What is Vaping? Beginners Guide to Vape Pens, Juice and Mods

A couple years ago I had no clue about vaping. In fact, being a smoker for 15 years, I thought anything that ‘mimics’ smoking has to be a toy that can’t be taken seriously.

I was wrong.

I fell in love with vaping. And became the guy who answers questions about vaping by friends, family and distant relatives.

Even now, in 2017, vaping is not something people are familiar with. You’d be surprised that the vaping industry is hitting somewhere close to $5 billion a year and is expected to double by the end of 2017. That’s a lot of money, and if vaping is still not widely known, it means there is a lot of untapped potential.

I decided to write this beginners guide to vaping to answer all of the most commonly asked questions and also address all the concerns most newcomers to vaping have. If you have questions like what is vaping? Keep reading.

what is vaping

What is Vaping?

Vaping is a verb. The word describes the act of inhaling and exhaling vapors produced by an electronic device known as a vaporizer.

Vaping is just like smoking. Except instead of smoke, you inhale and exhale vapors, which are not a result of any burning or combustion.

This is the basic definition of vaping but you probably have a lot more questions.

How does vaping work?

At the very basic level, vaping involves a kit which works with multiple parts to vaporize a liquid (called e-liquid or e-juice). This vapor is what is inhaled by the user and exhaled.

However, this whole process is not as simple in practice and has been perfected over thousands of years. The history of vaping can be traced back to Herodotus, a Greek historian who mentions a practice by people known as the Scythians, who used to vaporize weed using very hot stones and then used to inhale it.

Then you have the ‘Hookah’, invented in the Mughal era in India sometime between the 14th and 15th centuries. The Hookah can be considered an ancestor of the modern vaporizer and is still used in rural parts of India and Pakistan today.

Then we started getting more modern vaporizers near the 20th century, and it was not until the year 2000 that portable vaporizers started seeing increased production.

The initial variants were a lot like cigarettes in terms of looks, a move aimed at attracting existing smokers by not drifting too far away from something that already worked.

However, today you can see vaporizers in all types of different forms and shapes and they’ve shunned the cig-a-like moniker for their own identity.

What is a Vaporizer, Vape Pen and Vape Mod?

Vaporizer, vape pens and vape mods are different names for almost the same device. The vaporizer is the device which turns your e-liquid or e-juice into vapor. Vaporizers come in different shapes and sizes, from desktop variants to portable ones.

Vape pens are portable vaporizers that look a lot like cigarettes or pens (hence the name) and are made with all the different components required for vaping.

A vape mod or a box mod is a more complicated vaporizer component that often comes with an advanced circuit and the functionality to control the electric current and temperature attained during your vaping sessions. All this has an impact on the experience you have, including smoother vapors and vapor temperature.

When buying a mod, you’ll come across wattage figures ranging from low wattage, like 50W to higher figures like 160W. These numbers denote the maximum wattage a mod is able to deliver to your atomizer, which results in hotter vapes (and faster battery drains).

What is Vape Juice?

Vape juice, e-juice or e-liquid are different names for the liquid that is used in a vaporizer and is turned into vapor that the user inhales and exhales.

A lot of beginners are very curious and want to know what is in vape juice. The answer is simple. One or more of these 4 ingredients.

  • PG (Propylene glycol)
  • VG (Vegetable Glycerin)
  • Flavor
  • Nicotine

PG vape juice is the most common and comes in hundreds of different flavors like apple, berries etc, and can even be bought in existing cigarette brand flavors like Marlboro and so on.

VG based e-liquid is also quite popular and preferred by some users because it is plant based and has thicker vapors.

Some users are also allergic to PG based e-liquids, leading to symptoms like stomach pain and headaches. For them, VG juices present an alternative.

Nicotine is not present in all e-liquids and is optional. Users who are trying to move from smoking tobacco to vaping often go with e-liquids with nicotine and choose the nicotine quantity depending on their need.

