Personal Vaporizers (previously known as Electronic cigarettes or eCigs) have been around for awhile. From my research, there are about one thousand different brands and models available.
For my first experience with vaping, I bought the "Micro" from ePuffer back in 2008. Since then there have been considerable developments in this emerging industry. There are now electronic cigars and electronic pipes available plus quite a few mods. Back in 2008 the vaping business was more or less appealing to those who wanted to stop smoking, or have the smoking experience in places where traditional cigarettes were banned.
These days it seems that the industry is shifting. There is still the marketing appeal to those wanting to stop smoking. With the available mods, this is becoming a nicotine delivery industry.
In this series of articles, I will test and review electronic cigarettes and possibly electronic cigars. There are some products I will not test (or review) since most of these are designed to deliver more nicotine than even the strongest electronic cigarette/cigar. Many of us are already challenged with focus on health issues. Personal vaporizers are simple to use with the only user involvement being possible refilling of eLiquid cartridges.
Why vaping? Regular tobacco cigarettes have over 4000 chemicals, in addition to nicotine. The addictive part of the cigarette is the nicotine, the most damaging parts of the cigarette are the other 4000+ chemicals. According to Medical News Today, it is not the nicotine that is the cause of cancer. The nicotine is what keeps us "hooked". Vaping, then, can be a strategy similar to any other nicotine replacement therapy to help us stop smoking. Vaping is an alternative to tobacco sticks. The cost of vaping is quite a bit less – plus personal vaporizers are not a health product and not claimed to be a nicotine replacement therapy or smoke cessation product.
Vaping mimics the experience of smoking. You still have the hand involved in holding the personal vaporizer, you still have the inhaling aspect, you still have a vapor that mimics smoke, etc.
With nicotine patches, there is not much choice or variables involved. Your doctor will determine the amount of nicotine that you will need over various steps or increments and prescribe that. Other nicotine replacement products are available over the counter. Whether or not you use those dependent on how they work, how they taste, and how convenient they are. It is quite similar with vaping and involves a few more choices:
- Taste. Back in the "old" days, personal vaporizers were limited to mimic several different types of existing tobacco cigarettes. Most of those were flavors of cigarettes available in the US and only one that I recall that was available in the UK. These were questionnable flavors too, by the way. Vaping really didn't taste much like a regular cigarette. Skip ahead a few years and we now have designer tastes with major companies involved in the making of these e-cig flavors. And a new name too – these are now called "eLiquid". The flavors are available in various nicotine strengths and a considerable number of flavors – and tobacco flavor is one of quite a few that include chocolate, blueberry, etc. Someone new to vaping may have taste as a major consideration to start with, but usually end up with one of the new flavors within weeks.
- Draw. This is one aspect that is important to smokers. A draw is like an inhale "puff" from a regular cigarette. You want a personal vaporizer that closely mimics how you puff on a cigarette today. You don't want to end up feeling like your lungs are reaching into your toes to get a drag and at the same time you don't want to end up feeling like you are just breathing in air. You want the draw from a personal vaporizer to closely mimic the draw (or puff) that you take from a regular cigarette.
- Throat Hit. Since you are essentially dealing with liquid that is steamed as you inhale (or draw), the feeling in your mouth and throat must be similar. This is called the "throat hit". The throat hit is part of the experience. With regular cigarettes this is likely where much of the internal damage from the 4000+ chemicals start and it is one of the feelings that beginner smokers had to get used to. It can range from none, smooth, harsh and everything in between.
- Amount of Smoke. Well, this is not quite the right words, you really are not making smoke, you are making steam or vapor. A huge part of the smoking experience is this smoke, we blow rings, we exhale through our nose, we roll the smoke, etc.
- Battery Duration. How long the battery lasts is important. It is not part of the smoking experience, but a battery that lasts only for the equivalent of one cigarette is pretty much useless. You would need too many charged batteries to make through one day without resorting to regular cigarettets to make this worthwhile. With personal vaporizers that look like regular cigarettes, the battery is the part of the personal vaporizer that is at the end where the burning tip would normally be. The battery can be anywhere from 40+% of the overall personal vaporizer length. There are some important factors when discussing battery duration and those include the mAh capacity of the battery and the voltage output. And, both of these are greatly affected by the draw. Take a really deep draw and the battery duration is shorter. Draw small puffs, and the battery duration is longer. This will be subjective, but I will try to give a reasonable indication describing battery duration in terms of how many of equivalent regular cigarettes you could smoke with one battery from full charge to no longer functioning.
- Outer Shape and Look. If this is part of a stop smoking campaign, you will only have this personal vaporizer for a short time. I do not want to draw attention to this personal vaporizer and want it to look similar to a regular cigarette with dimensions that are similar. By dimension, I mean length and thickness. I also do not want a strange looking device that looks like a tyke's pencil or crayon.
- Weight and Balance. I have tested personal vaporizers in various categories that weigh next to nothing all the way up to wanting to buy a backpack to carry the unit. The heavier units tend to be in the "mods" category, but where necessary I will include this.
As I have previously noted, I will not be testing devices that are part of a new segment of the market for "competitive vaping". Many of these are modified devices (or "mods") that are designed to increase the production of vapor which greatly enhances the amount of nicotine delivered in each draw. I did visit a local vape store and tested some of these mods ... and while the "throat hit" was outstanding and delivered an experience that is quite similar to a long-term hard core smoker, I also think that delivering more nicotine that one is used to would extend the amount of time needed to actually stop smoking. It is hard enough to stop without adding to the process by delivering more nicotine than necessary as part of the strategy. Plus, a lot of these mods look really weird. There are even mods that have a look similar to a "hookah" where the amount of smoke is unusually high.
Look to these articles for realistic alternative smoking strategies, not as long term nicotine replacements.
As I mentioned earlier, I have tried personal vaporizers before. The ePuffer Micro that I bought some years back broke. The Micro was essentially a two-part system. The long part of the device (the white part of a regular cigarette, or the burning tip) was the battery, a lithium battery that lasted the equivalent of about two cigarettes before needing recharging. There were two of these batteries included in the kit I bought. I ended up breaking one of the batteries – the threads ended up cross-threaded and would not hold on to the second part of the eCig. The second part was masked behind what looked like the colored filter part of a regular cigarette. This is where the electronics that burnt the steam/nicotine is. When I broke the one threaded battery, I did not pursue replacing it or contacting the company for warranty purposes. I found the Puffer flavor to be so bad that I was going to give up on the Puffer Micro anyhow.