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Electronic Cigarettes--an introduction to, and my views after 9 months.

Thought I'd give an update on my vaping adventure. I've gone pretty far since my first steps back in March.

The main things I've learned since then are that there's a world of difference between the small, simple versions sold in chain stores and the better setups, and that no matter how far you progress, you'll still need to keep a supply of paper towels on hand. Leaks, accidental spills, messy refilling procedures, and a bit of vapor collection all make for a bit of a mess.

The smaller devices typically come as an integrated unit containing a battery, switch, protection circuitry, and a fitting to attach the replaceable parts. The smaller cigarette sized ones last a very short period of time. As little as 45 minutes. Some intermediate size devices have capacities of 6-10 hours for a normal smoker, but they're too large to hold between your fingers as if they were a cigarette. Many of them also have too small a voltage and current capacity to effectively vaporize enough liquid. The bottom line is they're okay for short period of time, or casual vaping, but it's hard to replace smoking with one of these.

Larger devices usually have removable batteries that you charge in an off the shelf charger. A few have integrated batteries and charging circuits that you can recharge off a USB port. They tend to come in tube or box shapes. Some incorporate sophisticated voltage controls, including the ability to vary the voltage for a stronger or milder hit and to better control the flavoring. Others nice features include LED displays, and liquid feed systems.


Just a bit of background and terminology...The basic concept behind an electronic cigarette is that a wire is heated by electricity, the heat evaporates the liquid, and the vapor is inhaled.

The basic parts of an e-cigarette are:
  • Battery. This supplies energy to heat the coil. Different batteries supply different voltages and may have limits on the amount of current they can supply.
  • Mod. This is the term for a home-made device or modification. It's synonymous with the main casing that holds the battery, switch, and any protection circuitry or feeder system. Smaller units tend to contain the battery, so you'll need to replace the unit when the battery fails.
  • Atomizer. This is a coil of nichrome or kanthal wire that heats up when an electric current flows through it. The coil is typically wrapped around a wick that supplies a constant flow of liquid to the hot coil.
  • Liquid compartment. This varies from a ceramic cup and some mesh, to a tank & filler system. In some devices, the liquid compartment is incorporated into the atomizer device.
  • Mouthpiece & air tube. Air needs to flow past the coil to allow the vapor to be sucked in. The conflict between an air tube and the liquid flow is a critical part of any design.

From a practical standpoint, you'll keep your mod forever or until it breaks. Batteries might last 6-12 months or longer. Atomizers and cartridges will need replacing every week or month. Anything beyond these components is probably optional, or part of a more sophisticated system.When buying parts, you need to always be concerned about the fittings. The screw fittings are more or less standardized. The most prevalent fitting is a 510. There are about a dozen different fittings in use. There are adapters that allow you to fit one type onto another.

e-cigarette liquid is generaly composed of:
  • PG: Propylene glycol. This, along with VG is the main component of the eliquid. PG is good at holding onto flavors, and provides a nice throat feel, but the vapor is thin. A few people may have allergies or reactions to PG.
  • VG: Vegetable glycerin. VG is thick, and so is the vapor it produces, but it's not as good as PG at holding flavors. Balancing the thickness of the liquid between PG and VG can aid in flowing the liquid and preventing leaks, as well as providing a good combination of thick vapor, flavor, and throat hit.
  • Nicotine in PG or VG solution. Obviously optional. This is generally provided to consumers in 3% to 10% solutions. A final eliquid is specified in milligrams per millileter (same as g/L). A typical heavy smoker might be comfortable with an 18mg/ml solution, or 1.8%.
  • Flavorings. Although tobacco flavorings seem the natural choice to new vapers, more experienced vapers tend towards fruit, bakery, candy, drinks, spices, and other flavors. There's even a crab flavored juice.
  • Sweeteners & other additives are sometimes added to some juices to enhance the flavoring.

