Though the aim of this article is to encourage smokers in the process of converting to e-cigs, some of the info might also be of interest to those new to e-cigs and vaping. E-cigs aren’t designed to be smoking cessation devices and there’s no guarantee that their use will free smokers from addiction to cigarettes. However, there’s growing scientific and anecdotal evidence suggesting that with proper knowledge, intention, attitude, technique and products used, e-cigs can increase the odds of successfully quitting tobacco cigarette habits.
Based on information gathered through forums and conversations with smokers who have successfully and unsuccessfully attempted to quit by switching to e-cigs, it seems one of the most important initial steps to take is to do research. Learning about how e-cigs are different from cigarettes provides increased motivation to make the switch and also may provide realistic expectations in terms of what to expect from the experience of vaping compared to smoking. Researching e-cig/vaping terminology, how they work, best practices, and differences between various types of products can help smokers avoid confusion when deciding what type of devices and liquids to use and frustration when making the effort to wean oneself off tobacco cigarettes. Cascadia Vape is not just an independent e-cig e-retailer but a resource of information relevant to e-cigs and vapes such as a FAQ, glossary, blog, and monthly newsletter.
For all smokers (and/or anyone else new to e-cigs), the best option to start off with is any e-cig kit featuring a 510/eGo battery, preferably with variable voltage settings. 510/eGo refers to the size of the threading that connects the battery to cartridges and is an industry standard so it gives users a greater variety of accessory options. Such kits and devices are well-balanced in terms of portability, capability, ease of use and price (and happen to be the type carried by Cascadia Vape). They also use refillable cartridges which hold more liquid than disposable cartridges and give users the option of choosing any e-liquid flavor they want rather than the limited options offered by disposable cartridges.
Some vapers get so into the experience they eventually move on to larger customizable devices known as mechanical mods which are more powerful but also more expensive. The thick vapor produced by such devices would appeal to former smokers, but it’s a good idea to start with a smaller device rather than invest lots of money into a pastime one may or may not want to pursue.
I’d also advise against starting with “cigalike” devices which are smaller than 510/eG0 batteries and closer in size to tobacco cigarettes. Though they’re easy to find (commonly sold in liquor, tobacco and convenience stores) they’re more often than not made by Big Tobacco corporations. There’s good reasons not to support Big Tobacco, but cigalike devices are also problematic because:
- Most cigalikes use disposable cartridges or are entirely disposable, making them more harmful to the environment.
- Disposable cartridges are limited in terms of flavor and nicotine content.
- Disposable cartridge devices end up costing more over time than devices using refillable cartridges.
- A 2009 FDA study often cited by critics as proof that e-cigs emit low levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines and other impurities only tested devices using disposable cartridges (“Njoy”, “Smoking Everywhere” and “Nicotrol” brands).
- Cigalikes typically contain five times less battery power and e-liquid.
- The weak vapor produced by underpowered cigalike batteries make it more likely for former smokers to revert back to their tobacco cigarette habits.
One of the more noticeable differences between cigarettes and e-cigs for smokers is the taste and throat hit (the sensation produced by smoke traveling through the throat). A common reason some smokers fail to switch to e-cigs is that the experience of vaping just can’t compare to smoking. There’s truth to that claim in the sense that vaping can never be exactly like smoking but the problem can be mitigated by choosing the right products. While there’s plenty of e-liquids on the market which simulate tobacco smoke taste, they still might not satisfy because they have relatively less texture and throat hit than smoke. On the other hand, some smokers have reported trying flavors they thought they wouldn’t enjoy yet ended up preferring over the taste of the tobacco cigarettes they were once addicted to. The importance of choosing the right e-liquid can’t be stressed enough because an unappealing flavor makes it all the more easier to fall off the wagon while the right flavor will greatly facilitate the transition to e-cigs. So when searching for new e-liquid flavors it’s good to try a few and purchase the smallest size possible. Though it’s possible to wash reusable cartridges, some prefer to purchase extra cartridges and use only one flavor per cartridge to avoid the risk of mixing flavors (however it’s possible to get lucky with a good mix).
