Beginners Guides

What Is Vaping?

Almost everyone has heard of vaping but what is an electronic cigarette and what do all those terms mean?

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How Does an E-Cigarette Work?

The process is very simple and uses electricity to heat a coil. In turn, this heats a liquid until is vaporises. The user draws in the vapour and exhales like they would when smoking a cigarette.

An e-cigarette consists of three parts: the battery, a chamber to contain the e-liquid, and the coil/wick. All the types of vape devices you see will be versions of this set-up.

First Generation Devices

1st Gen devices are roughly the size of a cigarette. They are basic devices offering a low voltage, limited use experience. They are sealed devices which means they are either disposable or need a fresh cartridge to be used when the e-liquid runs out.

Second Generation Devices

2nd Gen devices have sealed power supplies that can be recharged. Some have a fixed voltage output; some have variable voltage to dial in taste. They use a basic atomiser/tank that is functional but doesn’t tend to rock anybody’s world compared to more sophisticated equipment. Almost all starter kits utilise a form of 2nd Gen device and balances performance with a cheap point of entry so smokers can try vaping to see if they get along with it.

Third Generation Devices

3rd Gen devices allow the user to vary the voltage or wattage and have refillable tanks. Some tanks allow the user to build their own wicks and coils so they can tailor performance to match their requirements from the vaping experience. Research has shown that these are the most successful at supporting a smoking cessation attempt.

Equipment manufactured in China tends to be the cheapest but independently designed and manufactured pieces can cost large sums – if you can get hold of one.

Temperature Control

A company called Evolv developed the last greatest leap in vaping technology when it adapted its knowledge of circuit boards for e-cigs to measure the resistance of heating coils while in use. This allowed them to calculate the coil temperature and meant that inexperienced users could avoid experiencing a dry hit.

Many PCB manufacturers now offer their own version of temperature control and the technology has been incorporated into some starter kits. Some traditionalists still prefer to use a simpler mechanical mod instead.

What is a dry hit?

When the wick is dry the hot coil will burn the wicking material. This is experienced as a disgusting burnt taste in the mouth that is unvapable, commonly happening if a new user allows the tank to run dry.

Many of the negative research studies conducted in the USA obtained results by accidentally dry burning during their investigations which led to claims that vaping produces a large amount formaldehyde. UK research shows this is not a concern.

What Are Mechanical Mods?

Mech mods hark back to the early days when vapers adapted torches that used 18000-series batteries. They are simple metal tubes and appeal to traditionalists or those taking part in cloud competitions (where vapers compete to blow the largest cloud).

Mech mods can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing as you can experience problems with short circuits and need to be aware of Ohm’s Law.

What is a short circuit?

A short circuit is when the electricity can go the quick and easy route back to the battery via the metal of the tank and mod rather than through the coil.

A battery subjected to a short circuit will begin to heat rapidly and go into ‘thermal overload’. It will vent gases and render itself unusable. Unless the gases can escape from the battery compartment it can present a danger to the user.

This is commonly experienced by beginners who do not know how to check their atomiser or use a mech mod safely.

What is Ohm’s Law?

We will not detail what this is here, but if you are asking the question then (for the moment) avoid using mechanical mods. You can find help on the Planet of the Vapes forum:

What is Mouth To Lung Vaping?

MTL vaping is a style of vaping similar to smoking. Typically, the user has a high strength nicotine liquid and inhales into the mouth before drawing the vapour into their lungs.

MTL vaping releases small clouds and users tend to vape less frequently as each inhale contains more nicotine. A MTL tank will have smaller airholes to restrict air flow.

Direct To Lung/Sub-ohm Vaping

DTL vaping is where the user takes long draws directly into the lungs. E-liquid used in DTL vaping tends to be either 3 or 6mg/ml in strength.

DTL vaping produces large clouds, and the tanks will have wide airholes to enable this style of vaping. It uses much more e-liquid, so this has a cost to it.

What is Dripping and Squonking?

Dripping is one of the oldest forms of vaping where the user will drip eliquid directly onto the coil and wick and frequently repeat after taking some draws on the device.

Squonking is the same, but there is a store of e-liquid in the mod which can be squeezed up to the wick rather than dripped from above.

Both forms use simple small tanks with coils people build themselves. Many will tell you that they give the very best flavour – but others will complain it can be messy.

What is E-liquid?

E-liquid consists of PG (Propylene Glycol), VG (Vegetable Glycerine), and flavours. E-liquid can contain various strengths of nicotine.

PG tends to be the carrier for the flavour, VG makes larger clouds.

Some people can be allergic to PG and prefer to use the high-VG e-liquids favoured by DTL/subohm vapers. MTL vapers tend to use 50/50 PG/VG mixes up to 30/70.

Is Vaping Safe?

Public Health England says vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking with some estimating it to be around 99.5% safer.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Writer at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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