I get asked a lot of questions about my e-cigarette, aka personal vaporizer. I constantly end up evangalizing about it, to the point it almost comes of sounding like a sales pitch. Instead of perpetually repeating myself, I thought I’d put together this introduction.
The basic idea behind an electronic cigarette is a power source, usually a battery, and a heating element which vaporizes a flavored liquid containing nicotine. There are people who use it without nicotine as well, and others have replaced the nicotine with THC and other fun chemicals. There are many different manufacturers, models, styles, and flavors. I’m going to walk you through my extensive experience with several.
Who Should or Shouldn’t Use an E-Cigarette?
I’m not a doctor, and this is not medical advice, but I have done a lot of reading on the subject and I’ve been using an e-cig for about 5 years.
If you do not smoke, you should not use an E-cig. Most of them contain nicotine, and nicotine is a dangerous and addictive drug. I am hopelessly addicted to nicotine, and I wouldn’t wish this affliction on my worst enemy. I know people personally who went their entire lives without smoking, thought the e-cigarette was some healthy alternative, and wound themselves up with a chemical dependency problem in their mid 30s.
If you do smoke, but you do not suffer withdrawal symptoms, you should not use an E-cig. You should just quit smoking. The temptation that you have to smoke, just for the enjoyment, the oral fixation, or what have you, is not worth the consequences. While the electronic cigarette is certainly an effective harm reduction tool, reducing if not eliminating the risks of cancer and emphysema associated with smoking, the risk of dependency actually increases with its use over that of cigarettes.
The reason for this is the ease of use and the low cost. Even when I was a heavy smoker, I would have to refrain from smoking from time to time. I could not smoke in my office, or take cigarette breaks every 15 minutes. With the electronic cigarette (depending on where you live) you can do it pretty much anywhere and all the time legally. Even if it is illegal, or unwanted in a particular place, you can do it stealthily and nobody will notice a lot of the time. So if you are a person who occasionally smokes a few cigarettes at the bar, there is a serious risk of you beginning to use your e-cig all day, picking up a nicotine dependency problem, and believe me when I tell you, that is terrible.
A cigarette is eventually finished, and gets put out. The E-cig just keeps on going. You take a puff, you put it in your pocket, you take another puff, put it on your desk. For me, it barely ever leaves my hand. It’s the first thing I do in the morning, and the last thing I do before bed. I just keep on refilling it and replacing the batteries for all of my waking hours.
There’s little cost incentive to reduce intake. Once you get the right unit, and the right vendor, e-cigs are so cheap to use on a daily basis, you barely think about how much you’re using. When we’re buying pricey cigarettes that have been taxed all to hell, we’re very conscious about how many we’re using. The heaviest vapor user won’t spend more than $2/day to use what would be the equivalent of three or four packs a day of cigarettes, at least, not once he gets the right equipment.
If you have been smoking for years, have a chemical dependency problem, and have tried to quit smoking in other ways unsuccessfully, then I think you should try the e-cig. At the very least, it will reduce or eliminate your risks of cancer and emphysema, and reduce your costs dramatically. It also keeps those costs out of the hands of the State, which is a huge win in my book any day.
Other upsides include, not burning your clothes. Not setting the house on fire if you fall asleep with it. Using it indoors without worry. Being able to date and spend more time with non-smokers. A huge choice of flavors. This list could get kind of long. This is way better than smoking.
You can try to use it as quitting device, but I don’t think they should be marketed that way. I am still hopelessly addicted to nicotine. I depend on this device more than I did on cigarettes. If this device breaks and I cannot find a replacement, I go right back to smoking.
I have however lowered my nicotine intake over time. I originally started out with a 16mg nicotine level in my fluid. That wasn’t enough to get me off cigarettes, so I upped it to 36mg. I gradually stepped it down, to 24, then 20, and now I am on 18mg. In theory, I could lower this to 16, to 12, to 10, to 8, to 6, and ultimately to zero. Given than it took me 5 years to get down to 18, I don’t know how likely it is that I’ll ever do that, but you can gradually step down your nicotine levels in nearly unnoticeable amounts if you’re motivated until the dependency is gone.
How I Started
Before picking up the e-cig, I was a two carton a week Newport 100’s smoker. As the tax burden on this habit rapidly increased in New York, I began looking for alternatives. First by purchasing my cigarettes from the Indian reservation, then by downgrading my choice of cigarette.
Unfortunately, the reservation got greedy and took advantage of the tax situation. The Poospatuck reservation in Shirley, New York where I was buying them, is lined with smoke shops. It’s practically the only trade going on there. People come from all over the place to buy their cigarettes and avoid taxes. By competing with each other over price, the vendors realized they were missing out on huge profit margins, and opted instead to collude with each other to keep prices lower than the taxed State alternative, but far higher than the actual cost. So every time the State raised taxes, the reservation would raise the prices.
I had come there to avoid the taxes, not to pay them to a different authority, and so one day when the price had jumped yet again, I refused to pay. I left the reservation without my cigarettes. Only a couple left in my pack, I went off deciding today would be the day I would finally quit smoking, again.
That feeling was short lived. When I ran out of cigarettes, and my nicotine withdrawals set in, I became very uncomfortable. I knew it was coming because I had tried this before, repeatedly. Patches, gums, Chantix, you name it.