There are many types of atomizing parts. It should be noted that any part with a filling can hold onto flavors, so you tend to use them for one flavor throughout its lifespan. Although atomizers don't have the filling, they still have a small wick and a metal mesh, and certain flavors will persist. In short, you'll probably want one of these for each flavor you vape.
  • Atomizer. This is the simplest device--a coil wrapped around a wick, often with a ceramic cup and metal mesh to hold a few drops of liquid. They're the most sophisticated devices in terms of design, and tend to be more expensively made than other devices. To use them, you drip a few drops into the atomizer tube, then vape 4-5 times, and refill. Despite the low capacity, this is popular because it provides the purest flavor of any method. Their lifespan tends to be a week to a month, though they can go in minutes if you abuse them. Many people clean and even rebuild them to last for months.
  • Cartridges are a separate part you attach to a specific atomizer for the purpose of holding the e-liquid. They're often disposable, and come prefilled with liquid. They tend not to work very well because the interface between the cartridge and atomizer is difficult to implement.
  • Cartomizer. A combination of cartridge & atomizer in one package. This is one of the most popular parts used by experienced vapers. Cartomizers typically hold about 20 drops of liquid, but larger ones are available. They eliminate the need for constant dripping, but still have limited capacity. People tend to fill several cartomizers with different flavors for a day's outing, and refill them every day. Cartomizers tend to last a few days to a week, but are comparatively inexpensive.
  • Tank cartridge. This is a cartridge without filler. It attaches to a specially built atomizer. They tend to not be very good for the same reason as cartridges--the interface between the atomizer and tank are problematic.
  • Cartomizer tanks. These are large reservoir tubes, with a cartomizer inserted inside it. They have the advantage in capacity, and the tank ensures the cartomizer is constantly wet with liquid. They do require the cartomizer to be cut or to have a hole drilled. You can buy them precut, but many people cut or drill them by themselves with very simple tools.

One key to a good vaping experience is matching the voltage to the atomizer. Atomizers (cartridges, cartomizers, etc.) are typically specified by their electrical resistance. You want to match this to the voltage your battery delivers. One basic idea is that it's the wattage (the amount of heat delivered per second) that matters. If you like a stronger hitting, larger plume of vapor, you'd use more wattage, or vice verse... always being careful that if you use too much wattage, you can get a burnt taste, or burn the wick (leaving it with a permanent burnt taste, so you'll probably want to throw it out) or destroy the atomizer. Another important factor is that the wattage can affect the flavoring--some people even use a variable voltage device to dial in the right voltage for a particular juice or mood.


Picking a Starter Kit--an Example
It's hard to give advice for a starter. Whatever recommendations I make will be wrong for some people. You're also certain to advance beyond any starter, but it's better to get a feel before spending more money. I also don't like to recommend specific product names. With all those caveats, here's one example of a potentially decent starter set. You can put one together yourself, or start with a "starter kit" special. The assumption is that you're a heavy 1-2 pack a day smoker that wants to quit smoking entirely fairly quickly.

Just for the record, some current common recommendations (January 2012) for all-in-one units include K-Go, E-Go (3.2V, which I don't like), and Riva.
A "mod" device (that take separate batteries) that takes a normal 3.7V lithium battery is a better bet to start with.
Search some of the e-cigarette forums for more comprehensive current recommendations.

Prepare to be frustrated at first, until you find a combination that works for you.
Don't get locked into any one device, and don't order too much of anything at once. This is a good reason to stick with 510-compatible hardware. Most of the parts are interchangeable if you replace something or order a second device.
Better to try small quantities of different things, especially different liquids and cartomizers and atomizers.

...

A good starter kit will include at least 2 high capacity batteries (1000 or more mAh each, or 3 at 650mAh), 10 cartomizers (two 5-packs of different resistance), 2 atomizers, a drip tip, and a few sample liquids.
The extra battery allows you to continue vaping while the other battery is charging.

For a 3.2 - 3.4V device, you should stick with 1.5 to 2.0 ohm cartomizers (LR or low resistance).
For a 3.7V device, you can try up to 2.5 ohms, but 1.8 to 2.0 is probably the sweet spot.
I suggest you stay away from higher voltages to start with, unless you get a variable voltage (VV) device.

Don't invest too heavily in hardware at first. Until you get a feel for things, you're likely to make mistakes. Go slow, and don't be over-concerned about quitting all at once. Most important, remember that each of us has different tastes, preferences, and life styles; and our tolerance, habits, and reaction to addictions both physical and psychological are going to be unique.

Liquids
For a heavy smoker, I'd recommend getting at least one bottle of 24mg liquid, one of 12-15mg, and the rest 18mg.
Get a variety of flavors, maybe 5-10, for a total of 30 - 100ml. This is probably a 10-30 days supply.
I suggest you include:
- at least 1 non citrus fruit flavor, e.g. apple or pear,
- at least 1 tobacco,
- no more than 2 heavy/dark flavors, such as coffee and chocolate, and
- at least 1 bakery or drink or (light colored) candy flavor.
This will give you an idea of the range of flavors, and keep you away from making big mistakes.
For example, the heavy & dark flavors are often difficult to replicate, hard to vape, and clog the devices.
Also, this gives you a good sampling of what the vendor is producing.
If you like something, try a bit more in that area.
Don't go overboard ordering large quantities before trying a few other vendors.
Different vendors tend to produce good flavors of a certain type.

