Welcome to Madvapes’ Master Guide to Vaping! This series of blogs will be an in-depth resource for potential vapers, or vapers of any level looking to expand his or her knowledge. From the very basics to more advanced and technical information, this guide will provide you with a go-to knowledge base for all things vaping.
Part 1: What is Vaping?
These days, most would assume that everyone has an idea as to what vaping is. Ignoring that assumption, what is it really? In the simplest form, it’s when a battery provides power to a coil in order to turn a liquid solution into vapor. That vapor is inhaled with the purpose of simulating a smoking experience. The vaporized liquid may or may not contain nicotine and/or flavoring as well.
Some might wonder if there’s a difference between vaping and e-cigarettes. The answer isn’t that simple, being that there are no concrete dividing lines between some terms. Generally, e-cigarettes more closely resemble an actual cigarette (generally referred as “analogs” in the vaping community) than a “vape,” “mod,” or “vaporizer.” Granted, you still vape an e-cigarette, but upon observation of more advanced devices, it becomes more and more awkward to refer to them as “e-cigarettes.”
You may have heard the term “mod,” thrown around as well. Before writing the term off as ridiculous, you should know the history. In the very early days of e-cigarettes, circa 2007, there was only one type of e-cigarette available: the cigalike. As the name would suggest, cigalikes looked like cigarettes, inheriting a similar size and shape and mostly differing only in color. Generally, these were not good enough, offering only a glimpse of the true potential of vaping. They had poor flavor, anemic vapor production, short battery life, and questionable build quality.
As a result, some of the more crafty early adopters looked to devise their own e-cigarettes to address these shortcomings. The most obvious solution was to modify a flashlight. Torches used a larger battery which could be removed and recharged, and already had all the electronic components built in. Only a few changes were needed, including replacing the light bulb with some threading that was compatible with e-cigarette hardware, and modifying the switch so that it wouldn’t stick in the “on” position. The result was a “mod.” The term stuck, and even though we’re well beyond the era of tinkering with flashlights, modern mods still retain some features from early versions, such as the battery.
Moving on, the term “vape,” can be used as a noun or as a verb. As a verb, “to vape” is to use the e-cigarette, vaporizer, and/or mod. As a noun, a “vape” is the device you are using to vape. It’s a general term that can be used for virtually any e-cigarette or mod. The sentence, “I’m vaping my vape,” is not technically incorrect, even if it sounds a bit absurd.
Lastly, we arrive at the term “vaporizer.” While it’s not incorrect or refer to any mod or e-cigarette as a vaporizer, it’s generally a term reserved for the cannabis market, which is an entirely different animal from the e-cigarette market. To the casual observer, it may appear as if these two markets are closely related, if not one-in-the-same, but make no mistake; there is a clear separation here, with remarkably little overlap.
Now, let’s talk about the anatomy of an e-cigarette. Every e-cigarette and mod uses the same three components, no matter how simple or advanced they may seem: a battery, a coil, and e-liquid. The battery provides power to the coil, which causes it to heat up. The heat from the coil vaporizes the e-liquid, turning it from a liquid to a vapor to be inhaled. The part that heats up is referred to as an “atomizer.” The atomizer is comprised of the coil, a housing or way to contain the liquid, and some kind of wicking material, which ensures that there is always liquid making contact with the coil. There are many different types of atomizers, including dripping atomizers, tanks, and cartomizers. Although each can be drastically different in how they work, they all serve the same purpose, which is to vaporize the e-liquid.
Batteries come in different styles as well. Some are removable, and some are permanently inside the device. Some can be recharged within the mod, some must be removed and charged in a dedicated charger, and some give you the option of both. Some confusion arises when it comes to batteries and beginner-style devices. For example, consider the cig-a-like. The part with the button is often referred to as the battery. However, the battery is actually inside that housing, along with circuitry such as a switch and possibly an LED. Sometimes, it can be difficult to be clear when referring to batteries, so it’s important to pay attention to context, especially if you’re not quite sure what you’re shopping for.
E-liquid is the component that is heated into vapor. There are only two ingredients that are absolutely necessary in order for a device to work, and they don’t even need to be used together. These ingredients are propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, or PG and VG respectively. PG is thinner than VG, has a slightly bitter taste, is somewhat harsh on the throat (which is sometimes desirable), and carries any added flavorings very well. VG is a thick liquid with a syrupy viscosity. It has a slightly sweet taste, is very smooth when inhaling, and doesn’t carry flavor quite as well as PG. VG produces a thick vapor which can linger in the air, while PG produces less vapor that dissipates quickly. Most liquids use a mixture of PG and VG to get the best characteristics of both, but the specific ratio that’s “best” is purely personal preference. Some people prefer a crisp flavor and pronounced “throat-hit” over vapor production, which more accurately simulates smoking, and use liquids with more PG to accomplish this. Others value vapor production over flavor, and use liquids that are heavier on VG. Over time, vapers find their preferred balance of vapor production, flavor, and throat hit.
In addition to PG and VG, many liquids contain nicotine. Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant, and many people start vaping in order to supplement or replace the nicotine they may be getting from other sources. Nicotine is relatively benign, and like caffeine, is safe when used properly and in proper amounts.
The last component that the majority of e-liquids incorporate is flavoring. While these flavorings have, historically, been the same flavorings used in food, many flavoring manufacturers have started offering flavorings that are designed specifically for vaping. The flavoring is what makes vaping so appealing to so many people. There are literally infinite possible flavorings, and therefore, infinite possible variations of e-liquid flavors. Some people stick to one flavor, and others change flavors frequently. There is no right or wrong way to choose liquid, and the flavor, PG/VG ratio, and nicotine strength are all variable so that the person vaping can choose whichever combination is preferable to them.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea as to what vaping is. What you just read is a very brief overview pertaining to just a few of the aspects of vaping. The selection of e-cigarettes and vaping products out there is just as varied as the people who use them. Our goal at Madvapes is to simplify all the information out there into an easy-to-use guide that makes it as easy as possible to learn more and find answers to any questions you might have.
We’ll be continually adding more to this guide, so be sure to check back periodically as we talk about everything from starter kits, to rebuildables, to the current state of FDA regulation.