I needed to get out of the house, and so I went up to the mall. As I walked about looking for something to distract myself from the chemical dependency I knew was bound to shamefully drive me back to the reservation, I walked past a booth that sold electronic cigarettes.
I had heard commercials about them on the radio before. I always thought it was a nonsense fad. I remember an ad saying “All you exhale is pure water vapor” and that didn’t sound helpful at all. I had a chemical dependency problem, and something that didn’t provide me this chemical or some reasonably similar analog just wasn’t going to cut it.
I asked the vendor about his product, and he allowed me to try it. I took a drag, I felt the warm sting of nicotine on the back of my throat, the discomfort of my withdrawal symptoms subsided, and I reached for my wallet.
What I ended up with, at the time seemed miraculous. The vendor was “Smoking Anywhere” and I received what I came to know as a model 601 personal vaporizer, a portable charger, and a handful of cartomizers. I paid in excess of $100 for the whole setup.
Cigarette Style E-Cigarettes
The 601 was shaped like a cigarette. It would activate automatically when it sensed you were puffing on it, as opposed to the 602 which I later got, and had a manual push button. These are essentially the same things you get at gas stations, or 7-11. Some may be deemed “disposable” others can be refilled and recharged. If you have an NJoy, which I also had at one point, it’s basically the same thing, same for Blu.
These are worthless pieces of garbage, and usually radically overpriced.
The 601, the NJoy, and other automatics, have this terrible habit of breaking when fluid gets into the sensor that detects you are puffing on it. Once that happens, your E-cig, whether it was marketed as disposable or not, is on its way to the garbage can. I often didn’t get two weeks out of a unit before it became useless.
Even the 602 and other manual push button style models of this type are prone to breakage. Whether it just plain ceases to function, can no longer hold a charge, or something goes wrong with the button, something will at some point go wrong and it will become useless.
Cartomizers, also known as cartridge systems were originally designed to be disposable, pre-filled units that were easily replaceable, and created no mess. They were also part of a price gouging scheme by early marketers of the devices, to charge people nearly the same price as cigarettes for the devices, while costing only a few cents to manufacture, and tax free. Many vendors would send you the first set for free, in order to lock people into costly refill contracts that would harm your credit if you tried to back out.
These are what you most commonly see at gas stations and convenience stores, and I highly recommend avoiding them.
Typically they are plastic containers with a metal tip that screws into your e-cig battery. Inside them is a foam padding soaked in a flavored nicotine solution, and wrapped in a wire. When your battery activates, it passes voltage through the wire, and evaporates the fluid, creating the vapor you inhale.
In Search of Something Better
The above mentioned systems just weren’t doing it for me. I eventually broke down and bought cigarettes, and would go back and forth between the e-cig and regular cigarettes, which I began referring to as “analogs”.
The Internet is such a wonderful thing. I stumbled across a web forum called E-Cigarette Forum. This is a place where users and vendors alike are discussing the various products in this market. It was there I found out about alternatives to the poorly made overpriced units I was using.
Additionally, as time went on, electronic cigarettes gained more recognition and local vendors began popping up. As demand increased, the technology improved, and we today have a lot of better options for e-cigs.
Today I use the iTazte SVD with a KangerTech ProTank III, and 18mg nicotine fluid. Allow me to explain what that means and why.
First you had cartomizers, as we previously explained. These were terribly inefficient, and so some smart folks developed atomizers that were designed for direct dripping. It was basically an open unit that, as the language implies, you directly drip the fluid onto. This worked out much better than cartomizers, but required constant refilling.
Tank systems were the next evolution. A unit that holds a few milliliters of fluid sits atop the unit, feeding the atomizer constantly. I’ve had several models, from no name generics, to the EVOD, to the ProTank 2, and now the ProTank 3.
They use atomizer coils that can usually be bought for $2 or less each, and may last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on how often you use them and how much voltage you use.
It makes matters much easier, reducing the mess and time associated with refilling the unit, and eliminates the cost of replacing pre-filled cartridges.
Depending on how heavily you use the device, it may or may not feed fluid into the atomizer quickly enough. If this is a problem, just unscrew the base a little bit, until you see air bubbles come up, indicating that fluid has replaced the empty space in the coil.
Variable Voltage Batteries
The iTaze SVD, and the JoyeTech eVic I used prior, and the JoyeTech eGo Twist I used prior to that, are variable voltage units. This was a huge and needed upgrade for this technology. Original units like the 601/602 and the original eGo were limited to like 3.7 volts.
Putting more voltage through the coil generates more heat, more heat evaporates more vapor. With the older units I was often left unsatisfied, and/or I had to take very long, slow drags off of the device to get enough vapor. With the variable voltage unit, I just turn up the power and I’m satisfied each and every time.
I hope this has been helpful. Don’t use e-cigarettes unless you already have a nicotine addiction, because you may get yourself one, and that sucks. If you do have a nicotine addiction, try to quit in some other way.
If all else fails, the electronic cigarette is a great harm reduction tool, and very enjoyable. You’ll still have a chemical dependency problem, but the nicotine is not what kills us in cigarettes, it’s the 20k other compounds that do us in.
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