A vape guide just for smokers
I’ve created this guide to share with you my knowledge and experience as an ex-smoker and long-term vaper. I’ve done this to help smokers start making better decisions when deciding to switch to vaping from smoking.
Why should you switch to vaping?
If you switch to vaping, you won’t be alone. Every year, around 20,000 Brits manage to stop smoking by switching to vaping. What’s more, there are now around 3.6 million e cigarette users in the UK altogether. More people than ever before are deciding to start vaping to replace their smoking habit.
Clearing up myths about vaping
Information for people trying to switch from smoking to vaping can be confusing. This is partly thanks to the media and scare stories or myths punted on social media.
The NHS (and others) have been doing their best to clear up myths about dangers of switching to vaping. But despite this, official advice about the huge benefits of vaping still isn’t getting through to everyone. Over 15% of people in the UK still smoke, and 78,000 of us are dying from smoking-related illnesses every year.
So, if you’re a smoker who’s after real facts and advice about switching to vaping from smoking, read on.
How this guide can help you switch from smoking to vaping
First of all, this smokers’ guide will help you decide whether switching to vaping is right for you. You’ll also find out about what you can expect from vaping as a smoker.
If you do decide to stop smoking (or cut down) and start vaping, this guide can help you prepare for the switch. There’s also advice on choosing your first vape device and liquids. Lastly, the guide offers tips on how to stay on track with vaping in the longer term.
- Is switching to vaping the right option for you?
- What to expect when switching to vaping?
- Choosing your first e cigarette
- Choosing the right vape liquids and refills
- Tips for a smoother switch to vaping
- How to stay on track with vaping
Is switching to vaping the right option for you?
When it comes to deciding whether to switch from smoking to vaping, it’s worth asking yourself some questions first. This should give you a clearer idea of the benefits of starting vaping before you take the leap.
So, what exactly do you hope to achieve by starting vaping?
WHY do you want to start vaping?
Do you want to start vaping to actually stop smoking? Or do you want to use vaping to just cut down on the amount you’re smoking? Both are valid reasons for starting vaping. However, you need to be sure which option you’re aiming for.
- Do you enjoy the act of smoking, but don’t want to put your health in such danger?
- Do you want a “cleaner”, alternative to cigarettes that doesn’t make your clothes, furniture and breath smell so bad?
- Do you just want to take up vaping because you’re after a much cheaper alternative to smoking?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then switching to vaping from smoking could be the right option for you. But wait!
Vaping to give up nicotine
However, if you want to stop smoking to give up nicotine altogether, I’d probably say vaping is a less appropriate option for you.
This is because e cigarettes (like patches and nicotine gum) are really just another form of nicotine replacement. In other words, when you vape, you’re still taking in habit-forming nicotine, not weaning yourself off it.
You could of course still start vaping to “transition” from smoking. But in this case, you’d probably want to quit vaping sooner rather than later.
Get professional guidance before you decide to switch to vaping
Getting professional health advice can give you a clearer idea of whether transitioning to vaping is the best way to stop smoking for you as an individual.
Advice from your doctor or health centre
Your GP or smoking cessation clinic can offer help with deciding whether vaping could help you replace your smoking habit. They can also provide clear advice on switching to vaping based on your own personal circumstances and needs.
This is especially important if you have any kind of health issue that might be of concern. It might also be the case that conventional NRT (patches, gum, etc) could be more useful to you than vaping. So, make sure you’ve explored all quit smoking options before you make the leap to vaping.
NHS Smoke Free guidance
It’s also worth reading up on current official health advice and updates on vaping before you decide to swap smoking for e cigarettes. In the UK, NHS Smoke Free is the most reliable source of official guidance on smoking cessation and transitioning to vaping.
What should you expect when you switch to vaping?
When people are still smoking, it’s often hard for them to know exactly what they can expect from vaping before they switch. Here are some common features of vaping that you might not already be aware of.
Vaping feels a bit like smoking
If you’re a smoker who’s never vaped before, you might be unexpectedly surprised at how similar vaping feels to smoking. Though some aspects of vaping (smell, hand feel) don’t really resemble smoking, others do.
Vaping throat hit
When I first tried vaping, the first thing I noticed was the familiar “swallowing” sensation I got when I inhaled. To me, this felt a lot like the usual throat hit I got from inhaling tobacco smoke.
Nicotine buzz and tobacco flavour
When you vape for the first time, you might also sense a mild nicotine buzz after inhaling, as with smoking. Using a tobacco flavour in your vape can also make your switch to vaping feel even more like smoking. The only thing you won’t get is get the horrible taste of smoke that you get with cigarettes.
A more comfortable way to stop smoking
You may find that when you start vaping, it doesn’t really feel like you’re giving up smoking at all. Or in other words, there’s not so much of the usual pain and discomfort you usually feel when you give up.
