I realize that there are probably a million articles online regarding e-cigarettes and the act of “smoking” (<<<I put that in quotes, because you actually aren’t burning anything) them, which is called vaping. So why add one more to the mix? Well I find that most of the articles are not un-biased, in that they have sponsors giving them money (or freebies) for reviews. Either that, or the information is generic and geared more towards educating others instead of talking of personal experiences. And finally, most of the articles and bloggers tend to be for or by moderate to heavy ex-smokers. So here’s my take…
Why I Started Smoking
I’ve never seen myself as a smoker. I tried my first cigarette as age 12. I would hang out with friends who smoked and they would offer one to me. I most likely wasn’t inhaling back then, in that I never felt compelled to buy my own pack (well, have an older teenager buy them for me more accurately). However the story changed a bit when I went to college.
College for me was a time experimentation for me. It was the first time that I really starting drinking alcohol (in high school, I had tastes of drinks…but never my own drinks), first time taking drugs (mainly marijuana and pills, but a bit of dabbling in harder stuff as well), and first time of partying hard (pre-gaming, partying, passing out, getting up, starting all over again, etc.). Cigarettes were around along with coffee to perk you up out of your haze. Even with regular indulgence of cigarettes, I rarely turned to them outside of the weekends (which was party time). That’s when I discovered clove cigarettes.
I loved my clove cigarettes. They tasted good, they burned forever, and they were high in nicotine…meaning that one would go a long way. I was in Daytona Beach, FL in the late 1990s, so the availability and variety of clove cigarettes (which were really popular among surfers) weren’t lacking. However I left Daytona after a year, and in Pennsylvania, they weren’t easy to get. I switched to smoking ultra-light menthols, first Malboros then Capris/Mistys.
For the next decade I pretty much stayed to smoking socially. In bars, at parties, in a crowd. Rarely would I smoke at home or in my car. A pack of cigarettes would last anywhere from 4 days to a week for me. For this reason, I doubt that I’m truly addicted to nicotine. I’ve gone through months on end of not smoking in fact. Ironically, I feel that the 2009 US ban on the sale of flavored cigarettes, including cloves (but excluding menthols) pushed me towards the use of regular cigarettes. For me, cloves were like milkshakes, and cigarettes were like milk. A milkshake is an indulgence, and hits the spot. But if they aren’t available, you want the closest thing. And since it isn’t as “rich”, you are ok with taking more than you intended…
Why I Started Vaping
I’ve never been opposed to smoking really. I grew up with my Grandfather who smoked Pall Malls by the pack when I was younger. He collected cigarette lighters (we had thousands of them in the house) and everything about smoke culture, from the ashtrays to the ads, seemed glamorous. Even so, I never saw daily smoking, or any type of addiction to be my kind of thing. It’s just not in my personality.
In the past year, I’ve found myself smoking more…even marginally so. For more than a decade, I rarely went through more than a pack a week. Now I was picking up a pack every 4, sometimes every 3 days. Why? Who knows exactly. I’ve been under stress, due to health issues, a bout of unemployment, had me turning to cigarettes more. Then working in a high rise in a cubicle, where a savored daily escape is a cigarette break with co-workers.
A month or so ago, I noticed a soreness in my throat in the morning. I would find myself budgeting money for cigarettes. I would get on the elevator with others who had smoked, smell the scent of cigarettes, and wonder, “Do I smell like that?”. I got mildly annoyed with cigarette ashes on the outside of my car (which is white) and losing lighters all the time. But I think the final straw was to notice an slight yellowing of my teeth from what I’m guessing are cigarettes (although it could be coffee…who knows). I knew that the benefits I was getting from smoking wasn’t worth all this.
I had seen other people at work with electronic cigarettes (or ‘e-cigarettes’). However after some quick research, I felt completely overwhelmed. I’ve talked to people who used the disposables from the gas station, like Njoy. However they didn’t seem to be worth it price-wise. Njoys cost more than a pack of cigarettes. Yet I wasn’t sure if I would like it, and most said they didn’t last as long as a pack of cigarettes. I spun my wheels some more.
Then about two weeks ago I received some coupons in the mail for a free Vuse e-cigarette and a pack of refill cartridges. So I figured I had nothing to lose. I picked one up and while I wasn’t blown away, I was on to something. Compared to my regular cigarettes, I found the Vuse to be way too strong. However I loved the convenience. I loved not needing a lighter, a ashtray (or a window to ash out of), or having the smell of a smoldering cigarette.
So I decided to really take the leap, and started to look into vaping.
