Vaping is alright, he thought, taking a puff from his eGo and exhaling periodic wisps of vapour.
The tobacco flavours sometimes had a musty, sweaty feet odour about them, but it wasn’t too bad. And the hand-to-mouth aspect was comfortingly familiar.
But something was still missing.
There was an ‘itch’ he struggled to scratch through vaping. He’d puff and puff but it still lacked something. He always found himself wanting to light a cigarette to chase away the rising agitation.
He’d heard switching to vaping was easy, but his experience was different. Compared to choosing an e-cig, getting it to work without problems, getting some tolerable e-liquid, dealing with the coughing and coping with the whole notion of saying goodbye to tobacco, lighting up another cig just seemed a lot simpler.
Plus, he’d read in the news that vaping was as bad for you as smoking. Maybe it’s not for me, he thought, as he slid a cigarette out of his half-empty pack and placed it between his lips.
If the above sounds like your experience with vaping, you’re not alone.
Vaping works for many smokers, but it isn’t for everybody. Switching from the simplicity of smoking to the complex world of PG/VG ratios, nicotine levels, watts and ohms, clearomizers and strange, button-bearing boxes can be daunting, to say the least.
But don’t give up on vaping yet!
The truth is: switching a long-term habit for another one can be challenging. The people who are successful the first time are the lucky ones. Having some difficulty at first is very common.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can try.
We spoke to ordinary vapers who struggled to switch at first to find out what the most common problems are. We also got some insight from Louise Ross, the manager of the Leicester stop-smoking service, which offers support to new vapers.
So if you didn’t like vaping at first – or just struggled to stop using tobacco – here are 10 things to try.
1 – Get a Better Device (and a Backup)
The most common reason vapers had difficulty quitting tobacco cigarettes was the type of e-cig they tried.
There are three basic types of e-cig:
- Ones that look like cigarettes (called “cigalikes”).
- E-cigs that are a little bigger, with a button and a small tank for e-liquid (“eGo” style e-cigs)
- Full-featured, often large and sometimes complicated “mods.”
The problem is that not all these devices are equally satisfying. As Louise Ross commented:
It can also be about trying the wrong sort of device. People who have used a cigalike may well have found it unsatisfying; they need to try a E-Cig Mods for a better experience.
The starkest comparison is between cigalikes and mods.
One study by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos looked at how much nicotine users got from using these two types of e-cig.
He found that using cigalikes for over an hour still didn’t match just five minutes of smoking. Mod users did get a cigarette-like amount of nicotine, but only after 35 minutes of vaping.
So, if you didn’t quite find the e-cig you tried satisfying, don’t give up on vaping yet. Try a bigger, more powerful device – like the Coolfire IV along with a good tank – and see if it gets the job done for you.
Also, make sure you have a spare (even if it’s just an eGo or cigalike) so you have something to vape while it charges. Otherwise you’ll have to go a few hours without nicotine, which makes not smoking much harder.
This story from E-Cigarette Forum user “Tedigram” shows the difference the right device can make:
I’d tried vaping twice before, first back around ’07-08 when it was mostly just cigalikes. I definitely cut my cigarettes per day by 50% or more then, but it wasn’t satisfying enough to motivate me to buy more juice once my initial samplers ran out, went back to smoking.
Tried again a couple years later, when the pen-styles were all the rage (I was on a Magma Inferno), same story. More satisfying this time, but not enough to motivate me to keep it up once the samples ran out.
And then this time, 2015. The gear had advanced enough that once I bought my Subtank Mini and iSub G (came with my MVP3 pro kit), it was done. Smoked through my final pack of tobacco, and that was it. Been pure vaping for just under three months now, and have absolutely zero cravings for tobacco.”
2 – But Balance Satisfaction Against Ease-of-Use
The only problem with the advice above is that not everyone wants a mod. They look way too complicated for many smokers, especially if you’re new to vaping.
Louise Ross agreed, adding:
“We advise people to talk to experienced vapers or good retailers, who can talk them through the process. Sometimes people are put off by the techie aspects, especially if they get e-liquid all over their hands the first time of trying!”
The key is to find the right balance between ease-of-use and a satisfying experience.
Now, not everyone find mods too complicated. When you get right down to basics, most of them just offer a way of adjusting the power you send to your atomizer.
There are other options if mods seem too complicated, though. eGo-style e-cigs with variable voltage strike a nice balance, and they don’t cost much.
The best tip from Louise and the vapers is to head down to your local vape shop and ask the staff for some advice.
Planet of the Vapes forum user “MarleyJo” shows just how valuable this can be:
“I looked online for quite a while for information on vaping but got so confused by it all. Kept looking but didn’t really know where to start. Got quite frustrated really as I had a feeling vaping could be for me.
In town one day I passed a new vape shop. Bit the bullet and went in confessing I was a total newbie. They let me try juices and look at mods and tanks. Also spoke to some of their customers who were very helpful.
