What Is Vaping?
Vaping is primarily used as a tool for entrenched smokers to make the switch away from harmful cigarettes.
Traditional nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) - such as patches, lozenges and gum - do not work as a cessation tool for a large majority of smokers. In a 2005 British study, quit rates at one year using these methods was just 14.6%. While these traditional NRTs do assist in satisfying the craving for nicotine, they also eliminate the act of inhaling and exhaling and the 'hand to mouth' habit. For many smokers this habit is as difficult to give up as the nicotine addiction itself.
Vaping is the first true alternative to smoking. Not only can it act as a nicotine replacement tool, but it also gives a similar action and sensation to smoking.
There are many differences between vaping and smoking. While vaping accurately replicates the inhale and exhale from a cigarette, it is far less harmful.
Cigarettes have a range of chemicals added to them to increase their effectiveness at delivering nicotine into your system, as well as their addictiveness. According to the National Cancer Institute in the USA, "Of the more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 250 are known to be harmful, including hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. Among the 250 known harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 69 can cause cancer."
While many of these chemicals present in a cigarette are also present in food products and medications, they have not been tested as safe in those products by the process of burning. The act of burning a cigarette releases toxins present in safe ingredients, and increases toxins in unsafe ingredients.
Vaping does not burn anything. In addition to this, the range of chemicals present in vape liquids is minimal. They are made up of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, natural or artificial flavourings and, if you choose to use it, nicotine.
As stated previously, many smokers are equally as addicted to the act of inhaling and exhaling a cloud as they are to nicotine. In fact, nicotine in your body begins to disappear very quickly once you stop smoking. According to Quitline, "for most people nicotine can still be detected in the bloodstream for between one and three days; however, it can still be present for up to 10 days in some people."
The biggest hurdle for many smokers is that even after they have eliminated nicotine from their system they are left with a routine that is unfamiliar.
Long-term smokers have crafted their habits around smoking. Getting up and going outside for a morning coffee may always have been accompanied by a cigarette, for instance. Social gatherings have always been spent with fellow smokers, some of whom may not also be quitting at the same time as you. Lunch and tea breaks at work were less about lunch and tea and more about that smoke break.
These habits are hard to stop. Often, eliminating these actions leaves the ex-smoker feeling like something is missing, and they return to smoking.
Once the nicotine has been eliminated from the body, however, switching to vaping acts as a direct replacement for these former habits. The act of inhaling and exhaling from a vape completely supplants the desire for a cigarette. Many former smokers have switched to vaping successfully without nicotine for this reason alone.
A vape (or electronic cigarette) is a device with two distinct parts that fit together.
The first of these is a rechargeable battery which contains the power source for the vape as well as the controls.
The second of these is a tank, which is filled with flavoured liquid. This flavoured liquid is heated - by pressing a button on the battery - to produce the vapour cloud that is inhaled by the user.
This heating occurs due to a heating element known as a 'coil'. The coil consists of wire and cotton, and sits inside the tank. The juice in the tank is absorbed by the cotton, and when you press the button on the device the wire coil heats up, turning that juice into the vapour which you inhale.
While there are many different variations of vape devices, they all perform the same basic function described above to produce vapour, which is their primary purpose.
Some vape devices have a combined tank and coil system which needs to be replaced in full on occasion. Pod devices usually fall into this category. Other vape devices have replaceable coils, which you pull apart and install yourself. These are known as traditional devices. A third category of device allows the user to rebuild their own coils, but this is generally only recommended for advanced users.
As described above, the coil in a vape device is the heating element. It consists of wire and cotton, and sits inside the tank. The purpose of the coil is to absorb the flavoured liquid with which you fill the tank, and then to heat that liquid and turn it into the vapour that is inhaled.
The liquid inside the tank absorbs into the cotton in the coil. The wire, which is pressed against the cotton, begins heating up as you hold down the button on the device battery. This vapourises the liquid on the cotton. When you finish inhaling, more liquid absorbs into the cotton so that you can repeat the process.
