Vaping styles - the difference between MTL and DTL

19 March 2019

By: Nicola Webster

Novice vapers today can become immersed in a whole new exciting culture of equipment, e-liquid, and jargon. In this article we’ll explain one particular part of this new vaping vocab - everything you need to know about MTL and DTL vaping.

The exciting world of vaping is ever evolving as manufacturers adapt and innovate to accommodate the changing needs of millions of smokers around the world that are switching to vaping for the sake of their health.

In the relatively short amount of time that vaping has been part of our common parlance, the landscape of available and popular products has changed beyond recognition.

My own experience with vaping has taken me from a ‘cig-a-like’ e-cig pen in 2013 to a SMOK M17 pen kit in 2018. This vaping journey took some ‘sub-ohm’ detours along the way; however, I know for sure that I’ve found the perfect vape for my needs.

How can I be so sure? When there’s so much choice available, how can I settle on one particular kit?

The answer lies with my preferred vaping style.

A growing vaping vocab

I’m an MTL vaper - always have been (probably always will be). So my brief forays into kits that are better suited to DTL vaping have been unsuccessful.

Alongside the evolution of vaping equipment has been an evolution of vaping vocabulary. MTL and DTL are two such additions to our language that may leave rookie vapers scratching their heads; when, actually, it’s one of the key areas of vaping to get your head around quickly if your quit attempt is going to be successful.

Choices, choices, choices

One of the most common questions we get asked from vaping newbies is, ‘which kit should I buy?’

With the extensive options available, it’s no surprise that help is required. The choices can be intimidating, and making a bad decision can lead you to believe that vaping isn’t right for you. You might be attracted to the bells and whistles of a fat mod; or you might be tempted to get the same kit as a friend who’s successfully quit smoking; or budget might be your driving factor.

Ultimately, if you want to know which device *you* should choose, you can very effectively narrow down your options by understanding the two main vaping styles - and by knowing which is your preferred option.


MTL and DTL refer to inhalation methods and are the terms used by the vaping community to describe the two most common vaping styles.

Both methods have their advantages, which I will outline below. Essentially, there’s no right or wrong - only personal preference. However, as your personal preference will determine the vaping kit and e-liquid that you choose, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the differences.

MTL - Mouth To Lung Vaping

Mouth to Lung (aka MTL or M2L) is the vaping style that most closely replicates smoking. Most newcomers to vaping that are switching from smoking will start by MtL vaping as it feels the most natural way for smokers to inhale.

How to take an MTL hit

When smoking a cigarette we tend to take short, sharp drags into the mouth. With vaping, a longer, smooth and steady draw is recommended for maximum flavour delivery and satisfaction.

As with smoking, the vapour in the mouth should then be inhaled into the lungs which allows air to be drawn in at the same time. Then exhale.

Timing your MTL vape hit

The length of time between drawing the vapour from the mouth to the lungs and exhaling the vapour is up to you. The longer you let the vapour linger in your mouth, the more satisfaction you’ll get from the ‘hit’ and the flavour.

Also, the longer you leave it before you exhale, the less vapour there will be which is useful if you’re trying to be stealth. MTL vaping produces far less vapour than DTL anyway (one reason being that it’s limited to the amount of breath you can fit in your mouth) so it’s great if you’re conscious about vaping in public spaces.

Equipment needed for MTL vaping

The good news for MTL vapers is that it can be achieved with some pretty inexpensive kit. Today’s starter vape pens, compacts, and PODs are really good value and more than capable of providing an excellent hit.

If you still really covet the features and feel of a chunky box mod, fear not. MTL vapers can still use the advanced equipment - you just need to run the mod on a lower wattage (usually around 15W but some MTL coils can handle more) MTL coils will be packed with more cotton which enables a tighter draw.

A vape tank that is designed for MTL vaping will typically have a narrower mouthpiece (510 drip tip) which feels closer to a cigarette in the mouth. If your chosen tank has an adjustable airflow, you should keep this to a minimum. If you try to take an MTL hit with an open airflow, you’ll get a mouthful of heat and not much else.

E-liquid needed for MTL vaping

As for e-liquid, MTL vapers should opt for a vape juice that has a high PG ratio (50/50 or 40PG/60VG works best). Higher PG content will deliver a sharper throat hit that is closer to cigarette smoking. Also, PG carries flavour better than VG which is important as the action of drawing the vapour into the mouth and letting it linger activates the taste buds and allows you to notice all of the nuances of your chosen flavour profile.

Finally, one of the fundamental parts of successfully switching from smoking to vaping is controlling those pesky nicotine cravings. The good news for MTL vapers is that it’s the preferred vaping style for e-liquids that contain a high nicotine content. This includes nic salt vape juice which, at 20mg of nicotine, is better suited to MTL devices.

MTL features summarised

  • Designed for transitioning smokers
  • Best vaping style for newbies
  • More discreet as there is less vapour and smell
  • Economical as it can be achieved with more ‘basic’ kit
  • Ability to vape higher nicotine content or nic salts
  • MTL tanks use less e-liquid
  • Ideal for anyone who (due to smoking related lung damage) would struggle to take a direct to lung hit

DTL - Direct To Lung Vaping

Direct to Lung (aka DTL, Direct Lung Hit, Straight to Lung, or D2L) is the vaping style that is most commonly used by experienced vapers. For transitioning smokers, it feels like a completely alien way to inhale at first. However, it is essentially the same thing we do when breathing normally.