Came out with a mod, tank and juice and started vaping as soon as I got home.
Never touched a cig since.”
3 – Commit to Vaping and Let Yourself Get Used to It
This one may be a little hard to swallow, but it’s a valid point, none-the-less: you do need motivation. Although it isn’t ideal, it was actually the second most common answer we got from vapers.
Vaping isn’t a “magic bullet” to stop you from smoking. And the fact that vaping is so different from smoking means that it can take some getting used to. In short, without willpower, it’s easy to fall back into old habits.
A few years ago, an E-Cigarette Forum poll asked vapers why they had difficulty quitting. The number one response vapers gave was needing to get used to vaping.
In other words, you need to persevere to get used to vaping. And that perseverance comes from your desire to switch.
UK Vapers forum user Juice Head explained the problem perfectly:
“When smokers watch vapers they are fooled into thinking it’s just the same as smoking. It must be after all it looks the same. Fact is, it’s not and for a few weeks or even months in some cases vaping is simply not as good as smoking.
This is where the willpower comes in. Yes you’re getting your nicotine but you’re still missing all the other nasties that you’ve become addicted to.
I’ve been vaping now for nearly three years but it wasn’t until after a good twelve months or more that I wasn’t tempted to try a cigarette.”
4 – Explore New Flavours
When you start vaping, tobacco-flavoured e-liquid seems like the way to go. I did this, and many smokers do the same. You jump right to a tobacco or menthol e-liquid to make the experience as much like smoking as possible.
But when you get used to vaping, something changes. The sweet and fruity flavours get more and more enjoyable, and the desire to have the taste of tobacco fades.
Branching out into different flavours can help to let vaping take on a life of its own. You might not feel like doing this straight away – it took me a while, too – but the sooner you can, the better.
Flavors allow vaping to offer something that smoking can’t. In turn, this contributes to something many vapers find: eventually, cigarettes just start to taste nasty.
The best story about this comes from E-Cigarette Forum User “jlb:”
“Turns out, my key (besides a satisfying setup) was to get away from tobacco flavoured e-juice. So I started looking for tobacco with other flavours mixed in. Kept moving tobacco flavour out and other flavours in. One day I ran into Sweet Dreams, a strawberries and cream with no tobacco. And that was it. Kept finding other flavours and never looked back. Can’t stand tobacco flavours anymore.”
5 – Get Support from Other Vapers or Quit-Smoking Services
Getting support is a huge help when you’re making the switch. Whether it’s from other vapers, friends, family or stop-smoking services, support spurs you on.
Louise Ross drove this point home clearly:
“Support is really important, in my opinion. Any behaviour change that involves losing an aspect of ‘normal life’ can be hard, especially when the rewards have to be hard-won, and it’s the encouragement from others that can make the difference between success and failure.
Besides, other people (whether it’s vapers or stop smoking advisors) will have good ideas that can be added to your repertoire of good tips that keep you going during the tricky times.”
Encouragement from your friends and family boosts your motivation and helps you through the tough periods. And if you need help navigating the often world of devices and atomizers, other vapers can help make sure you come out with something you love.
6 – Take it Steady… Dual Use is A Good Start
Going from a pack a day to no cigarettes at all isn’t easy. That’s why “dual use” (both vaping and smoking) is common with new vapers.
This might seem like a problem if you’re expecting vaping to be a “magic bullet.” You might think it means that vaping isn’t for you, but that isn’t the case at all.
Many vapers we spoke to didn’t completely stop smoking when they first started. They often cut down the amount they smoked, but didn’t stop altogether. And that’s still a good thing: switching 100% might be better, but cutting down is great too.
The advice we got on this was unanimous, and David Ock from the E-Cigarette Forum summed it up like this:
“Don’t beat yourself up if you ‘slip’ and smoke. Count the ones you don’t smoke, and move on.”
“Del1977” from the Planet of the Vapes forum expanded with a bit of advice:
“Give the vaping a proper go, but, realise that a bit of dual fuelling isn’t a disaster. Smoke if you must have one, but sitting about watching TV, on the computer, during breaks at work and in the car e.t.c.: just vape away. Vaping becomes more enjoyable than smoking pretty quickly.”
7 – Make Sure You’re Getting the Right Amount of Nicotine
Nicotine is a vital aspect of vaping, but choosing the right level isn’t as simple as you might think.
It’s about balancing two issues:
- Too little nicotine won’t satisfy you, so you may get tempted to smoke.
- Too much and vaping can feel too harsh on your throat, again making you more likely to smoke.
For most pack-a-day smokers, 18 mg/ml e-liquids strike the perfect balance. But that may not be for you.
The best advice is to experiment. When you get started, buy a few e-liquids in different nicotine strengths and try them out.
“tj99959” from the E-Cigarette Forum found that striking the right balance was what made the difference:
“When I started, 24 mg nicotine made me sick, and 12 mg nicotine left me wanting, so I had to stay within those parameters. 18 mg did the trick.”
