Vaping 101 – Beginner’s Guide
(Originally published elsewhere, the views expressed are not my own nor of the authors or staff at thevapor.ninja)
Vaping 101 – Beginner’s Guide
Electronic Cigarettes 101
If you are brand new to Electronic Cigarettes there is a lot of information to sift through and to learn. Hopefully you will find this resource useful in getting started in the world of “Vaping” (Using Electronic Cigarettes). I have attempted to break down the process of learning about vaping, and how to get started. This article will walk you through four important steps that I learned before you go out and buy your first device.
Before I begin this Electronic Cigarette 101 series I thought I would offer a personal statement about myself and how electronic cigarettes changed my life:
I was a 20+ year 2+ pack a day cigarette smoker. I loved smoking. I knew and understood it was killing me and I didn’t care. I was going to smoke until I died from it. I know that sounds harsh, but I had to admit and overcome that before I could even begin trying alternatives. I say this to emphasize how finding the right electronic cigarette and the right support community helped me to not only to become tobacco free but to change my attitude about smoking and improve my quality of life. My hope is that these introduction to electronic cigarette articles help anyone who feels they cannot quit tobacco to consider trying an electronic cigarette and successfully make the switch. Even old dogs like me, can learn new tricks.
However, along my journey it’s been my experience that electronic cigarettes do not have the “one size fits all”solution that many search for when they want to switch from smoking to an e-cig. A cigarette is generally a cigarette. However, an electronic cigarette is more like a “tailored suit”. I can confidently say there is no one “best” electronic cigarette out there. But! I can also confidently say I believe there is an electronic cigarette out there for everybody!
There is a well-known “credo” among electronic cigarette users: “The best electronic cigarette is the one that keeps you from smoking tobacco”. I take this to heart and highly recommend that you do the same during your search. No matter how advanced an electronic cigarette user becomes, they are all meant to help users reduce or replace their smoking habit. Making a successful switch, in my opinion, depends on both the person and the equipment.
Hopefully you find this series useful in finding that right “fit” that makes you tobacco free – Vape Loud, Vape Proud! – Bogey
Chapter 1: In the Beginning…
Maybe it was a e-cig in a store or gas station that made you wonder. Maybe it was that kiosk in the mall. Maybe you saw a commercial on TV or it was a web ad when you were browsing. You might have had a conversation with a “vaper” in the “designated smoking area” at your work. No matter how you were introduced to the idea of switching to electronic cigarettes, your now looking. That’s great!
Now, forget everything you learned so far. Well maybe not everything… but a lot of it. Let me explain…
My first exposure to electronic cigarettes was a late night television commercial in 2011. It got me wondering about electronic cigarettes so I decided to start researching them. That’s when the overwhelming tsunami of information hit me like a truck. YouTube, Facebook, Google Searches, Forums, Blogs, Online Vendors, Mall Vendors, it was too much too fast!
Like many I wanted to buy “the best electronic cigarette” right off the bat. However, supposedly everybody had the “best electronic cigarette”. So here is my first piece of advice: Yes, it can be overwhelming but take a moment and sit back, breathe, and relax. Lets talk this out. Before we go out and start searching for “the best electronic cigarette” lets take a step back, learn a little and formulate a plan. Sound good?
Step One: Make “The Commitment”
You might not want to hear this, but you need to ask yourself the dreaded question every smoker I have met cringes at, “Am I Ready”? Switching to electronic cigarettes is not necessarily hard, but… it isn’t exactly easy either. I know, that doesn’t make sense, but let me see if I can explain.
You are considering changing a habit that you have likely had for many years. You are likely very intimate with this habit, and (lets hope not) could do it in your sleep. Many of the motions, the ceremony, and the rituals are ingrained in you. While the physical motions and actions of using an electronic cigarette are similar to smoking there are some differences. Many may not even notice these differences and can easily slip into electronic cigarette use. Others cannot, and struggle.
