Vaping: A Success Story

Per the advice of a co-worker, I purchased my first vaporizer in an effort to quit smoking.  He set me up with the same rig he had and walked me through the number of variables involved in setting up a vape properly.

That was over two months ago and I haven’t looked back.

Since that time, additional research has come out regarding vaping and as more information comes out, I believe I’ve made the correct choice in moving from cigarettes to vaping, and I consider the arguments against vaping to be largely nonsense.  My experience with vaping also makes me question the wisdom in attempting to get people to quit smoking via pharmaceutical means like Wellbutrin and Chantix, both drugs with which I have had poor experiences.

History

I had picked up smoking as an unfortunate habit while partying in college; then, it became a stress crutch when studying for finals.  I first started smoking Camel Lights, then moved to Camel Wides and Turkish Silvers with an occasional pack of Marlboro Reds (aka “Cowboy Killers”) or unfiltered Lucky Strikes, and finally to Marlboro Smooths.

Once I was finished college, moving into the real world and starting at a new job,

Previous Attempts

When e-cigarettes first came out, specifically the Blu brand e-cigs, I figured I’d give them a shot, despite not knowing what was necessarily in them ingredients-wise.  This first attempt was unsatisfying — the flavor wasn’t great from the e-cigs, especially as a menthol smoker, and I found the vapor to be harsh and left be coughing.  Early on, the ability to control nicotine levels with any level of granularity didn’t exist, and the e-cigs themselves were expensive — even more so than cigarettes.

My roommate had tried another re-fillable vape (possibly an EVOD if I recall correctly) but it didn’t seem to put out enough power to, again, provide a sufficient vaping experience.

The Tech

At the suggestion of my co-worker Brent, I picked up a Kangertech TopBox Mini Starter Kit, two batteries, and a charger on Amazon.  For the record, I don’t have any relationships with the companies that make these products, other than being a customer myself.  The total cost came to about $115.

The batteries and charger are recommended as not all batteries of that format and size will be able to output sufficient amperage to power the vaporizer.  I’ve confirmed this with two batteries bought at RadioShack (charging circuits removed) and they only work at certain wattages, and only when fully charged.  The charger is a good idea as there is no smart-charging functionality built into the vaporizers charging circuit itself, meaning it can damage your batteries or even possibly cause a fire if left unattended for a long period of time.  I generally charge my batteries overnight and one will typically last me a full day (or very close to a full day).

Now that I’ve covered the capital investment component of vaping, I’ll move on the on-going expenses.

“E-Liquid” or “Vape Juice”

Vaping has a number of consumable involved, but the most obvious is the nicotine-bearing “juice” or “e-liquid”.  This comes in a huge number of flavors, and one can even make their own juice by purchasing the component parts.

But Chris, what about safety?!  Most juices contain only a small number of ingredients: vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, nictoine, and flavorings.  Given that both vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol have such other uses as being the suspension agent for inhaled asthma medications and are used in both foods and theatrical smoke machines, my concern from these substances are pretty low as they are generally regarded as safe.  There are some unknowns to the effects on the lungs of inhaling pure nicotine, since pretty much every study has been in the context of tobacco consumption, rather than inhaled nicotine in isolation.  The largest unknown, though, is the long-term effects (if any) of inhaling flavorings.  At least artificial butter flavoring enhancer (diacetyl) for popcorn, which is known to cause “popcorn lung”.  This existed in some marketed savory flavored juices and was promptly removed once the connection was made.  Given that the flavorings are “generally regarded as safe” by the FDA for consumption in foods I believe the risks are relatively low.  When looking at the opportunity cost (the alternative) which is, unfortunately, going back to smoking actual cigarettes, I think this is an acceptable risk compared to the very well-known dangers of smoking.

My “everyday vape” juice of choice is the award-winning “Lemon Ice” from Mister E-Liquid.  It has a touch of menthol (the level of which is adjustable when ordering) which satisfies the “cool” feeling I was used to from smoking menthol cigarettes.  I also figure that this cooling sensation is part of what makes the vaping experience feel realistic to me.  There is something to be said about the number of variables involved in a given juice for how it vapes — the ratio of PG to VG, the nicotine level, and the amount of menthol.

I found 12mg and 18mg juice (measured per milliliter) to be far too harsh to be pleasant to vape (I describe the nicotine sensation as a “scratchiness” in my throat, which I think anyone who has ever tried nicotine gum can relate with), even though it is a nicotine level analogous to the amount of nicotine I was getting from smoking a pack a day.  Once I dialed this back to to 6mg/mL, I had no problem.  Since then, I’ve stepped down to 3mg/mL, and will be stepping down to 1.5mg/mL in my next order most likely.  So to re-cap, I’m not consuming any of the 3000-4000 other chemicals that exist in cigarettes anymore, including a number of carcinogens, I no longer am having my lungs coated in tar, and have dialed back my nicotine consumption to about half of what it used to be (3mg * 4mL per day = 12mg nicotine, versus ~20mg/pack I was consuming before).

I’ve also found the juice that I purchased to be far, far less expensive, on a nicotine content basis, than cigarettes.  My calculation was that with 135mL of 6mg juice, my per-pack equivalent cost was about $1.10, instead of closer to $8 per pack in the Maryland/D.C. area.  The best part is that no one is able to bum a cigarette off my anymore, which also saves me money (I frequently gave cigarettes to people that asked).  People don’t even bother asking anymore once they see that I’m carrying a vape!

Coils

There are a number of materials that coils can be made from — kanthal, stainless steel, nickel, titanium, ceramic, etc.  There are also a number of coil designs — vertical vs. horizontal, twisted, “claptoned”, helixed, etc.  People will mix materials on occasion.  It certainly makes a difference in the vaping experience, but for the beginning vaper, I would say the easiest thing to do is use pre-built coils from the manufacturer (the Kangertech kit I got came with a couple different types of coils which can be used with the temperature control mode of the vape).

Once you know that vaping is for you, then it may be worth exploring other material types and consider using the RBA (re-buildable atomizer) that the Kangertech kit comes with, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

Conclusion

I couldn’t be happier with the choice to move to vaping from smoking actual (or as we now call them at work compared to our digital e-cigs: “analog”) cigarettes.  I’ve tried smoking one or two cigarettes since, just to see if there was anything missing from the vape experience in terms of buzz, but I really just found the taste to be disgusting.

My fiance is happier now that I don’t constantly smell like smoke, and we’re both happy that I’ve taken steps towards mitigating my risk for lung-related disease in our future.  Short of any new studies coming out that indicate vaping carries its own set of risks that approach anywhere near the level of risk tobacco use, I find any attempt to discourage vaping as a means to get people to stop smoking to be ill-conceived as it is certainly an effective means of harm reduction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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