Technology has brought us a very long way in a very short time. And yet sometimes it seems as though the conveniences, the troubles, the virtues and the vices we live with today have been around forever. Today I’m going to write about one of my favorite things: Vice. Sin. Transgression. Delicious words for delicious indulgences.
But while falling short of perfection can be very enjoyable, it can also be very dangerous. All vices, no matter how enjoyable, are games of chance, of course: a drink here and there could turn into alcoholism. On the other hand, maybe not. Flirting with that hot girl or guy at the bar could land you a memorable evening, or it could land you in a bar fight with a large and unamused significant other. Even the whole concept of games of chance can present the risk of gambling addiction.
Tobacco, on the other hand, gives miserably slim odds. Whether you’re delicately puffing away at a dainty Virginia Slim or hocking a big, manly glob of foul-smelling brown spit onto the sidewalk, tobacco companies have rigged the game, and sooner or later, you’re going to lose.
Some things you already know… and some you might not
According to the National Cancer Institute (Statistics Snapshot, 2012):
” Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It causes many different cancers as well as chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and heart disease.”
433,000 deaths annually can be linked to tobacco smoking. 49,000 of those are known to result from “mere” secondhand smoke exposure. Lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, and even myeloid leukemia. Smoking ain’t no penny-ante game, kid. The stakes are literally life and death.
What’s in cigarettes, besides that lovely stimulant nicotine? What is it about cigarettes that stacks the deck against smokers? Let’s have a look:
Carbon monoxide? Mmmmm, car exhaust. Yummy, right? Tar — well, you need the stuff they make roads with to go with that car exhaust, now, don’tcha? Arsenic — I suppose that’s in case there are rats on that road. Ammonia — hey, that’s in urine! Hydrogen cyanide, they love that stuff for death row. How about acetone? Yeah, that’s what’s in nail polish remover. Doesn’t do much for your breath, though. Formeldahyde is in there too, in case you’re already dead, along with sulfuric acid and cadmium for healthy batteries… what’s that? You’re not a battery? Well, that’s just a sampling of what smokers inhale — and all you wanted was the nicotine! (Dunnington, 1993)
And now for something… just different enough.
What if there was something that satisfied like smoking — felt just like smoking, tasted just like smoking, even looked almost like smoking… without being smoking? Why would I ask a rhetorical question like this, when of course such a thing does indeed exist? Well, because I’m kind of a jerk like that.
That thing is called vaping. “Vaping?” you ask. When you inhale tobacco smoke, of course, it’s called “smoking.” “Vaping” is when you inhale vapor, not smoke. To understand what vaping is, we’ll start with defining a device called an “e-cigarette”, also sometimes called a PV, or Personal Vaporizer.
A PV is an electronic device that consists of several important parts. These parts will all differ slightly depending on which style of PV you decide to try. All PV’s, however, have some basic components in common. These components are: A battery or batteries, an atomizer, and usually some form of wicking material.
Batteries can vary in size, and these size variations can produce devices that resemble something the same size, shape and occasionally even appearance as an “analog” (or traditional paper and tobacco) cigarette. Devices such as the Halo G6 are this general size and shape:
In PVs of this size, the wicking material and atomizer are combined into a single component known as a cartomizer (cartridge + atomizer). A cartomizer is screwed onto the battery in order to receive power. Below is the G6 with the battery and cartomizer separated:
In order to use the PV, the wicking material is saturated with a fluid called, “e-juice.” Here’s a bit about what e-juice is, and what it’s not.
In comparison to the thousands of chemicals found in analog cigarettes, e-juice typically has only four: Propylene Glycol, vegetable glycerine, nicotine, and flavoring. “I’ve read reports that say propylene glycol is the main ingredient in anti-freeze! Oh, noes!” Okay, you probably didn’t say, “Oh, noes!” just then. You might not even have read those reports. But they’re out there — and they’re misleading as hell.
The toxic ingredient in some kinds of anti-freeze is ethylene glycol. Propylene glycol is indeed used in anti-freeze — the non toxic kind. It’s also used in food products as an humectant, among myriad other applications where — if it was toxic in the concentrations found in e-juice, it would have made you sick or worse already. (Sullivan, 2005)
Vegetable glycerine is just another type of glycol. As such, it’s also an humectant and a sweetener. Like Propylene Glycol, it used to be frequently used in anti-freeze. Like Propylene Glycol, it is considered non-toxic to humans and is labeled, “Generally Recognized As Safe” by the Food and Drug Administration.
Of course, e-juice also contains nicotine. The nicotine strength of any given e-juice is variable and can be chosen from a few different strength levels by the person purchasing the e-juice. Strengths range anywhere from 0mg (that’s zero milligrams, not oh, my God, but oh, my God, why would you bother with 0mg) per millileter to as high as 36mg per millileter. Personally, I use 24mg e-juice. Here’s what a 10ml bottle of e-juice looks like:
This juice is made locally by Synergy Vapor Labs. Those of you who are parents will be interested to learn that the cap is child-proof. Here’s another shot with the cap removed:
The tip of the bottle is made for dripping into the cartridge or cartomizer of your PV, depending on which it uses. Now that we’ve got the e-juice uncapped, let’s take a moment to learn how vaping works.