Whether the beginning of your journey turns out to be easy or hard, you need commitment to move to electronic cigarettes. When I first started using electronic cigarettes, I made the commitment to switch. I found this mindset very useful. Many may see electronic cigarettes as a road to quitting smoking. If that’s your goal great! However we all know as smokers quitting is beyond hard. I can only offer this advice from experience: Make the commitment to switch first. Once you make that adjustment, then tackle the mindset necessary to quit. There is a great quote in the business world, “Don’t try to eat the elephant in one bite, take it in pieces”. I think that works here as well. Switch to reduce your harm, then quit if you decide to do so. If you try to eat the elephant in one bite, you may become frustrated and give up.
Switching to electronic cigarettes means digging into your smoking habit and knowing what motivates you to smoke. Figuring this out now will be invaluable in determining what will help make the switch to using electronic cigarettes easier and making a wise first purchase.
Step Two: Determine Why You Smoke
I am not going to profess to be a professional researcher, or behavioral specialist. However, I feel comfortable saying that there are some common sense reasons why people smoke cigarettes. Here are a few reasons that I think warrant some contemplation when you thinking about switching.
Addiction: Tobacco especially in the form of cigarettes is addictive. See: Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal. Some suffer more than others, such as keeping cigarettes by your bed in case you wake up and crave one. Addiction can be a strong driving force behind continuing to smoke tobacco. Is it one of yours? Do you HAVE to have a cigarette? Does not smoking make you irritable, give you a headache, or create cravings that are overwhelming? If so, you need to consider your addiction to nicotine in your search for an electronic cigarette.
The Feeling/Action/Sense is Pleasurable: Maybe you like the feeling and action of smoking. Maybe it’s the smell of tobacco, or possibly you enjoy that thump in your throat when you draw in smoke. Maybe it’s the taste, or way a cigarette feels. These are all important considerations. Do you like smoking, but don’t necessarily have nicotine withdrawal symptoms if you can’t smoke right away? Make a list of the things you find pleasurable about smoking. That list can help you evaluate devices and accessories that may fit your needs and continue to satiate those pleasurable activities.
Routine/Ritual: Perhaps you like the routine of smoking, The hand to mouth action, or maybe smoking during or after activities (meals, coffee, drinking, etc). You might like “packing” the cigarettes, or the “clink” of a Zippo when lighting it. Be sure to note these things and use them in evaluating what might work for you.
Stress/Reward: You may smoke in stressful situations to help calm down, or after a particularly difficult activity. You may light up after achieving a goal or completing an activity to reward yourself. A proverbial “smokey treat”. Make sure you realize this is part of your smoking ritual, and consider why you find it rewarding. Often it may be related to the three items above, but don’t discount it if it’s important to you.
Peer Pressure/Pressure to Fit In: Perhaps your immediate family, or friends are smokers. You may have co-workers who smoke and you go with them on breaks and feel the need to join in to truly be considered part of the group. While I am not a proponent of using electronic cigarettes if you have never smoked before, be aware that this is a possible influence in guiding your decisions when switching to electronic cigarettes.
Do any of the items above or what others had to say sound familiar? Take a moment to write down or make a note in your phone the reasons why you smoke. Believe it or not it will be very handy when selecting your first electronic cigarette. It’s very important to know why you smoke. Knowing this will allow you to tailor your first experience to cover these reasons, which I believe increases your chances of successfully and more easily making the change. There are many devices and methods of using electronic cigarettes that can help you cope with the examples above.
Step Three: Learn the Basics about Vaping (NOT Smoking) Before Beginning Your Search
What is “Vaping” and why is that term so important? “Vaping” is a term used to describe the act of using a “personal vaporizer (PV)” or “Mod” which are commercially known as an Electronic Cigarette (E-Cig). Up until now I have purposefully used the term electronic cigarette. However, as you continue to read and browse other content in this blog, you may notice that I use the terms Vaping/Vape/Personal Vaporizer (PV)/Mod everywhere else. Why?
Well “electronic cigarette” is a very useful term for attracting current smokers. Smokers smoke cigarettes and we need to maintain a connection to them to ensure they can find the initial information that draws them to becoming a “vaper” (user of electronic cigarettes). Many new users of electronic cigarettes quickly find out that they are “vaping” not “smoking” an electronic cigarette. After successfully giving up cigarettes vapers may no longer appreciate the “cigarette” in electronic cigarette. They are no longer smokers. Dancing around this topic is a bit of a catch 22. You need the term “cigarette” to attract smokers, but then after switching many don’t want to embrace the term cigarette or smoking. It’s a difficult topic to explain, but is important in your search for your first electronic cigarette.
