Updated: February 2023
This website wouldn’t exist if my mum hadn’t been a heavy smoker.
It was she who came across a basic cigalike device in 2008. Fortunately, for her it worked, and she hasn’t had a single (tobacco!) cigarette since.
That simple device has helped tens of thousands of smokers switch from tobacco to vaping.
It didn’t work for everyone. But since then both vape technology and our understanding of what helps people switch has come on immensely. What's more, studies in smoking cessation like this now suggest vaping is more effective than nicotine replacement therapy.
You’ll also find the factors you need to consider - based on both research and 12+ years of experience working with smokers who want to switch to vaping.
Also see: Which Vape Kit Should You Buy?
- Best vape devices for heavy smokers
- Factors to consider when choosing a vape
|SKE Crystal Bar||Disposable||No-fuss vaping|
|Aspire R1||Disposable||Longer-lasting disposable|
|Elf Bar Elfa Pro||Closed pod system||Disposable-style flavour|
|Vaporesso Xros 3||Open pod system||Long-lasting battery|
|Aspire Vilter||Open pod system||Cigarette-style filter tips|
|Uwell Caliburn A3||Open pod system||Rapid charging, perfect starter kit|
|Smok Novo 4||Open pod system||Easy-to-use, precise airflow control, leak-free technology|
|Aspire PockeX||Open pod system||Best for throat hit|
|Smok Nord Pro||Open pod system||Beginner-friendly DL kit|
|Smok IPX80||Pod mod||Tough, good looks & versatility|
|Eleaf iStick Power 2||Mod kit||Great battery life|
|Innokin Endura T22 Pro||Mod kit||Superb battery life, great for high nicotine e-liquid|
Disposables are the easiest way to vape and, while we’d always recommend a rechargable device for both cost and environmental reasons, we can’t deny they’re a great way to introduce smokers to vaping. Ready to use out of the box with no filling, recharging or buttons/settings to worry about they require next to no effort.
The SKE Crystal Bar collection is one of our favourite disposable vape ranges. Firstly, they look great, with a sleek and stylish crystal-like finish. They also have one of the largest and most varied flavour selections of any range we stock, with everything from fruit to tobacco to choose from. Add to this a 20mg strength to satisfy smokers’ nicotine cravings and a battery that lasts up to 600 puffs and they make a great first step on your vaping journey.
Spoilt for choice? See our Best Crytal Bar Flavours for inspiration.
While disposable vapes are a great way to get smokers off the cigarettes, their disposable design does mean they have a limited life - they can’t be recharged or refilled and you are restricted to a certain flavour selection.
The Aspire R1, however, is a disposable with a difference. While it still needs to be disposed of after a certain amount of time, a refillable pod and rechargeable battery mean it lasts much longer than regular disposables.
A great midway point between disposables and starter kits, the R1 features a fixed coil, and you only need to dispose of it when the coil burns out and stops producing vapour. The R1 can last up to 10 refills before this happens, lasting much longer than regular disposables, with less cost and environmental waste. The refillable pod also means you can use any flavour vape juice you like - the possibilities are endless!
Many smokers trying to quit will turn to disposable vapes as an easy, low-cost introduction to vaping - with a single disposable costing less than a pack of cigarettes. But in the long term, it’s far cheaper (and better for the environment!) to switch to a refillable device. Still, some users might find it hard to go straight to a refillable device.
Elf Bar’s Elfa Pro pod device solves this problem, providing a great mid-way point. It’s super easy to use and gives all the flavour of disposables in a more budget-friendly and environmentally-friendly way.
The Elfa Pro uses fixed-coil pods prefilled with popular Elf Bar flavours. Auto power settings and inhale firing mean you simply attach the pod and inhale on the mouthpiece for no-fuss vaping. When the pod is finished you simply replace it with a new one. The rechargeable battery also reduces environmental waste compared to disposables.
While the Elfa Pro isn’t as budget-friendly as a refillable vape kit in the long term, its initial cost is less than a pack of cigarettes or a couple of disposables. All in all, the Elfa Pro is a great next step from using disposables - without compromising on flavour!
When you’re switching from smoking to vaping, a device with a long-lasting battery is a must. While your battery constantly running out is a nuisance for all vapers, it’s particularly frustrating when you’re fighting the urge to smoke.
Part of the popular Xros series, the Vaporesso Xros 3 solves this problem, with a battery that provides up to 2 days’ use between charges. It’s also very beginner-friendly, with features such as fixed-coil pods and auto power settings making it suitable for even the newest vapers.
Add to this the rich, consistent taste provided by the flavour-enhancing Pulse mode, and you have a perfect device to prevent you from picking up the cigs.
For a more compact version, see the Xros 3 Mini.
When switching from smoking to vaping, you want a device that replicates smoking as much as possible - even down to how the device feels on your lips. The compact Aspire Vilter device achieves this with its optional cigarette-style paper filter tips that replicate the physical feel of smoking cigarettes.