So how does one vape?
How you go about vaping will heavily depend on what kind of PV you decide to use. As I’ve mentioned, some PVs use a cartomizer, as in the case of the smaller systems like the G6 shown above. Some PVs are intended to be modular, able to accept a wide variety of different options for where you add your e-juice. This, for example:
is called a clearomizer. Inside a clearomizer is a very thin cartomizer — this:
surrounded by the glass tank you see up there. This particular cartomizer, along with being much thinner than the one on the G6, has two small holes punched into its body, near the base. Look again at the tank — you can see that it’s filled with e-juice. The e-juice surrounding the cartomizer flows through the holes to keep its wicking material saturated for as long as there’s e-liquid in the tank.
This brings us to the first step in vaping: Getting the e-juice into your cartomizer. My advice is that you should have someone who already vapes show you how. A blog post, even one as in-depth as this, probably isn’t going to cut it. Ask a friendly vaper to show you how it’s done in person. If you buy your first PV from a brick-and-mortar store, the chances are very good that the salesperson who helps you choose your first PV will be more than happy to show you how it’s done. After all, he or she wants your business in the future.
Now that you’ve got your PV filled up, another obvious step is to make sure that your battery is charged. Most PV batteries can be charged via USB. Some are even usable while charging via USB, but more about that after a bit. Once your battery is charged and your wick is wet, you’re ready to start vaping.
A word on vaping technique: There’s a different way to inhale when vaping than you do when smoking. A drag on an analog cigarette tends to be quick and shallow. A drag on a PV should be slow and steady. It doesn’t have to be deep, but slow and steady wins the race. Not only does it win the race, it gives the atomizer a chance to turn that e-juice into lovely, tasty vapor. Good things come to those who refrain from trying to shoot the battery into their bronchii.
Health and vaping
Speaking of safety issues: is vaping healthy? Asked another way: is inhaling warm vapor safe? Everyone who’s ever cooked something or sat in a steam room says yes. Okay, that was flippant of me. The honest answer is, it’s early days yet and no one can say for certain whether vaping is a healthy thing to do. What can be said is that it is absolutely, positively not as unhealthy as smoking.
If you didn’t know how many lethal toxins are in analog cigarettes before you started reading, you do now. Vaping exposes you to none of them with the exception of nicotine, and even that in concentrations that are no more dangerous than those presented by the regular use of analog cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
Is it vitamins that will have you levitating and running the quarter mile faster than a superhero? No, of course not. If you’re a regular smoker and switch to vaping instead of smoking, will your health improve? Yes, it will. Will you eventually stop smelling bad to attractive people of the opposite sex? Yes. Will you be able to satisfy your nicotine craving in places you couldn’t before? Actually, in a lot of cases, the answer to that is yes, too. There are lots of vape-friendly restaurants, bars and stores around the Valley, and I’ll name a few later on.
Vaping and cost
But how much would you pay for this wonderful, amazing, miraculous… okay, I won’t do the pitchman impression at you. What you’re probably wondering at this point — aside from doubting my sanity, and you’re wise to be skeptical — is how expensive is it to make the switch from smoking to vaping?
To which my answer is: It depends. Yes, there is an initial investment involved, in the form of your PV, any accessories or replacement parts for your PV (there are varying degrees of maintenance involved with these devices) and your choice of e-juice. Atomizers have a limited life. So, therefore, do cartomizers and clearomizers. Batteries have a finite number of charge cycles, after which they will die and need to be replaced, as well. e-juice, well, that’ll get vaped, and then you’ll need more.
However! Vaping actually is, in the long run, less expensive than smoking. The G6 starter kit from Halo costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $55 dollars. What it comes with, however, are 2 batteries, 2 empty cartomizers and 5 more cartomizers pre-filled with the e-juice of your choice. That’s fairly typical for PVs of that size. A competitor to Halo, Volt, offers their V2 starter kit in roughly the same price range with roughly the same goodies.
A 30ml bottle of e-juice can range in price from $8 to $25, and one milliliter of e-juice is roughly equivalent to a pack of analog cigarettes, depending on how much vaping you do and the nicotine strength of the e-juice you buy. The equivalent of three cartons of analog cigarettes, even for $25, is a hell of a bargain.
As with any kind of product, though — particularly consumer electronics — you get what you pay for. Want longer battery life? You’ll need a PV with a bigger battery. Want the juice to last longer? You’ll need a bigger cartomizer or clearomizer, either one that’s compatible with your PV, or a PV that’s compatible with bigger cartomizers. And, also as with any piece of consumer electronics, read the reviews before you buy. Speaking of reviews…
The first PV I showed you was the G6 from Halo. You can read more about it at http://www.halocigs.com. Hey, wait! Come back here! Okay, good. Let me give you the skinny on the G6, from a guy who’s owned and loved one. The Halo G6 starter kit comes with 2 batteries — you can choose from manual or automatic. Automatic PV batteries work by detecting when you inhale on the cartomizer and automatically firing up to produce your vapor for you. Manual batteries use a small button on the body of the battery. You press the button and inhale. Simple.