Going Further
You can buy tanks for your cartomizers from $5 up to $50 or more. Or you can make them from $2 syringes. If you find you like dripping, you can get an attachment that holds a bottle for you and works off your existing device and attys/cartos. If you decide you want to try a bottom feeder box mod, your attys and cartos will still work, and maybe even the batteries and charger if you start out with a mod. But these are more enhancements than basics. The real basics are matching a cartomizer or atomizer with the voltage and juices you like. The device is less important--its main function being to supply a voltage, but it also effects the amount of airflow, which can, unfortunately, make or break a device for you. Still, IMHO, you can learn enough playing around with these cheaper parts to make much better decisions on where to go next.

There's also a huge variety in cartomizers & atomizers, such as rebuildable, modular atomizers, and huge cartomizers that hold up to 5ml of liquid. It's also a great year for vaping technology, with many exciting new innovations expected to come to market or mature, and a highly competitive environment that holds great hope for low prices and higher quality.


Cautionary Words
Nicotine is a dangerous poison. Be careful about splashing drops in your eyes, and be quick about washing any spills off your hands. At normal vaping levels, you probably won't get poisoned, but if you make your own liquids and work with higher concentrations, even a few drops or a small skin-contact can be extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. Lock all your liquids away from children. The yummy flavors are very attractive to the young, and make no mistake--nicotine is very dangerous.


Pictures
My vaping gear
Rear, left to right:
  • KR-808-D1 Elite with Clear And Easy (cone shaped) Tank. A sleek design, larger than a cigarette, with a special cartomizer that has no filler material. Offers a cleaner vape, though they're expensive and don't last long. Uses an 808 style connector, but in a wider body style.
  • Ego-T with 510 to 808 adapter and Clear And Easy Tank. A 1000mAh Ego-T battery. Shown here with an 808 "Clear and Easy Tank" mounted on an adapter.
  • Ego-T with Drip On Demand Kit. The DoD kit makes dripping into an atomizer easy. An occasionaly squeeze of the bottle keeps the atomizer wet, and suction does the rest.
  • LavaTube (variable voltage) with VapeMate dripper attachment. The LavaTube allows the voltage to be adjusted up to 6V. Shown here with another dripper-bottle attachment for easy drip-style vaping in an atomizer.
  • Provari (variable voltage) with 5ml Torpedo Tank. The Provari is expensive, but well made, and features a tightly regulated power supply, variable up to 6V, and a 2-digit LED display that shows voltage, atomizer resistance, battery voltage, and error codes.
  • Ego-T with VPX Cartomizer Tank. A 3ml carto-tank mounted on a more-or-less standard 1000 mAh battery.
  • Boge Revolution (version 2). This is a cheap, self-contained "bottom feeder". It contains a 10ml refillable juice bottle. When your attached carto or atomizer goes dry, a few squeezes sets it right. This is good for 2-3 days of vaping.

Front, left to right:
  • CE2 cartomizer, cut open to fit a tank. Instead of a filler, this carto features a long wick inside a hollow tube. It's often used in tanks with the tube cut away, where the wick stays submerged in the tank.
  • Boge 510 cartomizer, with hole drilled for VPX tank. This is a standard filled carto. The hole in the tube allows liquid to wet the filler material inside the carto.
  • 510 extender/adapter. Adapters allow you to use parts meant for different devices with different fittings. They can also extend for length, or provide a sealed or more open airflow.
  • XL clear cartomizer. Just another cartomizer. This one's clear.
  • Ego Booster. An attachment that varies the voltage on Ego-T and other batteries.
  • screw-on Voltage meter attachment. To view the actual voltage the battery delivers, either loaded (with the atomizer in place) or not.