Some vape juices have both PG and VG in them, and come in ratios like 50/50, 60/40 and 70/30.

whats in vape juice

Read more in our post about what’s in Vape Juice.

What is a Vape Tank?

A vape tank is the chamber which houses the e-liquid, vape juice or e-juice mentioned above. They are also known as atomizers or clearomizers (because modern ones are transparent).

Most modern vape tanks can be disassembled and include the liquid chamber and a coil, which is then screwed onto a vape mod.

How does it all come together?

As summarized above, a vaporizer or a vape has multiple components, including a mod, a vape tank or atomizer and a coil. The user fills the tank with e-liquid or e-juice and then attaches it to a mod, which houses a battery or two, which power the chip that provides current to the atomizer, which has a heating element (coil), that runs hotter than the vape juice’s boiling point, turning it into vapor when a user takes a drag.

All mods come with triggers, which are pressed before the user takes a drag. Eventually the mods run out of battery power and need to be recharged.

Mods also allow for wattage variations, making for cool or hot vapes (low or high temperature) as per the user’s preferences.

Vaping vs Smoking – Major Differences

A lot of people want to know how vaping is different from smoking. Firstly, vaping has no smoke, no combustion and no tobacco. This also means vaping has no smell or the harmful effects of tobacco combustion, including the tar that gets deposited inside your lungs and windpipe.

Many people pick e-juices that have no nicotine, making vaping relatively safer as nicotine is one of the most harmful chemicals, known to cause reproductive harm and birth defects.

That being said, vaping is not a smoking-cessation device. It is not designed to make people quit smoking, however, it can certainly help if a person is properly motivated.

If you don’t already smoke, vaping is not recommended as it can lead to smoking, or moving to vape juices with nicotine.

Is Vaping safe then?

Since it is different from smoking, people want to know whether vaping is truly safe. According to Public Health England, vaping is 95% safer than regular tobacco smoking. The American Heart Association also believes vaping is less harmful and at times helpful in quitting smoking.

The Royal College of Physicians is also of the opinion that vaping can help smokers quit or at least move towards a relatively less harmful alternative.

However, a blanket statement on the safety of vaping is not possible because it is still relatively new in its modern form. It is obviously less harmful than smoking, and that in itself is good news for smokers.

There is one growing concern though, and that relates to the low-key nature of vaping. You can essentially vape anywhere quite discreetly, which makes the habit more accessible and also puts new users at the risk of trying vaping as a gateway activity towards smoking tobacco and other products.

Side effects of Vaping

Vaping can have certain side effects for some people. If you’re using PG based vape juices, you may suffer from headaches, stomach pain and cramps, which are all symptoms of PG allergy. A solution is switching to VG based liquids.

Dehydration from vaping is also very common and a known side-effect, countered by regular water intake.

A lot of users also complain of severe side effects when they quit smoking and move to vaping – which is often them mixing up withdrawal symptoms with the effects of vaping.

How much does vaping cost?

Despite popular belief, vaping is not as or more costly than smoking. A decent set up with a box mod, an atomizer, a battery and e-liquid will set you back around $130 give or take.

Refills and coil replacements are much cheaper and their frequency really depends on how you use your kit and how much.

A moderate vape user would require a coil change after about 2 to 3 weeks, and the same goes for the e-liquid. If you add in all the costs, you will find vaping to be more economical compared to smoking in the long run.

Final tips and information

While laws regarding vaping vary from state to state and country to country, typically you need to be over 18 to be able to buy vaping equipment.

There are risks associated with vaping, especially since mods use batteries. Similarly, e-liquid including nicotine can be poisonous if directly ingested.

Proper water intake is also essential when vaping, especially for long durations, as vape juice is known to cause dehydration.

It is common for nicotine based e-liquids to be a little harsh on the throat and you need to play around with your mods wattage and temperature to find the best settings for a comfortable vape.

That’s all for now. If you’re a beginner to vaping, I hope this guide helps you understand it better. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, drop a line in the comments and I will get back to you!