Updated: May 2022
Burnt coils. Spilt e-liquid. Leaking tanks.
It’s easy to make a mistake when starting to vape – and after 14 years of vaping I think I’ve seen or made most of the mistakes here!
But don’t be put off – over those 14 years vape devices have become ever easier to use, and with new beginner devices it’s getting easier and easier to start vaping. With the help of this guide, you can learn from other’s mistakes, and get off to vaping with a flying start.
1. Buying an advanced vape mod from the word go
One of the biggest problems new vapers make when they start vaping is buying the wrong device. Unfortunately, some shops encourage this by selling expensive high-end devices that are not right for new users.
Ideally, most new vapers need something which is easy to use, has a draw similar to that of a cigarette, and delivers the right throat hit for you. One great option for new vapers is a vape starter kit. Usually small, compact and often coming with an automatic draw, they are very easy to use.
Another option is to get a device that can be upgraded with a simple change of the coil. This means you can have a tight draw similar to a cigarette but with the option to switch to a vape with more vapour and a looser draw in the future.
An exception to this is when you have friends who are willing to give support. You can often start by trying their devices and move straight to the high-end device your friends use.
2. Buying a poor quality vape device
You can understand it. Someone who has never bought a vape can easily think they’re all the same – that the £5.00 vape pen with five year old technology displayed on a market stall or in a garage is the same as any other device.
But that’s just not the case.
Buying the wrong vape can lead to:
- Poor performance
- Poor vapour production
- Poor nicotine products
- Poor battery life
- Poor flavour production
- Coils burning out
- Coils not fitting
3. Starting with the wrong nicotine level
Another major mistake that many vapers make is starting with the wrong nicotine level.
It’s particularly important not to start with a nicotine level that’s too low. Your vape juice needs to be satisfying enough to replace tobacco cigarettes. It is worth bearing in mind that nicotine is not the only thing that contributes towards cigarette addiction.
If you have a nicotine level that is too low, then the chances are you’ll find that the vape is not satisfying enough to replace cigarettes and/or you will be vaping away without feeling fully satisfied. If you’re using a higher nicotine level, and still not getting the hit you need, or are finding the throat hit too harsh, consider trying nicotine salts.
4. Starting with too much nicotine
It’s also possible to have too much nicotine. This is actually rarer than starting with a nicotine level that is too low. I’ve only experienced it when going round vape shows and trying many different e-liquids, or when a supplier has brought dozens of different e-liquids to sample.
The best thing to do is ensure that you have the right nicotine level for you from the start. When you’re buying from a vape shop they can help you with this. If you do feel you’ve had too much nicotine, simply take a break from vaping for a while. To learn more about the symptoms, and what to do about it, check out our article on nicotine overdose.
5. Buying the wrong flavour
It’s also important to get the right vape juice – and it’s not just about nicotine. First you need to find the right flavour rather than rely on the first flavour being the one that does it for you. It’s important to try a number of flavours to find the perfect one for you. This will help ensure that vaping is a satisfying alternative to tobacco cigarettes.
You might well want to start off with tobacco, but bear in mind that when you start exploring the wonderful world of vape juice flavours you are less likely to go back to smoking.
6. Getting the VG:PG ratio right
It’s also vital to get the VG:PG ratio right. Almost all e-liquid contains propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG). These are colourless alcohols which are responsible for producing the vapour when you vape. PG gives a better hit on the back of your throat and carries flavour better. VG is sweeter, thicker and produces more vapour. For more information about this see our article on PG and VG.
When you start vaping you usually want a higher PG level (e.g. VG:PG 50:50) such as Halo e-liquid. PG is easier on the basic coil that you usually find in starter devices. That’s because VG is thick and needs special coils in order to work correctly. PG also gives a good throat hit in starter devices that is more similar to that of a cigarette. If you decide to go more advanced in the future and start using larger devices and coils built for cloud vaping, you’ll want to move on to an e-liquid with a higher VG level.
7. Expecting too much too soon
Some smokers switch to vaping without a problem. However, for some of us it takes time. After all, vaping isn’t just like smoking – for a start, it’s likely to be less addictive. Fortunately the research shows that people who dual vape (both smoke and vape), are often very successful in switching to vaping completely in the long term.
For some handy tips and advice on making the switch, see Smoking to Vaping in 6 weeks.
8. Not getting support
As Stop Smoking Expert Louise Ross pointed out in her interview with us, smokers’ success rates when switching to vaping skyrocket when they get support. Public Health England agrees, stating that using a vape device with specialist support leads to some of the highest quit rates.
Specialist support, such as from a stop smoking service, is probably the most effective. However any support, including friends, family, other vapers and forums, are also likely to help.
9. Not following the correct charging instructions
Battery malfunctions are rare, but they can happen. The best way to avoid them is to follow the guidelines in our battery safety infographic.