When we asked Louise about the reasons why some people use both cigarettes and e-cigs, she covered similar ground:
“That could be remedied by experimenting with different models, flavours, or by having a couple on the go with different strength liquids, for different times of the day.”
There are other options, though. Louise also pointed that some smokers combine vaping with traditional nicotine replacement therapy. This gives you two sources of nicotine and eases the transition.
But this all misses one key point: it’s not just nicotine in cigarettes that makes them addictive. Several other “alkaloids” enhance nicotine’s effects, and these aren’t present in ordinary e-liquid.
Some vapers said that it took “whole tobacco alkaloid” e-liquids to help them make the switch. These include the other alkaloids found in tobacco, making the transition easier.
Juliette Tworsey, in reply to our post on the Vapers’ Network Facebook group, said that “heat not burn” style tobacco vaporizers made the difference for her:
“A real tobacco vaporizer is what got me to switch over entirely. Now I’m a dual user…..of vapour products.”
Even chewing tobacco or snuff could be what you need to feel that satisfaction without lighting up a cigarette. Combining vaping with these other smokeless options might be your ideal approach.
(Check out the comments below for tonnes more useful information from Juliette!)
8 – Vape like a Vaper, Not a Smoker
Although vaping is basically like smoking, there are some important differences.
The biggest one is that vaping requires, longer, slower puffs than smoking does to get the most out of it. This was even confirmed in a study: longer, slower puffs got users more nicotine.
The problem is simple…
When you puff harder on a cigarette, you get more smoke, but when you puff harder on an e-cig, nothing happens. The ingrained habit to puff harder for more nicotine just doesn’t work when you vape.
So if you find yourself unsatisfied when you try vaping, try changing your puffing style. Try taking deeper, slower puffs and see if it makes a difference. See our guide to inhaling your vape for more info.
AndriaD, commenting on the E-Cigarette Forum, noted that this was the issue that was holding her back from making the switch:
“I wondered why it was so much harder in the morning, than at any other time, and I finally realized that, half asleep, I was trying to vape as if I was smoking – short hard draw, fast deep inhales – and I recalled reading here that trying to vape that way is just not very effective for nicotine absorption.
So, that night while watching TV, I practiced the long, slow draws, letting it hang around in my mouth and throat before inhaling, and then letting it emerge via my nose as much as my mouth. […]
So, the next morning, I consciously made myself vape that way. […] That was my very first smoke-free day.”
9 – Get the Right PG/VG Mix
The “throat hit” you get from vaping can put some smokers off. It’s not quite the same as from smoking, and some smokers find it irritating rather than pleasant.
Throat hit is all about the balance between propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG) in your e-liquid. Nicotine and your power settings can play a role, but the PG/VG ratio is crucial.
If you find vaping too harsh on your throat, you may be sensitive to PG, and you need to try a higher-VG e-liquid. Similarly, you might not be getting enough of a throat-hit, so more PG might be what you need.
Trial and error is the best approach. Test out some different mixes and see what works for you, using the throat hit as a guide to what you’re looking for.
A 50/50 mix is the most common, but you may need to tip the balance in one direction or the other to make vaping work for you.
10 – Focus on the Harm Reduction Benefits of Vaping
If you need motivation to try vaping again, focusing on the harm reduction aspect can really help.
Several vapers said that focusing on the risks of smoking helped them stay motivated. Remember why you want to switch, and use that motivation to push you to give vaping another try.
Additionally, the media’s focus on potential risks of vaping may be putting you off. The risks of vaping are routinely exaggerated and the benefits are often downplayed.
The result is that it’s easy to think “if vaping is just as bad as smoking, I might as well just smoke.”
Public Health England noted this in their report. It’s part of the reason they firmly stressed the point that vaping is at least 95 percent safer than smoking. If the choice is between smoking and vaping, you’re definitely much better off vaping.
We asked Louise Ross for her number one advice for smokers trying to switch, and she responded:
“Don’t be scared off by newspaper stories about the possible downsides, we can say with certainty that e-cigs are at least 95% safer than smoked cigarettes. People have told us that using a vaporiser to stop smoking was a revelation!”
Experimentation is Key to Switching to Vaping
Vaping isn’t for everyone (because nothing really is), but don’t base your verdict on one or two experiences.
Loads of vapers don’t switch at first. But before you give up on vaping, experiment with the options available to you. Explore the different devices on offer, taste tons of e-liquids, and – above all – focus on learning to enjoy vaping as much as you can.
Exploring the options might seem like a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it when you hit on the winning combination.
We’d like to thank Louise Ross and everyone from the E-Cigarette Forum, UK Vapers, Planet of the Vapes, Vapers Network and Vapors Lounge who shared their experience and made this post possible. If you’re interested in hearing more advice from vapers, the threads linked above contain all the responses we received.