Front, center
  • Sharpie paint pen, for marking atomizers/cartomizers

Other pictures:
  • Atomizer internals. Note the coil surrounding the wick, how the wick extends into the metal mesh, the ceramic cup, and the metal mesh that holds additional liquid.
  • Cartomizer--view of the filling and the air hole.
  • DIY liquids--left: flavorings, center: menthol crystals, right: basics (VG, PG, nicotine) along with "sweeteners"
  • Some DIY supplies for measuring and storing liquids: bottles, funnels, graduated cylinders, measuring cups, droppers, very small measuring spoons, and syringes. For mixing very small amounts while testing flavors and blends, thick (18ga or larger) blunt end syringes are the best tool.
 

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Now that's one extensive post, thanks!

So for someone smoking 20 a day, and really should quit, but seeming unable to do so, what would you recommend?
And how did it work out for you?
 
I tried it because a friend was enjoying it, and it seemed like a cool new toy. Quitting smoking was only secondary with me. In fact, I still really enjoy a good smoke.I will say that I bought 2 packs of tobacco Thanksgiving weekend, and smoked it all, them didn't buy another pack for 3-4 weeks, and hardly missed it. I don't think I would've done that with the smaller, low voltage devices. Then again, I'm not exactly highly motivated to stop smoking.

For detailed information, I suggest visiting e-cigarette forum


By the way, here are the simple tools to cut cartos for a tank. A simple tube cutter for the CE2 type cartos, and a saddle valve for punching holes in the more traditional cartos.
 

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Nice to see a fellow vaper here...

My setup is a GGTS with a map tank would be thinking of a VV pretty soon (Planning on the lava tube)
 

Commander Quan

Commander Yellow Pantyhose
I had no idea that the vapor products were so extensive. I am not a cigarette smoker, so these don't really fill any need for me, but I'm glad you took the time to write this all up, it's an excellent resource for those that are interested.

Even though the vapor companies can't claim that their products are a healer alternative to cigarettes, I'm sure that most people will come to that conclusion themselves.

Obviously there is the upfront cost of the equipment, but after that, how does the cost to maintain and refill your stuff compare to what you would normally spend on cigarettes? Is there any type of monetary advantage to someone switching to one of these in addition to the health aspect of it?
 
If you're making the liquids yourself, and otherwise making informed choices, the savings can be enormous. It seems rather difficult to spend more than $2-3/day, aside from batteries and "mods". My numbers are probably half of that. Figure $15 for 30ml of liquid at retail which is about 10 days' supply, plus 3 cartos and 1 atty is another $10, so $25 in 10 days? Of course you can spend more, but that seems a likely average.

Then again, my total "invested" so far in 9 months is $2491, but that includes everything, including a used copy of the book "Analytical Determination of Nicotine and Related Compounds and their Metabolites". I made a few unfortunate choices and mistakes when starting out. I also have another 6 months or more supply on hand. For reference, that first picture of (some of) my gear cost over $700, including the batteries inside. The silver guy with the tank screwed into it was about $265 as is, but is my favorite setup of the pack.
 
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Darn crazy kids with their space age smoking devices...get off my lawn!!!

:w00t::lol:

I actually tried a few different cheap electronic cigs from gas stations and liquor stores during my most recent miserable attempt at quitting real cigs. OP has excellent points, every e-cig I tried really was missing "something" that didn't quite make it a suitable replacement.
 
Wow, I had no idea that Nicotine could be that dangerous in that form, thanks for the warning, I just smoke a pipe and do a bit of nasal snuff once in a while :)
 
"Sixty milligrams of nicotine (the amount in about 30-40 cigarettes [1]), has the potential to kill an adult who is not a smoker[2] if all of the nicotine were absorbed. This figure is ~120 mg in chronic cigarette smokers." wikipedia

With approximately 30 drops to a gram, 60 mg is about 2 drops. This is why you don't want to go near pure nicotine. Anyway, it's unlikely you can find it that pure at retail.

And it's readily absorbed through skin.
 
I'm a huge pro-ecig ex-user. I vaped an e-cig to quit smoking cigarettes 18 months ago. It was the easiest thing I found to subdue nic fits. It took me 5 months to go from 2 packs a day ($12 a day) to not even using an e-cig anymore. Patches and pills begone.

I will advise anyone looking to get into this to get off the cigs to invest more money upfront for better, more renowned hardware. There is a big night and day difference between a $30-40 e-cig starter kit and a single high quality $70-100 standalone e-cig. Do your research, there is a ton of information out there on forums. It should only take you a day or so to figure out which manufacturers you should avoid like the plague.

