All you need to know about vaping
Our handy introduction to vaping answers all the popular questions
More and more people are swapping their regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) because it's proven to be a healthier alternative. If you are looking to make the switch, this handy guide for new user's should answer your key questions.
What is an e-cigarette?
An e-cigarette is an electronic tobacco smoking substitute that creates a vapour mist to replicate the experience of smoking a cigarette. There are many types available for those first starting out, on a budget, or looking to splash out.
What are the benefits of e-cigarettes versus regular cigarettes?
Regular cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 carcinogenic compounds and 400 other toxins. These include nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and DDT.
E-cigarettes are non-combustible and, therefore, contain no ash, smoke, tar, or carcinogens. They also do not smell like regular cigarettes (hurrah!) and are widely considered to pose no cause for concern to bystanders.
These topics, and many others, are covered further in our popular guide to vaping mythology.
What is an atomiser?
There are many types of atomiser available in the vaping world today. They sit on top of an e-cigarette battery and use heat to vaporise e-liquid. They can be self-contained and disposable, use replaceable coils, or be rebuildable for experienced vapers who want full control over their vaping experience.
What is a coil?
These are the heart of your vaping device. Generally, with a manufactured coil (previously known as wicks), you'll see a small wire wrapped around cotton. The cotton is soaked in e-liquid and, when the wire is heated by the battery, it turns the e-liquid into vapour.
The resistance of a coil is defined in ohms, which tells you how much current the coil will allow to pass through it. The lower the resistance, the more heat will be generated meaning that you will produce more vapour and experience a more intense flavour from your vape juice. The downside is that you will go through more e-liquid and your battery life will be reduced.
What is sub ohm vaping?
You may have heard this expression within the vaping community. If you have seen a fellow vaper producing massive clouds, the chances are they are sub ohming. Go back just a couple of years and sub ohm vaping was reserved for those who built their own coils and modified their batteries. Nowadays, sub ohm tanks, pre-built coils and capable batteries are commonly available off the shelf.
There are two key ways to increase the amount of vapour you get out of your coil. The first is to increase the power of your battery in order to increase the heat; but there are limitations on the amount of power you can put through the coil before it stops creating more vapour and just gets really really hot. This will burn your coil which does not taste good!
A sub ohm coil has a resistance of less than 1 ohm; it combines a thicker wire with a higher airflow so you can use more power before you start creating excessive heat. The thicker wire increases the surface area which is in contact with the cotton (wick) which means more e-liquid is vapourised, and bigger clouds are produced.
When should I replace my coil?
Coils will need replacing periodically; the length of time between changes depends on a number of factors. The amount of device use, power settings, chosen e-liquid, and other variables, all affect the lifespan of the coil. Generally you would want to replace your coil as and when you encounter a burnt or poor taste from your atomiser.
How do I prime my coil to avoid premature burnout
It's really important to make sure your coil is primed properly before you first fire the device. To achieve this, you can follow the following simple instructions:
- Drip some e-liquid into the holes in the top and the side of the coil, allowing the cotton inside soak it up between drips. Be generous; if there is any excess once the cotton is fully saturated you can simply flick the coil to let it come out.
- Refit the coil and fill your tank with vape juice
- Allow to sit for a few minutes to soak
- Take a few 'Primer Puffs' by pulling on the atomiser as if you were vaping but WITHOUT firing the device
- If your device has adjustable power, turn it to a low setting and fire it there
- Work the power higher at intervals until you are back to your preferred power level
- Huzzah, you should now have successfully primed your coil!
What is the difference between 'mouth to lung' and 'direct to lung' vaping?
These terms have come about due to the new technology available in vaping devices which are much more powerful than they used to be. If you are new to vaping, you will need to know the difference so you can make an informed choice about which may be best for you.
With mouth to lung (MTL/M2L), you inhale the vapour and collect it in your mouth before breathing it fully into your lungs. The atomisers used for this provide a tight draw and are what new vapers should start with first to ween off smoking.
The process closely mimics the effects of smoking, and is what early adopters of vaping will be used to as the first e-cigarette kits only allowed for the MTL method. Additionally, MTL setups usually require fewer power settings (wattage) and can handle higher nicotine and PG levels.
Direct to lung (DL) vaping is much closer to breathing normally. The DL devices are newer, more advanced setups and their atomisers have a much looser draw that require the use of your lungs directly to inhale.
Far more vapour is produced (cloud chasing), there is more flavour and the hit can be more intense and satisfying. Because of the bigger hit, it is important to choose a lower nicotine content (usually no more than 6mg). Users will also often favour a higher VG liquid which is much smoother, and a vape kit with airflow control.