Ciga-likes, vs. E-cigarettes, vs. Mods
While I’m a complete newbie to the world of vaping, my un-expert opinion has led me to the following:
Ciga-likes are the e-cigarettes that are most often found in gas stations and the like. They can be either disposable or rechargeable. Some, like the Njoy, look pretty close to an actual cigarette. Others, like the Vuse I had, are more like pens. However they are all long, relatively slim and cylindrical. I first considered buying a ciga-like from Halo, the G6, to replace the Vuse. However, I also had my eye on the tank systems, and while you can outfit the G6 with a minitank, I could get an actual tank system for less money. And the economics of the endeavor are slightly more important to me than the aesthetics. Overall though, I find the ciga-likes to be more limiting (in regards to flavors, for convenience, you are limited to the cartridge, or cartomizer flavors available for your model), higher in nicotine (again, due to limited availability in refills), and more expensive. They also do not produce as much vapor, although depending on the brand, this difference can be negligible. Ultimately they aren’t for me, but they are great for those who either want an e-cigarette as a backup to smoking actual cigarettes, or want to have an e-cigarette that doesn’t look so odd to others.
E-cigarettes with the tank system are more flexible and more economical in the long run. I ended up going this route. Initially, I was going to order a starter kit from Apollo, but realized I didn’t have the patience to wait for it in the mail, so I went to a local vape shop instead. My initial cost was still a little higher than planned. I got an 1100 mAh eGo style battery, a basic disposable CE4 tank (or clearomizer as they are called), a USB charger, a case, and 3 bottles of 10mL e-liquid for about $50. However I lucked out and a friend gave me their Bulldog e-cigarette kit and then I found an online special for 2 10 mL bottles of e-liquid for $0.01. So I now have two batteries, 3 tanks, and 5 bottles of e-liquid for less than the cost of 8 packs of cigarettes. Not bad!
Mods are advanced PVs (personal vaporizers) that I’m really not interested in at this point. They are fully customizable, but I have no desire to create huge vapor clouds, or carry around something that rivals the size of a time capsule in my purse. And that’s really all I’ll say about that.
This is my biggest draw to vaping. I really don’t like having to choose between buying a pack of cigarettes and having lunch money for the next day. Yes, buy opting to buy locally, I didn’t pay rock basement prices on my kit. However having someone to talk to and show me the basics was worth it. I find most online calculations of the savings to be pointless for me, in that they assume that you are a regular smoker, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. So here’s my own calculation:
Annual cost of cigarettes: $690
Annual cost of lighters: $ 50
Not a ton of money, but still, money down the drain ultimately. Now, I have no idea exactly how long these batteries will last, or what my e-liquid costs will be exactly, but here’s my projections so far:
Start-up costs: $50
Replacement batteries: $80
Replacement clearomizers: $75
(for the batteries and clearomizers, I’m going by local retail prices; but great deals can be found on eBay, and if I buy online, I’ll probably pay 1/2 as much)
Now e-liquid use will be hard to guage. I vaped a lot yesterday, but only went through about 2mL of liquid. So even with “heavy” use (for me), it will take me 5 days to go through a 10 mL bottle. So let’s say I’ll go through 70 bottles a year, at $7.00 per bottle (I’ll subtract out the 5 bottles I already have though):
Annual e-liquid costs: $455
So as you can see, it’s not a huge savings annually for me, but it is something. More important, I can indulge in nicotine without the inconvenience and health issues associated with smoking. And that ultimately makes it worth it.
I find that the world of e-cigarettes and vaping can be overwhelming. The E-Cigarette forum has been very helpful, but like most popular forums, you definitely have that purist/enthusiast crowd that promotes their opinion as gospel, and really want to steer you a certain way. The biggest things for me are costs and convenience. I would save money by not using disposable clearomizers, but I can’t see myself being bothered changing out the atomizers and wicks in the tanks. I would rather save by finding deals on batteries and e-liquid.
I find that vaping is similar to clove smoking in that a little goes a long way. With a cigarette, you have this thing that you feel compelled to smoke from start to finish. Sure, there have been times that I’ve lit a cigarette, had my full before it’s done, so I put it out and put it back in the pack. However I hate the smell of having a half burned cigarette in your pack. It’s also incredibly inconvenient to go all the way outside from the higher floor of a high rise office building to smoke a partial cigarette.
With vaping I’ll take 3 or 4 puffs and be good for a while. Unless I’m “smoking” with others. Then I’ll puff until they finish their cigarettes. So far I’ve been fine with this, and using less than a 1.6 mL clearomizer a day of 12mg (or nicotine) e-liquid. Compared to what I’ve read on the forums, I’m a pretty light vaper.
