How I Quit Cigarettes
…and what I
do did for nicotine now!
Update: I quit nicotine in Jan 2017 for good, so I’m clueless on current products since that time…
Update: I quit nicotine in Jan 2017 for good, so I’m clueless on current products since that time…
Note: Originally written around Q4 2011, this article has been updated and republished in Q3 2016, on request from numerous techs and readers. We have also added a few external links provided by a reader.
Years ago when I started doing video appearances on various podcasts over the growing popularity of the original “d7” technician’s repair tool, one thing that always got asked is what am I smoking?! Let me tell you… I quit smoking cigarettes in 2010 after more years than I want to think about, and moved to ‘e-cigs’ or more correctly, personal vaporizers or PVs. A PV is designed to allow you to inhale a vaporized mixture of a VG/PG oil base containing a flavoring agent and pure nicotine.
Vaping has been the best thing I ever did for my lungs and my life! I don’t cough up lung-crud in the morning, I don’t get winded walking up a flight of steps, and I (including my clothes) don’t have that putrid stink that never washes off… it’s simply amazing!
Let’s be honest about health. I despise the idea (and the act) of inhaling all the tar and the 800+ chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes, and although one of those ingredients called nicotine might be “bad” or addictive or even known to the state of California to cause cancer (along with everything else you can name,) but how bad is it when compared to the disproportionately long list of other harmful chemicals cigarettes contain? Maybe the other few ingredients in “e-cig juice” are harmful, but it seems to be only the flavorings you should worry about, probably every bit as much as the yellow #5 in that box of mac and cheese or in that jar of pickles on every grocery store shelf, but hey, we still buy that right?!
So to restate the obvious, I LOVE NICOTINE and I have no plans to stop using that, it IS after all an addiction. I also have an oral fixation habit (and a nervous need to do something with my hands) that can’t be satisfied by nicotine gum, throat lozenges, or skin patches. For me, the PV has proven the best way to go – I can ‘vape’ it indoors at my home (in the air conditioning) without stinking the place up or making the walls and ceiling yellow, I can vape at some bars and restaurants (though fewer and fewer in the last few years,) and I can pretty much do it whenever. It satisfies the occasional urges as well as those strong urges us smokers get while driving, after a good meal, during conversations and while drinking socially. I don’t feel like a clandestine loser always having to excuse myself from a group to go outside and be alone while slowly killing myself.
I started out with the Blu e-cig. I’m calling this an e-cig instead of a PV because it is shaped like a cigarette and even has the light on the end when being used, as it is intended to look very similar to a cigarette. After a week or two of frustrating attempts to use it, I ended up giving it away. I had also been smoking cigarettes while I had the device. It never produced great hits, when it produced them at all! Frequently it’s automatic battery went off by itself in my pocket or behind my ear, and it got really hot even burning me a few times before I realized what was happening. (An automatic battery such as the one this uses will engage the device to produce vapor when you suck on it, a manual battery has a push button to engage the device; naturally my strong recommendation is to use a manual battery.) Basically it was a pain in the ass. You also had to buy some fairly expensive nicotine cartridges for it that didn’t last long at all, not nearly the “pack of cigarettes” they would advertise.
I’m pretty sure the same can be said for ALL of the other “e-cigs” out there you can find in smoke shops or even gas stations/convenience stores now. Anything that attempts to look like a cigarette, has disposable nicotine cartridges, or has an automatic battery, you can pretty much bet it’s CRAP and I’d recommend to STAY AWAY from those.
BUT WAIT!!! The Blu did work just well enough to make me think that it was a good concept, and I should explore more for a better device… So I set out doing a TON of research, not wanting to make the same mistake twice…
I mention this experience because there’s a wide variety of devices out there today, and all are infinitely better than what I started on. The problem today is that lots of vendors are still pushing that same “starter” stuff and other plain JUNK manufactured by “big tobacco” brands, and people are still buying it, realizing it’s crap, and going back to tobacco.
Cost of Getting Started (and Maintenance)
It isn’t by any means as cheap as it used to be in the beginning, then it made great financial sense to switch from tobacco (spending maybe $75-$100 on startup and around $20/month in consumable supplies.) These days with quality gear emerging that actually works well, the costs of start-up with a good PV setup will range from $100 – $150, but you can spend upwards of $300 on really quality gear alone, and maintaining your PV may be around $30-50/month.