For smokers hooked on throat hit I’d recommend using devices with variable voltage/temperature settings and e-liquids optimized for throat hit and with a nicotine concentration of 24mg (12 mg for moderate smokers). Using the highest setting produces a thicker vapor with a more smoke-like throat hit which may make the transition to e-cigs easier for smokers. The downside is that it drains the battery and e-liquid faster and may produce a slightly burnt taste (depending on the type of e-liquid used). Once former smokers become accustomed to the e-cig setting and nicotine level (which could take two to four weeks), they may want to experiment with either a lower voltage setting and/or lower nicotine level, gradually transitioning to 12, and 6mg of nicotine. There’s also zero nicotine e-liquids for vapers who prefer to cease their intake of nicotine completely but enjoy the ritual and taste of the e-liquids they use. The speed of transition to decreasing nicotine levels depends on each individual. Some may prefer to retain the same nicotine level and decrease frequency of use, decrease both frequency and nicotine, or eventually stop vaping completely. For smokers seeking e-liquids optimized for throat hit to assist the transition to e-cigs, Cascadia Vape offers unique organic flavors (each with 24,12,6, and o mg nicotine options).
Another obstacle smokers face when transitioning from cigarettes is the differences in the act of vaping compared to smoking. It’s widely known that smokers can become as addicted to the ritual of smoking as the drug, and while there’s similarities between cigarette and e-cig use, there’s also subtle differences which may take time to get used to. Some smokers enjoy the act of lighting up, producing second-hand smoke and sense of completion once a cigarette is stubbed out. What e-cigs lack in terms of combustion-related ritual, it makes up for in convenience and health impact. E-cig users do have to remember to periodically plug the device into a usb or ac adapter port, but one can adapt quickly to the ease of single button one-handed operation and the ability to put it back in one’s pocket immediately after using it (without having to waste unused portions and litter the ground with cigarette butts). The burning cigarette also serves as a built-in timer for smoking sessions, so it takes a little more attention to time (and self-discipline) to put self-imposed limits on the length of vaping sessions. Certain devices such as the iTaste VV3.0 make it easier by featuring a digital puff counter (vape sessions roughly equivalent to standard smoke sessions are about 15-20 puffs).
Another concern of smokers considering e-cigs is the notion that vaping e-cigs aren’t as cool as smoking cigarettes. The power of social pressure and appearance shouldn’t be underestimated because it’s related to marketing methods which have played a part in getting smokers addicted in the first place, especially among youth. It’s also related to larger issues of social environment, self-image, self-esteem and negative emotions such as anxiety, stress and depression. All of these increase the odds of becoming hooked on smoking for a number of reasons, so it’s important to be aware of the social and emotional aspect of addiction. Social pressure can also be a positive when in the form of healthy encouragement and support. Though everyone has varying degrees of dependence on external validation and approval, words from respected family, friends, and even online community can be surprisingly influential and motivational. Support from others can also remind smokers of the greatest reasons to quit: more time to spend with loved ones and greater quality of life. While in most cases e-cigs are an ideal alternative to smoking (especially for longtime smokers), for smokers who are adolescents (or younger), increased emotional support and education would be more ideal and healthier since studies have shown that nicotine has a harmful effect on early development.
I believe e-cigs should not be marketed as being fashionable because such strategies are especially attractive to younger consumers. Rather, they should be sold on the basis of proven benefits over cigarettes with an emphasis on how uncool tobacco cigarettes really are in terms of health, performance, appearance, odor, fire safety, budget etc. Increasing focus on countless detrimental effects of tobacco cigarettes and relative merits of e-cigs can be an effective tool to aid smokers in their struggle to break free from the addiction to smoking and transition to a less harmful and costly habit.