For me, the move to vaping from smoking seemed like a smooth, natural and comfortable transition. And this was something I really hadn’t imagined would be the case before I tried vaping.
It was as if I was getting the “gain” of quitting, but without so much of the pain.
Why so comfortable?
Maybe the switch feels more comfortable because when you’re used to smoking, the action of vaping feels so familiar. Or maybe it’s just because (unlike with NRT) you don’t have to wear, chew or swallow anything to make it work.
This is perhaps one reason why e cigarettes are twice as effective as patches, gum and sprays for quitting smoking.
Whatever your expectations, you may also be surprised at the relative ease, familiarity and comfort of transitioning to vaping from smoking. I certainly was!
A cleaner habit than smoking
Compared to actual smoking, you’ll find that vaping is by far a cleaner way to use nicotine. And this applies to personal hygiene as well as to cleanliness in the home.
With vaping, (unlike with smoking) there’s of course, no smoke. You’ve also got no dirty ash, no (or very little) smell, and no stained fingers to worry about.
It’s true that e-cigs can generate a fine residue after heavy and prolonged use in confined areas. But vape residue won’t stain ceilings or make clothes and furniture reek as you’d expect cigarette smoke to do.
A safer alternative to smoking
Smokers certainly shouldn’t go into vaping expecting it to be a completely safe alternative to smoking. After all, e cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for us to understand their possible long-term health impacts.
However, we can at least have some reassurance about vaping from the facts we now know about it. The general message from official UK health authorities is that e cigarettes are “almost certainly significantly less harmful than smoking“. This official advice follows on from recent research by Public Health England showing that e cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than tobacco.
No one’s saying that vaping’s free of risk – or even that it’s less harmful than other quit methods. However, we can at least rest assured that vaping is a whole lot safer than smoking tobacco.
Vaping side effects
Some new vapers and ex-smokers report mild side effects when they first start vaping. These are possibly due to reactions to nicotine in vape liquid, and can include headaches, dizziness, hiccups, etc.
If you experience any kind of serious side effect when you first start vaping, it’s best to stop vaping and get medical advice before continuing.
Find an e cig designed for smokers
As a smoker, you really shouldn’t just go out and buy the first e cigarette kit you like the look of. Instead, try to find an e cig model that matches your smoking needs and preferences.
E cig buying tips for smokers
Keep it simple!
Above all, smokers moving on to vaping from smoking need a device that’s simple to use and maintain. So, find yourself a foolproof e cig that works right out of the box.
This means getting yourself a ready-to-use kit – not separate parts. It’s also worth avoiding e cig products and features that are just for advanced users.
Avoid these features in first-time vape purchases!
Many e cig features are for advanced users only. As such, they’re totally unsuitable for smokers who just want to kill tobacco cravings. So smokers trying to switch should avoid these features in first vaping purchases (unless they’re optional):
- Rebuildable coils and tanks (RTAs / RBAs / RDAs) – too fiddly, and too much hard work to bother with in the early days
- Drip coil systems – difficult for new users to get these working properly
- Squonk tanks – totally unnecessary for basic users and an added complication
- Any vape mod over 60W – new users generally only need low wattage (10-30w) for MTL vaping, so anything way above this is pointless
- Sub-Ohm coils, tanks and mods – not designed for low-wattage, tight-draw vaping
Get an MTL-type vape device
As a new user wanting to replace your smoking habit, you’ll want to vape like a smoker at first. And that means getting a device that gives you a tight draw, strong flavour and instant relief from cravings. MTL (or mouth-to-lung) type devices are designed specifically to do this.
At the most basic level, MTL devices include pod vapes, cigalikes and most vape pens. More advanced mod-tank combos (and coils) with MTL functionality likewise generate a similar “smoking” effect. All of these are suitable first purchase options for smokers planning to switch to vaping.
How much to spend on your first vape
You shouldn’t spend too much on your first e cigarette purchase, even if you can afford it. After all, you don’t want to end up with a vaping device that’s too snazzy – but no good for switching from smoking.
That said, buying too cheap could land you with a vape device that might not satisfy your cigarette cravings.
|Recommended e cigarette types for smokers||Typical UK price range (2020)|
|Beginner MTL Mod-Tank combos||£20 – £60+|
|Basic Pod Vape Systems||£15 – £30|
|Cigalikes and Vape Pens||£10 – £25|
Which e cig for smokers?
MTL Mod-tank combos
Mod-tank combos consist of two main sections: a power unit (mod) and a juice tank. Mod tank combos usually have big, long-lasting batteries and bigger juice tanks for longer vaping. Mod-tank parts are often interchangeable. This means if you don’t like one part of your kit, you can swap it for something better.