Do NOT buy just any e-cig from a gas station/convenience store, and do NOT buy one made by a “big tobacco” brand! You need a real PV if you want it to work reliably and well enough to satisfy your urges. Don’t think for a second that “big tobacco” will ever upgrade the utter junk they sell right now to any measure of quality! If they didn’t want to keep you on real tobacco, and to keep pushing it to the youth of new generations, they wouldn’t be shoveling funds to the FDA for new regulations to treat PV products as if they were tobacco!
I also strongly recommend to stock up on extra supplies, and take this recommendation as seriously as you are about quitting cigarettes, because running out of supplies is a guaranteed way to pick up a cigarette again, and THAT is a guaranteed way to never put them down again! It isn’t so much an issue as brick and mortar “vape shops” are popping up everywhere these days, but they are also going out of business quickly too due to poor research in their chosen business and products.
Update 2016: New upcoming FDA regulations to treat vape supplies like tobacco cigarettes will almost certainly guarantee the market will shrink to nothing — especially for the small local shops. The rumored price tags associated with an application to sell any individual “tobacco product” in the U.S. (an application that can even be rejected without ‘refund’) is sure to weed out 99% of the small and upcoming brands now, while locking in “big tobacco” brands like Phillip Morris and RJR as the only tobacco cigarette alternative in U.S. markets. Also, don’t think for a second that “big tobacco” will ever upgrade the utter junk they sell right now to any measure of quality! If they didn’t want to keep you on real tobacco, and to keep pushing it to the youth of new generations, they wouldn’t be shoveling funds to the FDA for these new regulations!
Maybe not a huge issue, but some would say it wise to figure out what you like ASAP, learn the way of the rebuild-able atomizer gear, and stock up on large quantities of consumable supplies (rebuild-able parts, PG/VG oils, flavorings, and nicotine concentrate to make your own juice.)
Components, Consumables, and General Recommendations
Devices: “Box Mod” or “Pen” Style – As mentioned above, do NOT buy anything from a gas station/convenience store, nor anything from “Big Tobacco” manufacturers. These are most always “pen” type or larger cylindrical devices like the Joyetech ego style batteries, but I strongly prefer “Box Mods” (like the name suggests these are devices shaped like a box) as they are typically able to hold multiple batteries (usually two.) A device capable of multiple batteries can give even a heavy vaper a full day’s worth of usage on one charge, and two-battery devices usually fit the bill. You don’t want to carry batteries around with you all day, and as your vaping gets lighter over time you might find yourself going for a week on a charge! I personally use a two-battery box mod and most of the time I get a good 2 days on a charge, but I vape a little less than I used to (I did get at least 3 days at one point, but devices are more powerful these days.)
Devices: Variable Voltage or Variable Wattage – There are several types of devices based on how they output power. Variable voltage devices are generally garbage, because more voltage doesn’t mean more current! It isn’t so noticeable until the battery gets down to half power, but around that point you want to start with a fresh battery. The formula for power is p=iv, or power (watts) = current (amps) x voltage (er… volts) and current is where the good power is! Audiophiles can think about speakers, or for us PC techs the cheap vs. expensive PC power supplies with the same specs that perform vastly different. In short, I don’t like variable voltage devices.
I strongly recommend a variable wattage device, which contains circuitry to regulate the current part of power output, and requires a high drain battery to keep up consistency over the power cycle of the battery and the length you are taking your hits, and these are what I recommend.
There are variable wattage devices that are also temperature controlled and prevent the atomizer from producing too much heat when used, the idea being that a “hot” hit is harsh to inhale. This can occur from using the device frequently in short intervals (chain vaping) or from using it for single hits that lasted too long… Often this can also cause the atomizer to use more juice than it can absorb in that time, resulting in a “dry” and harsh hit. The temperature controlled devices require a special atomizer head made from a certain metal supported by that particular device, and there are several of these metals used that will vary based on the device, so this is an area where you’ll need to do good research since all temperature controlled devices and atomizers are not compatible! The devices themselves as well as the atomizers also cost more than standard variable wattage atomizers too – the good news is that these devices of course also support variable wattage atomizers, so it’s hard to go wrong with a temperature controlled device if you’re looking to try it out some day (even if you are only currently using it with variable wattage atomizers!)
Update 2016: Currently I recommend either a device built on Evolve’s DNA 200, which can be made from any number of manufacturers, or any of the more powerful Sigelei box mods (go to www.sigelei.com for an idea of the selection, although you will be buying elsewhere) which can be had for much less than many high end mods that often use Evolve’s DNA circuitry in their own crafted devices. These are all at least variable wattage, with the DNA 200 and the higher model Sigelei’s also supporting temperature control (but again, make sure you do your research for the right type of metal in the temperature control atomizers!)