The Vilter uses fixed-coil pods, has no buttons or settings and features inhale firing - all adding up to a super easy-to-use device that is ideal for new or inexperienced vapers looking to replace smoking with minimum fuss.
An open pod design means users can choose their own e-liquid - giving them the chance to experiment with different flavours and types of vape juice.
As mentioned above, a short battery life out can be frustrating for former smokers trying to resist cigarettes. But waiting an age for your device to charge can be just as inconvenient.
Uwell’s Caliburn A3 not only makes a perfect starter kit for new vapers, but its 15-minute rapid charging means you never have to be without it for long.
The Caliburn A3 is part of the popular Caliburn Series - which provides some of the most easy-to-use devices and the best flavour we’ve seen. This fixed-coil pod kit follows this trend with no-fuss fixed-coil pods, auto power settings, and great taste thanks to flavour-enhancing Pro-FOCS technology.
The original Smok Novo proved a popular option for vapers who wanted a simple-to-use device that just worked. Since then, Smok have continued the Novo Series with a range of equally impressive pods catering to users of all experience levels.
The Novo 4 continues this ease of use but with the addition of new leak-free technology for mess-free vaping.
The Novo 4 also comes with an airflow wheel which allows you to choose between a tighter or airy vape. As we explain below, we find this particularly useful for heavy smokers who are switching from roll ups.
Sometimes I almost get tired of writing about the PockeX - it seems to have featured in almost every buying guide we’ve written over the last several years.
As you can imagine, there is a reason why it keeps making an appearance - and that’s the throat hit. Simply put, if you are looking for a strong throat hit to replace smoking, you can’t do better than PockeX. That’s probably why the device is still incredibly popular today, years after it first came out.
Before we start with this entry we need to explain the difference between Mouth-to-Lung (MTL) and Direct-Lung (DL) inhale styles. In MTL, you inhale vapour and hold it in your mouth for a moment before inhaling again for the vapour to reach your lungs. MTL devices are usually lower-powered and use higher-resistance coils. In DL vaping, you inhale in one continuous breath into your lungs. Direct-Lung vaping requires lower-resistance coils and more power. See MTL v DL for more information.
While we’d usually recommend an MTL kit to new vapers switching from smoking, some find it just doesn’t satisfy them as smoking did. This is where DL vaping may be a solution. This kind of inhale results in a more intense vaping experience and creates denser vapour clouds that provide more nicotine per puff.
For those wanting to experiment with both inhale styles without buying two devices, the Smok Nord Pro is a great choice. A beginner-friendly pod device with no settings to worry about, the Nord Pro has a wide range of compatible coil resistances and enough power to provide both MTL and DL inhale styles. This, combined with its precise airflow adjustment, makes the Nord Pro perfect for experimentation without being overly complicated.
Aesthetics is often not considered when switching from smoking to vaping, but that’s a mistake. If something feels great to hold and is great to look at, you’re more likely to use it than a device that looks like it’s been designed by a chemist.
For great aesthetics, the Smok IPX 80 is well worth considering. It looks great and is a pleasure to hold. But there’s more to this device than pure aesthetics.
First of all, it’s tough! Rated IPX67, the device is resistant to water, shocks and dust - making it a great option for those who spend a lot of time outdoors and need a device that can withstand the elements.
It’s also a versatile device that allows you to experiment. The IPX 80 can be used with different resistance coils and has a wider power range than other devices here - 1- 80 watts. That means it’s great for vapers who want to experiment, and who want a device for the long term. You can start off with a tight, restricted vape which is more similar to a cigarette, but then progress to the looser, airier vape preferred by many long-term vapers.
The iStick Power 2 mod kit stands out for its superb battery life. This eliminates the need for frequent charging and is a great feature for those former heavy smokers who can’t be without their vape for too long.
The 80W mod and tank combo features a huge 5000mAh battery that can power the device for a day or more between charges. The device is packed with intelligent features and modes that allow you to customise your vaping and appeal to vapers of varying experience levels.
The iStick Power 2 mod has a choice of 3 vaping modes to suit different levels of expertise while the included GTL pod tank supports both MTL and DL vaping styles. You can further tailor your vape between an airy, cloud-filled vape or a more restricted cigarette-style draw using the pod tank’s adjustable airflow ring.
The Innokin Endura series has been consistently popular with new vapers - it's already the second of the series we have covered in this post - and we think the Endura T22 Pro will continue this success.
The device comes with high-resistance mesh coils, meaning it's great for use with the high-nicotine e-liquids and nicotine salts we recommend for heavy smokers. (See section on nicotine delivery below for more information.) What’s more, the 3000mAh battery will provide a superb battery life for even heavy smokers, making it ideal for people who are on the move.
The biggest factor in switching to vaping is the amount of nicotine you get. That’s even more important for heavy smokers. At the time of writing, this is limited to 20mg (2%), although in practice this is usually capped at 18mg.
You might think that the more power in your device, the more nicotine you will get from your e-liquid. That’s not necessarily true.