10. Not being informed
Vaping is a disruptive industry that threatens many billions in revenue to both corporations and governments. The FDA is also very alarmed by the take up of vaping amongst teenagers, especially in recent months with the surge in popularity by Juul. So it’s not surprising that millions are being spent on PR against vaping.
While the UK government has given out a consistent message that, based on evidence, vaping is around 95% safer than smoking, many people are still convinced vaping is just as bad. Being informed can help deal with any objections.
A great place to start is our interview with Karen House of the Leicester Stop Smoking service, which deals with 14 common objections to vaping and why they’re wrong.
11. Making mistakes when filling
Vape tanks are getting easier and easier to fill. The main thing to remember is that when you’re filling, do not get e-liquid down the centre tube of a tank.
Most modern tanks are now top-fill and have a hole in the side of the top through which you fill e-liquid. Some, such as the Zenith II tank (found in the Coolfire Z80 kit), have a valve which makes it even easier to fill. If unsure, check the instructions that comes with your tank, or check out the video below.
12. Not changing the coil regularly enough
As coils get older they acquire gunk. They can also get burnt spots. This can lead to the flavour decreasing or the coil becoming burnt. To avoid this, change coils regularly. It may also be worth cleaning your tank! To do so simply run hot water through it, and then leave to dry for 24 hours. You can also soak it in a white alcohol to get it even cleaner.
13. Keeping your vape on in your pocket
“Excuse me, but I think your pocket is on fire,” said the Doctor.
That was one of my more embarrassing vape experiences, with vapour coming out of my pocket while I consulted a doctor after a spider bite abroad. (It was still better than the subsequent injection in my rear end, though.)
That doesn't happen often, especially with modern devices, but it’s still well worth turning off your device before putting it in your pocket.
You should also keep your battery away from other metal/coins/keys etc. One of the best things to do is to get a vape bag. The Kbag and Kbag Mini are designed specifically for vapers, but any bag that holds your devices securely will do.
14. Combining the wrong battery and tank
I still wince when I see a tank such as the Aspire K2 on a powerful battery such as the Smok Morph 2 Mod.
This isn’t always a major mistake, as many combinations will work together, but it is a waste. A tank such as the Nautilus has a high resistance (above 1 ohm). Don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense to you, the key thing to remember here is that a high resistance only requires a low power setting.
It’s like using a racing car to pick up your laundry. It’ll work, but it’s a waste of money and power and it just looks… wrong.
15. Burning out coils
Coils burn out, it’s a fact of (vaping) life. But there are a number of things you can do to prevent it from happening.
- Prime your coils: Simply drip a few drops of e-liquid into the holes on your coil and down the center, and leave your e-liquid to soak into the coil before using it for the first time.
- Use the correct power range: Most tanks and coils now come with guidelines on the correct power range to use – stay within these and your coil will last longer.
- Adjust your vaping style depending on the device you are using: Chain or heavy vaping on a device with a low resistance coil can lower the life of the coil.
16. Not drinking enough water
Most e-liquids contain propylene glycol, which can lead to you feeling dehydrated. There’s a simple solution – drink water (I’ve tried beer and whisky too, but it doesn’t work quite as well…)
17. Letting batteries run out
It’s easy to get caught out when you are new to vaping, but the last thing you want to do is run for a cigarette because you’re dying for a nicotine hit. Keep an eye on your power levels and make sure to keep your device charged. You need at least two batteries, and if you’re travelling a lot it’s worth carrying a Power Bank such as the Pebble Explorer.
19. Running out of e-liquid, pods or cartridges
Ditto! If you’re ordering online it’s easy to get caught out. Make sure you have enough supplies to last you, especially when bank holidays are coming up!
19. Mixing flavours
So you’ve finished your menthol, and want to try a new flavour. You top up the tank with a custard cream – only to get some perversion of custard and menthol. Yuck!
You can get away with mixing some flavours (menthol and fruit, for example, if that’s to your liking). But other flavours just don’t mix. Either utilise a separate tank, or clean the tank out and leave it to dry before using a new flavour.
20. Thinking you have to know everything about vaping to get started
Spend too much time on blogs learning about voltage, watts and ohms and you could easily be mistaken for thinking vaping is a complicated thing only suitable for people with a strong technical bent. The truth is, vaping can be as easy or complicated as you want.
Many people who started on cartridge style ‘cigalikes’, for example, simply screw a cartridge into a battery and inhale. Simple pod systems are the same - just fill with e-liquid, clip in a pod and vape away.
21. Not understanding vape etiquette
Yep, there is such a thing as vape etiquette! Most of it is fairly basic – don’t blow vapour in people’s faces, for example! Based on a survey of hundreds of vapers, we’ve put together this infographic guide to vape etiquette.
That’s about it from us. What mistakes have you made when vaping? Let us know in the comments below!