Device Colors – I recommend getting your devices and/or full starter kits in silver/gray colors that will match the underlying metal better, since over a period of time the paint/finish will become scratched and chipped from carrying them around; silver or brushed metal designs look good after long periods of use and abuse. Fingerprints will also really annoy you in darker colors and especially with any polished color. At one time, the superior craftsmanship of the Provari enticed me enough to get a colored device, and in black no less! Their satin black powder coat finish was very fingerprint resistant as well, and it did take a LOT longer to become an issue with chipping/scratching (though it did eventually…)
Batteries – Most mods use an 18650 type battery, most want “flat top” batteries (no bulge on the positive end) and most with any power require a “high drain” battery (of course, verify that your device does indeed require 18650 type, as not all do!) Many vapers will recommend the Sony VCT4 30 Amp Hi-Drain 2100mAH, however I typically find the less expensive LG HE2 35 Amp 2500mAH batteries on Amazon.com in 4 packs (and oddly enough sometimes 5 packs) for about the same price as a 2 pack of the Sony’s (which due to the expense are more prone to being intentionally mislabeled knock-offs from companies that don’t make quality batteries.)
Warning: When carrying batteries around, it’s important to keep them cool — meaning don’t leave them on the dash of your car. Keep them in the glove box or center console away from direct sunlight. It should go without saying to do the same to your devices with batteries in them, but it’s best to keep them on you when you leave your car on even a warm and shady day.
EXTREME WARNING: NEVER use a device with hot batteries, IT CAN EXPLODE. By now you’ve probably seen or heard it in the news more than once that someone was disfigured or maybe even killed by an “e-cig.” What the stories usually leave out is that the person used the device after it was left in the car for hours in the hot sun, and/or it may have even been an “unregulated” mod containing no circuitry to regulate the current pulled from the battery… This isn’t a terribly uncommon issue for any device with a hot battery, or even a battery by itself (I do recall a story of a mod exploding in the car by itself, not even being used, while the person was elsewhere.
Battery chargers – I always make sure I have more than one charger. As a rule of thumb (before I worked from home) I kept one charger at home and one at work, so I could recharge a dead battery no matter where I happened to be. A quality charger I’ve used for years is the Intellicharger by Nitecore, which can charge just about anything, even various different rechargeable types and shapes like standard AA batteries – and simultaneously! They have a 2 battery model good for the single folks and a 4 battery for those households vaping together.
Atomizer “Tanks” – These contain the atomizer responsible for producing the vapor, and hold the juice that you’ll be vaping. I like glass, most being made from Pyrex, but they can break or even shatter when dropped.
Older “tank” designs were “bottom fill” meaning you had to unscrew the tank from your “mod” or battery device in order to refill it with juice. The down side here is that when unscrewing your tank from the mod, you can often unscrew the components of the tank itself by accident (spilling out any juice that was left in the tank!)
Newer designs are “top fill” allowing you a more convenient and faster method of filling, also being less prone to spillage. It’s important to note that top fill devices usually require a small needle style bottle to fill it with, usually with a smaller area to fill from (and they all have a big hole in the middle where you’ll be temped to fill it, but DO NOT – this is where the vape comes from, or where you might use a “drip tip” on it to drop single drops of juice directly on the atomizer for single hits – but it DOES NOT fill the “tank” part itself!!! As a result, a top fill tank is more likely to require a needle tip style bottle to fill from (more on that below.)
There are a number of good tanks out there from various manufacturers, though for several years I’ve preferred most any current model from the Aspire brand.
Atomizer heads – A “tank” will have replaceable atomizer heads, and there are several types such as standard and Low Resistance (LR) atomizers. LR atomizers basically offer a larger and more powerful hit. If your atomizer has a variety of heads, there is probably one labeled “BVC” or similar, and these have a new/improved design to deliver a far better vape. There are also ceramic and other materials being used in newer atomizers which can cost more, but are generally better for both vapor production and flavor retention.
Note: For variable voltage devices, which still dominate the low end market (e.g. gas station sales and “pen” type devices) I generally recommended to NOT use LR atomizer heads with variable voltage batteries, even on higher end devices like the Provari, as they can cause damage to the atomizer (pretty much anything over 4v could potentially ruin an LR atomizer head in one harsh hit.) These days we have variable wattage and temperature controlled devices that don’t present any real issue with using LR atomizers. It’s worth mentioning yet again, make sure you do your research for the right type of metal supported by your device/mod with any temperature control atomizers!
