And it's fabulous. Smoking "regular" cigs was never this delicious.
Using the equipment
Now for the gadget porn section. I'm using my INNOKIN iTaste MVP and the big Clearomizer as an example here, but the basics are the same for any vape that uses a separate battery and chamber. Of course, some of the features will be specific to the MVP, so keep that in mind if you see something that's a little different to the unit you're using or thinking of buying.
The MVP 2.0 houses a 2600mAh Polymer Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. As a pack-a-day smoker, I can get just about three days life out of it before I need to put it on the charger with my voltage and wattage settings. It uses the industry standard (yes, vaping is an industry and it has standards) 510 connector which means that most tanks or cartomizers will fit just fine. It even includes what the call a beauty ring so you don't have to look at any threads or connection joints, and instead have a clean finish.
At 41mm wide, 22mm thick, and 107mm tall, it's not small. But The size is used to house the big battery, with a couple handy tricks that, to me, makes the the size worth it.
We'll get into the variable voltage and wattage, and the Ohmmeter, and the three-digit display shortly, but first I want to point out two great extras that made the MVP my choice. First off is the pass-through mode. Simply put, that means I can use it while it is charging. With the huge battery I should never run it completely dead, but like everyone else I do stupid things sometimes and it will eventually happen. Pass-through mode means that while the MVP is charging, I can still toke away and get my fix. This is a must-have feature for me.
The second killer feature is the USB output. Yes, you can use the MVP to power a smartphone or your Pebble in a pinch — a situation we're all likely to run into once in a while. The charging cable included with the MVP 2.0 also doubles as a cable to power anything that uses a micro USB, mini USB, or Apple 30-pin connection. This will save my bacon one day.
The MVP 2.0 also features both variable voltage and wattage output to help fine-tune your vape and get just the right combination of flavor and "throat-hit." The output voltage is adjustable from 3.3 volts to 5.0 volts in .1 increments, and the wattage adjusts between 6.0 and 11.0 watts in .5W increments. You can play with these and micromanage things until you find the perfect settings to match your needs and the tank you're using.
In addition, there's an on-board Ohmmeter that can tell you when it's time to change your cartridge or coil. I'm using a 2.1 Ohm coil, and a quick push of both control buttons tells me my current resistance so I know when things have degraded enough that I need to replace it. Since the resistance is what determines your heat, this can make a big difference on the quality and quantity of vapor. Having a way to check things built-in is a nice touch.
Other features are things like a puff counter, auto-cutoff (10 seconds), overcharge and discharge protection, and a battery level indicator built into the activation switch.
This is where the magic happens, and the choice of tank will determine just how enjoyable — or not so enjoyable — your vaping is. I really liked the dual coil Clearomizer that came with the MVP, and that's what I went with. But there are literally hundreds of choices out there which work well. A few features that made me choose the iClear 30:
A big 3ml capacity means I don't have to carry around a bottle of E-juice.
Replaceable coils that are cheap, and small enough to keep on hand.
A swiveling mouthpiece.
Dual coils for twice the vapor production and an excellent "throat-hit."
There are plenty of tanks that will fit the MVP 2.0, as well as most other AVP power-packs. This is where you'll need to talk to your local expert and get some help to make an informed decision about what works just right for you.
The choice of tank will determine just how enjoyable — or not so enjoyable — your vaping is
Next, you'll screw your tank onto your power supply (I also put the beauty ring in place so I didn't have to see the connection — it's pretty that way) and fill it with your E-juice. There's a minimum and maximum fill level you need to be aware of. On my unit, it's marked on the tank itself. Refer to the documentation that came with yours to be sure. Make sure things are assembled as they should be, because you don't want juice to leak into your pocket and you certainly don't want it to end up in your mouth. Trust me, it tastes like ass that is set on fire. You don't want it to happen. Ever.
If you were smart and made sure your power supply was charged, go ahead and turn it on. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth, press the button and inhale slow and steady. Then cough your brains out. It takes a little bit of time and the right adjustments to take a big hit of vapor without your throat rejecting it all. You won't cough from your lungs, but your throat will complain until everything is dialed in, and you get used to it. The helpful folks at the shop will help you have the output voltage and wattage set correctly for your tank — another reason to buy local.
Once you get a big hit inhaled, chances are you'll get that nicotine headrush that cigs used to bring. This goes away soon, too. What you won't get is the inhalation of ammonia, hexanoate, tannic acid or many of the other 4,000 chemicals found in consumer tobacco. E-juice is not without it's own potentially dangerous list of ingredients, but it's certainly less harmful than inhaling 3-Methylthiopropionaldehyde, I think.
A few final thoughts
To start with, if you currently vape, or are going to —maybe this article even helped sway you — don't be a tool. Yes, vaping is not smoking and you're not burning anything. But that doesn't mean other people have to accept it. There are laws in some states about where you can and can't vape, as well as age restrictions. If you live somewhere with these sort of laws — you should check your local regulations before you begin — obey them. Working to change them is great, but in the meantime blowing a vapor cloud into s place where it's not wanted is nothing but trouble. If there are no regulations where you live, not being a tool is even more important. Be polite and respectful to others, lest laws get created.
And we can't just ignore any possible health risks. There are no independent studies that show vaping PG and or VG to be harmful or not harmful. Ignore the information passed around by both sides of this (or any) issue and look for information and data from folks without any agenda. Right now, that's hard to find. Don't go into this thinking it's good for you, because it's probably not. On the other hand, it might not be too bad for you. We're not doctors or scientists. We don't recommend anyone start sucking down anything without making an informed decision.
Once you've worked out all the above, and have decided that you want to check it out, keep a few things in mind:
Find some help to get you started. Nothing is better than someone who knows all about the different kinds of equipment because they use the equipment.
Be prepared to spend a little money. Trust me, the stuff you see at WalMart or the Circle K is cheap for a reason.
Start slow. It's easy to get wrapped up and buy accessories and bottles of E-juice and tanks and mouthpieces and and and. Get a solid recommendation from a reliable source (see bullet point one) and start there. You'll know soon if you need anything else.