Halo’s batteries come in two sizes with two different mAh ratings: The “mini” batteries are rated at 200mAh and the regular size at 280mAh. Geek speak, right? For those of you who aren’t electricians, mAh, or milliAmp hours, roughly correlates to how long the battery will perform on a single charge. A 280mAh battery like the one I showed you… okay, here it is again:
will provide between 5 and 6 hours of steady vaping pleasure. Not quite enough for a full work day plus round trip commute — but that’s probably why they thoughtfully provide two batteries in the starter kit.
The cartomizer you see there will hold approximately 1ml or e-juice — again, roughly the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. In addition, Halo offers a huge variety of their own lab created e-juice flavors, using only the best ingredients and… and I’m starting to sound like I work for them. Sorry, I’ll stop. Thing is, their e-juice is the best I’ve tried. So that’s the G6. That’s the PV I used to use, and for those of you who are thinking about switching to vaping, especially if you’re the active, always-on-the-go type, you couldn’t ask for a better first PV than that.
Wait… did I say that’s what I used to use? I did indeed. I’ve stepped up to…
The Joyetech eGo-C. This bad mumblefumbler:
You just knew you’d be seeing that clearomizer again, didn’t you? Yeah, you did. We call that “foreshadowing.” Actually, it was just showing off. Anyway, now that I’ve mentioned something about batteries and mAh, this battery:
is rated at 1,000mAh. That’s enough battery capacity for somewhere between a full day and a day-and-a-half of vaping away from home. But while you’re at home, there’s no reason why you should have to get all cranky and irritable without nicotine while your battery charges. The fine folks at Joyetech have thoughtfully created this battery with the intention that it would be used while it charges, thanks to a removable end-cap
that exposes the charging port
which accepts the charging cable from the end opposite the one you attach the clearomizer to, like so:
Between the wealth of battery capacity, the battery’s ability to act as a “pass through”, or operate as it’s being charged, and the generous 2.4ml capacity of the clearomizer, I find it hard to imagine a better way to say goodbye to cigarettes permanently.
This article isn’t over yet! Keep scrolling, because if I’ve sparked your interest like I hope I have, I’ve got some local and online resources for you.
Local vape-friendly locations and places to get you some vaping swag:
Synergy Vapor Labs: Purveyors of fine e-juice and excellent PVs & accessories.
1829 E. Southern Ave.
Tempe, AZ 85282
Sunny’s Diner: An all-American eatery with great food, great prices and awesome service. Vape-friendly.
1825 E. University Drive
Tempe Tavern: A little dive-y, but in a good way. An awesome place to get together with friends for fun conversation and fine drinkahol.
1810 E. Apache Blvd.
Online vendors and community:
ECF: Forums, reviews and a friendly, knowledgeable community of vapers
Halo: The premiere all-American e-juice. From the serious tobacco flavor of an aged cigar (Bella Valente) to the indulgent sweetness of chocolate (Belgian Cocoa), these guys bring the flavor with serious quality control and solid value. And their PVs are among the best on the market.
One last thing…
One last thing… and I’m sorry that this “one last thing” won’t be all cool and magical like some peoples’ “one last thing”… things.
This is a quick word on PVs to avoid.
Avoid Blu Cigs. Their hype machine is going full speed, and I have to give them props for their marketing juggernaut, but their PV does not rate the hype. You remember that stuff about the mAh rating on batteries? Theirs are somewhere in the 80-90mAh range. Won’t last you an hour. Yes, their starter kits come with a charging case for the batteries — but when you only get 45 minutes to an hour of use out of a battery before having to charge it for another 45 minutes? Not worth it. Also, while their cartomizers technically can be refilled… it’s bewildering how much of a pain in the ass it is to do it with their cartomizers.
Just trust me on this… skip Blu Cigs.
In fact, skip any PV you find at Walgreen’s. Or Wal-Mart. Or at a mall kiosk. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your money. Get something good instead.
Dunnington, Dr. Joel, Tobacco Almanac: A Collection of Tobacco Facts, University of Texas, Houston, Texas, Jan. 1993
Long, Walter S. (Jan. 14, 1916 – Jan. 13, 1917). “The Composition of Commercial Fruit Extracts”. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 28: 157–161
National Cancer Institute, Statistics Snapshot, 2012. Retrieved 21 December, 2012 <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/tobacco/statisticssnapshot>
Sullivan, Carl J., “Propanediols”, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, 2005
I am the author of over three dozen short stories, as well as the screenwriter of the award winning Brekan Brothers film Lighthouse Lane. Currently residing in Tempe, Arizona, I can often be found turning out yet another short story, novella, novel or screenplay, usually while looking fashionably grumpy. I am not a Doctor, my name is not House, and it’s never lupus.