When I got the Vuse, I honestly coughed from how strong the vapor was and how harsh it was on my throat. However I adjusted. I don’t know if it was because my body got used to it, or I adjusted my inhale technique. I know with the Vuse, my first drags were too big. With e-cigarettes it’s best to suck steady and long…not hard. My new setup produces a lot more vapor than the Vuse did. Now I take a drag until I can feel the “hit” at my throat. I then stop, inhale a bit to the lungs, but let the majority of the vapor swirl around my sinuses, throat and nose. It’s kinda hard to explain if you’ve never smoked before. But with a cigarette, you have this “pull and push” thing going on. You suck the smoke into your lungs, hold it, then force it out your mouth (rarely did I blow cigarette smoke out my nose, although I know a lot of people do, especially those who smoke full flavor cigarettes). Vaping is more like breathing. I let a good amount of vapor come out my nose. With the flavors, I tend to enjoy them more that way.
E-Liquid and Nicotine
I’m far from being an expert in this area, but one of the more frustrating points so far in regards to e-cigarettes is the ongoing comparison between them and cigarettes in regards to nicotine. On one hand, I understand it in that many (most?) people are looking into e-cigarettes and vaping as a smoking cessation tool. Nicotine withdrawal is real, and they are looking to minimize this. However I’ve found most articles and opinions written on the matter to be either off-base, or completely irrelevant to me.
I’m not a doctor or a scientist, but I do believe that nicotine addiction is not just about numbers, but also about the delivery method. With cigarettes, the nicotine enters the bloodstream at a much faster rate. While smoke and vapor may look similar to the eye, on the molecular level, they are different. So while my Mistys had 1.1 mg of nicotine per cigarette, to say that my 10 mL bottle of 12mg nicotine e-liquid is equivalent to 109 cigarettes (more than 5 packs) is not the full story.
In a nutshell vaping is a less efficient means of nicotine delivery. I think this explains why many ex-smokers find themselves chain vaping and/or attracted to mods, looking to get huge vapor clouds. To get the nicotine buzz associated with cigarette smoking, you have to up the levels on your e-liquid significantly. That’s why I think the e-cigarette brands in gas stations, like Vuse, have such crazy nicotine content levels (Vuse for example has a whopping 48mg of nicotine, or 4.8%) in their solutions.
While I don’t have an assortment to sample (all of my e-liquid is 12mg), it is my humble opinion that the nicotine effects the throat hit of your vapor. My e-liquid is from Mr. E-Liquid and Mt. Baker. I’ve vaped an entire tank of the Menthol Light (which I like the best out of the three menthols from various brands I’ve sampled), and I’m now working on Apple Rings. I think both taste nice. They aren’t knocking my socks off in amazement, but it’s much better tasting than cigarette smoke.
Public Opinion, Health and Conclusion
Overall I’m looking forward to vaping and leaving smoking in the dust. I love being to have an e-cigarette in the car, in the bedroom and at work, without having to worry about smell and burning stuff. Yes, it is insane regarding the amount of information and supplies out there regarding vaping. In addition to the e-cigarette forum, I found some great websites such as the Guide to Vaping, Vapegrl, Spinful and Cocktail Nerd. Many e-cigarette manufacturers have informative sites too, like White Cloud and EverSmoke. But keep in mind a lot of these reviews and articles are sponsored or have the ulterior motive 0f steering you into buying their product. So after a while, I began to see a lot of what I read online as an FYI instead of gospel.
It’s also maddening to see all of the misinformation out there regarding e-cigarettes, and the current move towards either more regulation or outright bans. If you read between the lines, almost all of the health warnings against e-cigarettes state that “more research is needed” and that the studies they are basing their findings on are limited. It’s the same arguments people make against marijuana smoking. In all honesty, vaping most likely isn’t safe. Neither is driving, eating food with preservatives or undergoing chemotherapy. It’s most definitely safer than smoking cigarettes, that’s for sure. Complaining that e-cigarettes provide a gateway to cigarette use is also a cop out. The first widespread use of e-cigarettes in the United States happened at the earliest in 2008. I doubt that in those 6 years, a definitive study was ever done to state this. It’s just pure speculation. There are places online where you can find some pertinent information about vaping and the industry, like Vapor News, the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, and the CASAA.
For me the only downsides of vaping have been the feeling of being dehydrated (vaping dries you out due to the propylene glycol that’s in e-liquid), and the potential to spend a lot of money on equipment and gadgets related to vaping. However I see it as a good excuse to up my water intake, and exercise some skills in regards to searching for deals and being smart about what I buy.
**Note – there are no sponsored links in this post and I’m not an affiliate. Therefore I get no kickbacks or anything from any product or company I’ve linked in this post!