It is important to know because when searching for information on “electronic cigarettes” you may find very different results than if you search on the term “vaping” or “vape”. Generally “electronic cigarette” is a more commercial term used by large retailers and commercial enterprises such as tobacco companies, whereas “vaping/vape/personal vaporizer (PV)” along with “Mod” (a shortened vaping term indicating an Electronic Cigarette or PV) are generally terms adopted by users (vapers). I tend to find much more useful and helpful information, reviews, and less biased opinions by actual users of the products, not the folks selling them.
Step Four: Tips on Searching for Information
As mentioned above searching “electronic cigarette” has a higher likelihood to pull up questionable/paid testimonials generally linked to a certain brand name or large corporate sponsored information. Whereas, using terms like vaping/personal vaporizer (PV)/Mod get at the users. Balancing the use of these terms will yield better search results.These are a few things I think anyone searching for information on vaping should keep in mind.
1. It’s important to understand and draw a distinction between the term “vaping/vape” and the term “smoking/smoke”
Vaping is the process of vaporizing a liquid containing nicotine and flavoring which is inhaled by the user. Unlike creating smoke through combustion it uses the process of a heating a liquid to transform it to a gaseous form (much like boiling water creates steam). The user of a personal vaporizer is inhaling a vaporized liquid, not the smoke resulting from burnt plant matter. So maybe your saying at this point “okay great” but why does that matter?
Well… there are a lot of companies sprouting up that sell electronic cigarettes and some are good, and others are well… not so good. It’s been my experience that commercial sites that use the term “smoking” an electronic cigarette are generally more interested in making sales and less interested in the quality and effectiveness of their product. Please know however, this is a general and not hard and fast rule. Using the term smoking an e-cigarette is more common and accepted terminology in Europe and Australia, however vaping/vape is more common in the U.S. Any good website selling Personal Vaporizers/Electronic Cigarettes should know the difference between smoking, and vaping and their materials and presentation should show that. Knowing how the term vape/vaping is applied may help you in weeding out some those bad ones, from the good ones.
2. Any site that compares how long their cartridges/tanks/refills last to a number of packs of cigarettes is questionable… at best.
A second warning sign for sites that are more interested in your money than your satisfaction are those that use comparisons to “packs of cigarettes”. If a site is making direct comparisons between packs of cigarettes and how long their cartridges/tanks/refills last they are likely not the best source for your first kit. This type of comparison is flawed and you can’t really draw a realistic comparison between cartridges and packs of cigarettes. As you learn more about vaping, you will learn everyone vapes at a different pace making such comparisons useless. It’s a lot like saying “I eat 3 apples a day, therefore, it would make sense that drinking 1 glass of apple juice would be equivalent and satisfy my need for apples”. It just doesn’t work that way.
The final item is my biggest warning.
3. DO NOT buy from (or even explore around) any site that wants you to sign up for any kind of “refill” program.
Any reputable site selling equipment will not have a refill program. These are programs such as: “we will give you a free electronic cigarette and then pay only 39.95 monthly and we will send you refills for your electronic cigarette!” Refill programs more often than not end up being scams. While there are some reputable monthly subscription programs for refill liquid they are far and few between (at least at the time this was written). These scams can end up costing you far more money, time and frustration than smoking ever did. Please, avoid them like the plague.
So there are the basics. Knowing and understanding these items may help get you started in your search. However, there is much more to consider if you truly want to find the right starting point for you.
The next post in this series will explain the basic parts of an electronic cigarette and help you develop “vaping goals” to use when considering your first purchase. This will hopefully help you overcome some common problems I see new vapers face when they do not understand the components of an electronic cigarette or consider their needs (based on their habits which we discussed here). An electronic cigarette is not one size fits all activity and as mentioned is more a tailored activity, a game of give and take and compromise. What else do you need to consider? Check out the soon to be updated Electronic Cigarettes 101 – “Chapter 2: Knowledge is Power” coming soon.