Low-powered devices can be used with high-nicotine e-liquids. However, high-powered devices are used with lower nicotine e-liquids, as you get more nicotine with each puff. It all tends to balance out.
If you’re starting out, though, we recommend using a low-powered device with a high-nicotine e-liquid, as this ties in with other recommendations here (ease of use and vape style).
Many heavy smokers miss the throat hit smoking gives them when they switch to vaping. So it’s important to choose a device that can give you a good throat hit.
To get a good throat hit, you usually need to use a higher resistance coil. These typically have a resistance of 1Ω or higher, although some modern devices may go a bit lower.
You don’t need a high wattage range when you are using high-resistance coils. Kits with a range of 10-25 watts are perfect.
It’s important to use the right VG:PG ratio. Halo Vapour Co. has a VG:PG ratio of 50:50, which gives the perfect throat hit for most users. Menthol Blast has a particularly good throat hit which is ideal for switching to vaping. If you need something even stronger, try Vapemate, which has a VG:PG ratio of 30:70 for a super strong throat hit.
If you find the throat hit too harsh, it’s probably worth trying nicotine salts. These allow you to combine high nicotine content with a smooth sensation on the back of the throat.
Alternatively, you might want to use a combination of regular (freebase) e-liquid and nicotine salts. These hybrid e-liquids have a great balance between the smoothness of a nicotine salt and the harsher throat hit of a regular e-liquid. Nicotine salts are provided by the Hexa devices and Hexa pods, as well as in the Riot Squad S:ALTS range.
Some vape devices come with adjustable airflow, which allows you to choose between a loose, airy vape or a tighter or more restricted vape. We’ve found that this is especially valued by new vapers who used to use roll their own cigarettes and like being able to mimic the effect of a tightly/loosely rolled cigarette.
Some starter pod systems have a pod that can be removed and rotated 180 degrees to switch between a tight or loose vape. Other methods, such as a wheel, allow more precise control. The main takeaway is that if you like to vary the airiness of your cigarette/vape, make sure your device has adjustable airflow.
You inhale vapour differently to how you smoke. Instead of a short, sharp inhale, you inhale slowly and steadily. (It’s important not to inhale air at the same time).
That’s further divided into two main vape styles. Mouth-to-Lung (MTL) is when you inhale into your mouth, hold it there for a second or so, and then inhale it into your lungs. Direct-Lung (DL) is when you inhale in a steady stream directly into your lungs.
Most heavy smokers prefer MTL when they first start vaping, as it’s closer to smoking. However, if you want to experiment, it’s worth getting a device which can deliver both MTL or DL.
That said, it’s important to adjust what you use for your needs. If you’re desperate for a tobacco taste, consider trying something like Classic Virginia.
Alternatively, you might want to try a vape juice which is a crossover between tobacco and another flavour. This can help you to gently make the switch from tobacco to non-tobacco flavours.
Our favourites here include Vanilla Tobacco by Vampire Vape, and Doozy Vape Caramel Tobacco (salts). If you do end up using high VG e-liquids, a blend like The Mighty Mighty Cinnamon Tobacco gives more depth than a standard tobacco flavour.
While vape devices have been getting easier to use over the years, there is still a range of complexity with the devices. If you’re making the switch from a 20 a day habit to vaping, the last thing you want to do is fiddle with advanced settings while your body craves a cigarette.
Cigalikes and pod systems are some of the easiest devices to use, but most of the devices we’ve selected here have a relatively gentle learning curve. The exception is the Drag X Plus - the higher wattage ranges here mean there is a slightly steeper learning curve,. If you're starting with a device like this, it's important both to master priming coils and to use the correct power output.
If you’re using a device at home or in the office, you don’t need to worry about battery life too much. Indeed, many devices can be used while you charge them. (This is usually called ‘pass through’ vaping.)
If, however, you are out and about a lot, battery life is important. That’s especially the case if you are a heavy smoker, as you are likely to use the device more than a light smoker would.
Battery capacity is measured in mAh. The higher the mAh, the more capacity it can hold. But there’s also a playoff in terms of the wattage you use it at. If you’re using a high-resistance coil at lower wattages, you won’t use as much battery capacity. But if you’re using a low-resistance coil at high wattages, you’ll use more battery capacity.
Because of that, vapers who like big clouds of vapour often use 18650 batteries, which have a capacity of around 3000mAh. (Sometimes these are doubled up to provide around 6000mAh). But for lower-powered devices such as starter kits and basic pod systems, you don’t need anything like this. In fact, a 1000mAh battery will often last even a heavy smoker a day or more.
Remember, everyone is different
I’ve known people who switched from smoking to vaping after one vape. I’ve even known people who accidentally switched to vaping.
I’ve also known people who took months or even years to fully make the switch.
If it takes time, don’t be hard on yourself. There’s research that shows that even if you partially replace cigarettes with vaping, you’re still reducing the harm from smoking. The main point is not to give up trying to make the switch. If you are struggling, do check out these ten tips to help make the switch.