One other piece of advice I will give is to learn how to mix your own e-cig "juice" early on. There are highly reputable juice vendors that will sell you high content nicotine flavored juice that you can cut with their nicotine free juices to essentially stretch your money. It's a daunting task and at times you might feel like some freaky scientist, but it's totally worth it in savings. It's also the easiest way to ween yourself off nicotine at a progressively steady rate since you control how much nicotine content is in the juice. Not enough nicotine for your tastes? No problem, you just add a little more. Just don't overdue it or headaches will ensue...

Like everything else on these forums, YMMV. For the most part though, I think it is definitely safer than taking Chantix. It was definitely better than the patch and gum for me. All in all, I saved about $1500 over 5 months after my initial hardware purchases and monthly juice refills.
 
Thanks for all the info. I am looking into purchasing an e-cig setup right now. I am a 2pack a day smoker and I want to slowly wheen myself off real cigs. I was looking into the eGo-T. Are these ok to start with?
 
My wife and I bought a refillable E Cigarette that came with 5 mouthpieces and 2 Cigarettes. We blew through the cartridges fairly quickly and bought some liquid to refill with. It's 24MG and tastes pretty good, but I'd like a Camel flavored juice and she'd like a Marlboro Flavored juice. Can anyone point me in the direction of juices that taste fairly close? Very informative thread.
 
I'm not sure, but it might be http://www.backwoodsbrew.net/ that I hear a lot of good things about for tobacco flavors. Thing is, the site is down for a few days while the owner's having surgery. Not to mention, I haven't used them myself. Other people like http://www.thevaporroom.net/ especially for their "flavor of the week" which is priced nice, though I don't think people like them for the tobacco flavors. I found their tobaccos rather mixed, and prefer http://GourmetVapor.com or http://JuicyVapor.com for tobaccos. Not that I've tried more than a few. There's a whole bunch of other worthy places, but I don't care for tobacco flavors, and mostly mix my own liquids these days.

I suggest trying a few other flavors. Brandy would be an especially easy flavor to switch to. I tried it on a friend that hated some of my chocolates (and the whole concept of e-cigarettes) and he actually liked it.
 
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Thanks for all the info. I am looking into purchasing an e-cig setup right now. I am a 2pack a day smoker and I want to slowly wheen myself off real cigs. I was looking into the eGo-T. Are these ok to start with?

The ego-t is a great idea that was poorly implemented. I'd suggest getting a Riva instead because the voltage is too low on the ego-t. If you must get an ego-t, don't get a kit, just the main battery part. You should be able to get a decent size battery unit in a Riva. There's also a k-go, which is supposed to be exactly like a Riva. All three are just about the same, except for the voltage. Also, don't bother with any of the ego-t parts--the atomizers are made for the cartridges and are very finicky and rarely work well. This is why you don't want an ego-t kit. You'll do much better with the standard 510 style parts. (The ego-c is the same as the ego-t with rebuildable atomizer, so I'd not recommend anyone start with it either.)

It's really hard to recommend anything because the entire industry is having growing pains. The quality of parts is spotty, and they all have flaws. Some really good vendors sometimes have trouble keeping up, and can make various kinds of mistakes or otherwise be frustrating to work with. Mostly, they close down shop randomly because they run out of parts and have to wait to restock.
 
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Well, since my post I have purchased a 510 -T. I have to say that I like it ok and it has gotten me off the analogs for the most part. ( I still smoke 2 - 3 real cigs a day, but I plan on stopping for good when I run out). The battery life on the 510-t sucks however. Two days ago I purchased an Ego-t start up set off a co worker. I got the entire set plus 90 mils of juice for $50. so I could not resist. So far I like the Ego-t better.
 
I'm not sure, but it might be http://www.backwoodsbrew.net/ that I hear a lot of good things about for tobacco flavors. Thing is, the site is down for a few days while the owner's having surgery. Not to mention, I haven't used them myself. Other people like http://www.thevaporroom.net/ especially for their "flavor of the week" which is priced nice, though I don't think people like them for the tobacco flavors. I found their tobaccos rather mixed, and prefer http://GourmetVapor.com or http://JuicyVapor.com for tobaccos. Not that I've tried more than a few. There's a whole bunch of other worthy places, but I don't care for tobacco flavors, and mostly mix my own liquids these days.

I suggest trying a few other flavors. Brandy would be an especially easy flavor to switch to. I tried it on a friend that hated some of my chocolates (and the whole concept of e-cigarettes) and he actually liked it.

Thanks that vaporroom place rocks. I might PM you a few questions if that's ok
 
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