Looking after your coils is vital to the longevity of your vape. Most coils will last for between one and two weeks, although some last much longer. After this time, they will need to be replaced. Luckily, replacements are usually sold in packs of between three and five, and are relatively cheap.
Over time, the cotton degrades within the coil and can cause a lack of flavour, a lack of vapour, a burnt taste or leakage. All of these are common indications that the coil needs to be replaced. Once replaced, flavour and vapour production are back to their usual high standard, and the cotton will adequately absorb and hold the liquid inside your tank.
The liquid that goes into your vape is known by a variety of names, including e-liquids, e-juices or even oils. They are generally a clear or coloured liquid that is thicker than water, made up of several ingredients.
The base for an e-liquid is made of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). Both of these ingredients are clear, odourless, viscous and slightly sweet by themselves, but they each perform a distinct purpose when combined.
PG is the flavour carrier in an e-liquid, and all flavour concentrates used in e-liquids are held in a PG base. VG is the slightly thicker ingredient that allows the e-liquid to be vapourised effectively by the coil. They can be mixed in various concentrations, but basically a higher PG concentration will be thinner and lead to increased flavour, and a higher VG concentration will be thicker and lead to larger vapour production.
Both PG and VG are used in a variety of everyday products, including coffee-based drinks, liquid sweeteners, ice creams, cake mixes, toothpastes, medications and personal lubricants. In e-liquids they are at least 99% pure by BP and USP grade (pharmaceutical grade) standards.
PG and VG make up approximately 80 to 90% of the liquid that is put into a vape. The remaining 10 to 20% is flavouring and, if you choose to use it, nicotine.
E-liquid flavourings are made by companies in the United States and Europe, and MSDS data is available for each of them. They are natural or artificial and are all food-grade ingredients, readily used in cake mixes and sweets as well as in scents such as perfumes and candles.
Smoking is an expensive habit. In 2018 Australians spent $20.7 billion on cigarettes and other tobacco products, with the average smoker spending around $5,500 each year.
Part of the reason that smoking is so expensive in Australia is due to the government excise on tobacco products, which in early 2020 rose to 95 cents per cigarette. This pushed the country's tobacco price further ahead as the highest in the world, a mantle it has held for a long period of time. In 2020 alone it was estimated that almost $17 billion of tax revenue would come directly from the pockets of smokers - about 3% of total government revenue.
The average cost of vaping differs depending on the device you use. In most circumstances a basic starter kit will use a minimal amount of e-liquid and coils will cost less per pack. A larger, more powerful kit will vapourise juice quicker, and since the coils are also larger they will typically be more expensive.
However, the cost of vaping pales in comparison to the cost of smoking whichever method you decide upon. With the cost of smoking continuing to rise due to annual excise hikes, this difference will only continue to grow.
Choosing the best device for your needs can be difficult when you first start vaping. Cost is often a factor, as the more powerful devices usually require extra parts be purchased with them (batteries and a charger, for instance). The other decision you need to make is which style of inhale you would prefer.
The two styles of inhale are Mouth to Lung (MTL) and Direct to Lung (DTL).
For most new vapers, the MTL style will be the best choice when first making the transition. Cigarettes have a restricted inhale, which means that you draw on a cigarette and bring the smoke into your mouth, and then draw back further in a separate action to bring the smoke into your lungs before exhaling. MTL vaping more accurately replicates this feeling and action.
Experienced vapers will sometimes switch from their initial MTL device to a DTL device after a while. The DTL style feels very different to smoking, requiring a much bigger inhale and producing much more vapour. With these devices, the user takes one long, deep inhale to bring the vapour directly from the device into the lung before exhaling.
As there are already many differences to consider between smoking and vaping, we always suggest that new users with no previous vaping experience go for an MTL kit when first starting.
Note that 'starter kits' are just the devices - the battery, tank and coil required for the device to turn liquid into vapour. All starter kits also require you to purchase e-liquid separately, and some starter kits require the purchase of a battery and a charger to work. Check the specifications of a product before you purchase. If it lists an internal battery with a mAh (milliamp hour), then you do not need to purchase a separate battery or charger.