How to take a DTL hit

To achieve direct to lung vaping you need to slowly and steadily draw the vapour directly into your lungs - effectively bypassing the mouth.

The action doesn’t involve sucking or puffing on the mouthpiece, but more using the vape device to ‘breathe through’. Imagine being asked to take a deep breath… that’s what you’re trying to achieve.

As soon as the vapour hits your lungs, you exhale (as you would with your own breath).

Timing your DTL vape hit

Your first DTL attempt will likely be a shock to your lungs and you will need to exhale immediately. Especially if you’re a transitioning smoker and your lungs are still full of sticky tar - your first DTL hit is likely to hurt and send you into a coughing fit!

However, as you become more accustomed to the style, you should be able to achieve a steady 6-10 second inhale to your full lung capacity before the urge to exhale kicks in. And when you do exhale - do it fast! That way you’ll achieve the full billowy clouds that are the holy grail of DTL vapers.

Equipment needed for DTL vaping

As you might expect, the advice on equipment for DTL vaping is the exact opposite to the recommendation for MTL vaping.

The first thing you’ll need is a kit or box mod with a variable wattage that can be cranked up high. DTL vapers typically run their devices above 40W, with some going as high as 300W! However, going that high is pretty unusual and tends to be reserved for tricks and competitions.

The vape tank that is best for DTL vaping will have a wide mouthpiece (810 drip tip) which allows for a much fuller inhale. The coil should be sub-ohm (low resistance) to allow for the higher wattage required and maintain a high output for the longer inhale needed to fill your lungs.

Adjustable airflow is a must for direct lung hits. Opening up the airflow allows more air to flow through the tank and into your lungs. The more open the airflow, the bigger the clouds as you’ll be able to take longer hits. You should play around with your airflow to find your preferred combination of cloud production and flavour production.

E-liquid needed for DTL vaping

The recommended PG/VG ratios for e-liquid in sub-ohm devices are also opposite to MTL designed kits in that higher VG is best. In general, the guidelines for DTL suitable vape juice are:

  • 60VG/40PG will give you good flavour and a bit of a throat hit with decent clouds
  • 70VG/30PG is the most popular ratio as it provides the optimum balance of flavour and clouds with a smoother throat hit
  • 80VG/20PG is becoming more common and popular - expect steam train levels of cloud production!
  • 90VG + is pretty rare as we are yet to find many brands that can still deliver good flavour alongside the dense clouds - watch this space

Be aware that not all sub-ohm tanks are created equally. If you’re vaping an 80VG + e-liquid, you should be sure that your tank of choice can handle wicking juice that viscous. The wicking holes on the side of the coil are usually the giveaway; too small and they won't allow for the thicker juices to pull through quickly enough which could result in a nasty dry hit.

The other important thing to consider when selecting a suitable DTL e-liquid is the nicotine content. You’re going to be taking some epic inhales directly into your lungs so a high nicotine content is going to deliver a really harsh throat hit and a whopping great hit of nicotine. That’s too much to handle for most vapers, so we always recommend 6mg of nicotine or less for sub-ohm devices.

Unfortunately, right now, that also eliminates nic salts as a viable DTL option as they all come in 20mg strengths. However, we’ve seen evidence that the options might be about to increase to include the sub-ohm market. We’ll keep you informed! Plus, there’s always the option to add a nic salt 'shot  to your favourite zero nicotine shortfill e-liquid.

Finally, a public service announcement. If you’re planning on switching from MTL to DTL vaping, prepare for your e-liquid expenditure to increase! Direct to lung vaping uses far more e-liquid per hit than its mouth to lung counterpart.

DTL features summarised

  • Designed for advanced vapers
  • Feels less like smoking a cigarette
  • Epic cloud production
  • More advanced kit required
  • Many e-liquids are blended to present their flavours better when DTL vaping
  • DTL vaping uses more e-liquid
  • Ideal for anyone who wants to enter the world of rebuildables

MTL vs DTL takeaways

Ultimately, your vaping style will depend on your own preferences and what you want to achieve from vaping. Knowing how you vape will help you to make an informed choice about the equipment you need, which will ensure you get the best possible experience from vaping.

The other thing to remember when assessing your particular vaping style is that your choice today doesn’t have to be your choice forever. In fact, my experience as a dyed in the wool MTL vaper is not the norm. Many vapers evolve their vaping style over time; others find that they enjoy both vaping styles and switch between the two dependent on their mood.

Just remember that either style of vaping is the right one if it helps you stay off the ciggies!

We're here to help you quit smoking for good

At Vape UK, we pride ourselves on being responsible vaping advocates. We keep up to date with all of the latest news and studies; we only supply high quality TPD compliant vaping products; and we are always on hand to offer helpful and honest advice about vaping. Please get in touch if you have any queries on quitting smoking.

19 March 2019 Nicola Webster

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