Rebuild-able Atomizers – It’s worth mentioning that if you’re reading this page, these probably aren’t for you just yet. They aren’t for me, and I’ve been vaping since 2010! Although I have friends quite comfortable with the process who’ve been vaping much less time, it just isn’t for me, and really most carry tank atomizers for “on the go” usage anyway.
Juice (Strength) – This will vary depending on your tastes. You can get juice typically from 0mg Nicotine (why?) all the way up to 36mg. The 36mg is really meant to be mixed with other components and that’s a topic for another time. I started mostly on 26mg juice and I was a pretty heavy smoker, but now after years of vaping, I use mostly 12mg. Lighter smokers may prefer to start with 18mg or less, which is still pretty strong but remember you want to start strong — the entire point is to use it occasionally not constantly, and for it to actually satisfy you not leave you wanting more (or a tobacco cigarette!) Once you start using drip tips with rebuild-able atomizers and ‘unregulated’ battery mods, you will want much lower nicotine juice. Maybe if you normally vaped 18mg, I’m told you’ll want 3 or 6mg to use with a powerful custom device. I haven’t personally went this route yet.
Juice (Flavor) – You may think you want to start out with a tobacco flavored juice, and you can get knock-offs of your favorite brands, but they never measure up and may leave you wanting the “real thing” again. You can experiment with blended tobacco and other flavors like vanilla, but it’s still tobacco flavor so that’s another strike against quitting tobacco… eventually maybe you just want something completely different. My personal recommendation is to skip the tobacco flavors and go for something completely different; my favorite flavors right now are strawberry and other fruit based flavors.
Juice Bottles and Needle Tip Bottles – 99% of juice bottles you buy will come with an eye dropper that is too big for the fill hole in many modern tanks, especially the top fill designs, and you’ll get stuff in the center which you do NOT want as described above. Additionally the eye droppers are for me too time consuming to fill a good size tank with (which is usually around 5ml in capacity.) Many places selling juice also sell needle tip bottle transfer your purchased juice into for later filling your tank. Giant Vapes has one called the “Drip-Stick” for an idea of what I’m talking about, but let me warn you on squeezing these bottles too hard to fill your tank quickly – the needle cap you snap off and on to fill the bottle with juice can easily come off when squeezed hard, or even not so hard especially after some usage.
Where to buy
Giant Vapes – www.giantvapes.com – Currently the best place I’ve found for juice selection, they also usually stock good quality gear like Aspire products as well!
Mostly for devices, I shop around, but a spot worth mention is www.sun-vapers.com
- Edward who runs the business is very knowledgeable and easy to talk to, and he really does his research on devices.
- (Also he was a PC tech before this gig, and we techs like to stick together.)
- He offers FREE SHIPPING on orders of a certain amount, and cheap shipping otherwise which is always fast.
- The COUPON CODE: “FOOLISH” will get you 10% OFF your order of $60 or more!!!
- We do NOT collect affiliate commissions on the use of his coupon code; although he offered, I declined.
Just saying one more time, juice is easier to fill when you have a needle tip bottle cap, these don’t come with juice bottles but are usually around $2 for one, and be sure to buy from the same place you buy the juice, because many places use different juice bottle/cap types.
You may need to take longer pulls (inhalations) off of your PV to get a lot of vapor in the hit than you would on cigarettes. The older the atomizer gets the longer you will have to pull on it. I frequently toss atomizers that are getting older and don’t produce as well and move on to a fresh one which will hit hard and strong. While you may suck a lot of life out of an atomizer, I don’t recommend trying to once it becomes difficult to get a good hit, just replace it and save yourself the hassle.
You may notice that a fresh atomizer may have some oil on it from the factory which will initially give you an off taste for the first few times you use it. Some people will fire the battery without inhaling just to burn off the factory oil, however it is never recommended to run an atomizer dry at the risk of damaging it, so I don’t recommend you use this method especially if you are new to PVs.
If your hits become weak or produces little to no vapor, check your battery, when was the last time it was replaced? Try replacing it with a freshly charged battery. If it’s the first time and you’re using a sub-ohm capable device, make sure you’re using a high drain battery!
If you accidentally run the atomizer dry (you ran out of juice and didn’t notice) you will get a empty and burned taste. Refill! Note that it will take a few puffs for the burned taste to go away, and if not you’ll need to replace the atomizer. So keep those tanks filled!
External Links and Resources:
Vaping Guide – The Beginner’s Guide to Healthy & Responsible Vaping (provided by a reader)
Tips for Friends and Family of Quitters – American Heart Association (provided by a reader)