What is e-liquid?
E-liquid can also be known as e-juice, vape liquid, vape juice or coil sauce and is the liquid that you drip into your vaping device which is heated by the coil to create vapour. It consists of just four ingredients: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavouring and nicotine. The VG and PG are additives from the food industry that are typically used to sweeten or preserve food (more on this below).
Ultimately, the blend you choose will be a very personal thing so it's a good idea to experiment with a few different brands to find the perfect vape juice for you.
You may prefer more PG for the throat hit or more VG for increased vapour production and intense flavour. You may favour a particular flavour group (tobacco, menthol, fruits, vanilla, caramel, mixed berries - the choice is endless). You may decide to vape a liquid with high, medium, or no nicotine at all.
You can learn more about the evolution of eLiquid in our interesting look at vaping history.
Which nicotine strength should I go for?
The nicotine strength listed for e-liquid is the number of milligrams of nicotine per millilitre in a bottle. That means a 10ml bottle of 6mg nicotine e-liquid would have 60mg of nicotine (6mg x 10ml).
The new legislation from the TPD restricts e-liquid to a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml. You can read more information about TPD regulations here.
If you smoke regular cigarettes (like a Marlboro Red), there is approximately 1.2mg of nicotine in each cigarette, or 24mg of nicotine per pack (1.2mg x 20 cigarettes).
If you smoke light cigarettes (like a Marlboro Light), there is approximately 0.7mg of nicotine in each cigarette, or 14mg of nicotine per pack (0.7mg x 20 cigarettes).
If you smoke Ultra Light cigarettes (like a Silk Cut), there is approximately 0.5mg of nicotine in each cigarette, or 10mg of nicotine per pack (0.5mg x 20 cigarettes).
As you make the switch to vaping from regular cigarettes, you can consider this a guide to the nicotine strength you should try. Of course, this isn't definitive as other factors, such as VG/PG ratio and your chosen flavour can have an effect on the nicotine hit, so you should always experiment with a few variants.
10+ regular cigarettes per day = 18 mg nicotine strength
Up to 10 light cigarettes per day = 12 mg nicotine strength
Up to 10 ultra-light cigarettes per day = 6 mg nicotine strength
Very light/occasional smokers = 3 mg nicotine strength
Nicotine free = 0 mg nicotine strength
What is propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG)?
PG and VG are the liquids that help burn the nicotine to vapour. They are both recognised as safe by the Food Standards Agency and are in many processed foods and cosmetics.
PG is tasteless and derived from plants. It is used in baked goods, medicines and cosmetics. The liquid is thinner than VG and so produces less vapour. PG produces more throat hit that is similar to smoking a regular cigarette. It is better suited to lower powered devices and can carry a higher nicotine content. One of the downsides of a high PG e-liquid is that it may cause some throat dryness.
VG tastes a little sweet but the flavour is too small for most people to detect. It's used in baked goods, sweeteners, and as a filler in foods. The liquid is thicker which helps to produce lots of vapour and, as it's the vapour that carries the flavour, high VG vape juice provides a more intense taste sensation. The vapour also carries the nicotine, so vapers who prefer high VG liquids generally opt for a lower nicotine strength. In order to produce the large vape clouds, more power is required so you should consider more powerful hardware to heat the VG effectively.
Most people start out with a 50/50 mix which has been determined to be a very optimal blend and can be used effectively in a smaller starter kit. As you experiment with different juices that use different blends, you may choose a juice with more VG for more vapour production, or more PG for throat hit with 60/40 mixes or even 70/30.
An important consideration is allergies or reactions to either PG or VG, in which case you should buy a blend that uses less of that item. These reactions are typically more common with PG than VG.
What PG/VG split do your e-liquids contain?
Our standard UK made Vape UK e-liquids contain varying splits of PG/VG depending on the strength of nicotine:
- 18mg - 60(PG)/40(VG) (good throat hit / good vapour)
- 12mg - 50(PG)/50(VG) (mild throat hit / great vapour)
- 6mg - 45(PG)/55(VG) (slight throat hit / excellent vapour)
- 0mg - 40(PG)/60(VG) (no throat hit / huge vapour)
Our premium, high VG UK made Vape UK e-liquids contain either 70(VG)/30(PG) or 80(VG)/20(PG) and are fantastic for flavour delivery and vapour production.
Battery and coil safety
Be sure to read our separate battery and coil safety guide here.