All-in-all, mod tank combos are the most expensive – but by far the most reliable and flexible option for ex-smoking vapers.
Smokers like pod vapes because they’re cheap, light, small, easy to use and give instant relief from cravings. They are also great for use as back-up vapes. Because pod vapes are so basic, you can’t usually do much to adapt them. Battery life can also be a problem. This is because portability – and not power storage – is their key feature.
Pod vapes are the most affordable practical option for smokers switching to vaping. For this reason, they’re a good way to see if you enjoy vaping before you actually switch from smoking.
Cigalikes are automatic (no power button) devices that are roughly the same size and shape as real cigarettes. They’re available as either disposables or else with replaceable pre-filled cartridges.
Cigalike battery power and vaping time is generally poor. With only a couple of hours of vaping between charges, they’re not the best tool to use for switching from smoking. So, cigalikes are fine as emergency back-up vapes, but that’s your lot, really.
Vape Pens on the other hand are more reliable than cigalikes for smokers wanting to start to vaping. Firstly, battery size is a bit bigger. So, you might get up to a day or so of vaping time between charges. Secondly, vape pens – like mod-tank combos – usually have refillable tanks, and two interchangeable sections.
It’s probably best to think of vape pens as budget mod-tank combos. Again, a great, affordable choice for smokers who want to dip into vaping before taking the plunge!
Choosing vape liquids and refills for smokers
Which e liquids and refills for smokers?
E liquid (AKA or vape juice) comes either in a bottle or else in pre-filled cartridges or pods. The second of these options is the easiest, as obviously no refilling is involved.
However, disposable pods and cartridges tend to work out more expensive in the longer term. That’s why many smokers start off with disposables, then move onto bottled e liquid – and refillable e cigs later on.
The right flavours to start vaping with as a smoker
Tobacco or non-tobacco vape flavours?
Many smokers coming into vaping from smoking go for tobacco e liquids at first. No surprise here! The familiar flavour of tobacco is just what you want when you’re trying to make the switch to vaping.
But some smokers prefer to get as far away from the flavour of tobacco as possible when they start vaping. So they choose non-tobacco flavours, like menthol, cinnamon or coffee, instead. This decision makes sense too. After all, if you’re kissing goodbye to smoking, why hold onto the flavour of tobacco?
Get an e liquid flavour you can live with!
The key thing though, is to go for flavours that you like – and that you know you won’t get tired of. Whatever liquids you choose, strong, sweet and bitter flavours are preferable. Why? Because these types of flavour will satisfy your taste buds the most.
Finding realistic tobacco flavours can help
If you do go for a tobacco e liquid, you’ll find that some flavours are good -and some are rubbish. In my experience, though, there are only a handful of realistic tobacco flavours out there worth buying. These are e liquids containing real tobacco essences, designed specifically for people switching from smoking to vaping.
Which e liquid nicotine strength for smokers
Smokers usually choose liquid (and pod or cartridge refill) nicotine strengths based on how much they smoke. As well as this though, you should also consider what kind of cigarettes or other tobacco products you prefer. Doing this will give you better idea which e liquid strength is the one for you.
- Occasional smokers should probably start off with a low to mid-strength nicotine vape juice, pod or cartridge (6 – 10mg)
- Light smokers (5-10 per day) of low tar filter cigarettes should also begin with 8 – 12mg strength juices
- Regular roll-up tobacco users and heavy smokers should aim to start with high-strength e liquids and refills (18mg – 20mg)
How to choose a smooth e liquid
E liquid nicotine strength is important for getting that “cigarette smoke” effect, but don’t forget about smoothness.
For smoother throat hits, smokers preparing to switch to vaping should look for e liquids and refills with the right mix of ingredients.
Customise your e liquid order for a smoother vape
Most online stores let you select from a range of nicotine strengths when you order e liquids. You can often choose VG/PG ratios and nic salt options, too. But you need to get the balance of strength and smoothness right!
Quick tips for choosing a smoother “cigarette-like” vape liquid
- Go for liquids and refills with some VG but not too much, e.g. a 70/30 or 80/20 PG/VG mix should do the trick
- Choose e liquids and juices which contain nic salts. Nic salts (nicotine salt or salt nic) are much smoother and let you vape at higher nicotine strengths without sore throats or hiccups. They can also give you a more cigarette-like nicotine hit or buzz.
Tips for a smoother switch to vaping
1. Set a “switch date” to replace your smoking
Your “switch date” is the day that you plan to stop smoking completely and just vape instead.
When you decide to actually stop smoking with vaping is completely up to you. Personally, I didn’t set a switch date or smoking quit day when I started vaping. But then again, my break from smoking happened on its own.
Be realistic when setting your switch date
If you do decide to set a day to stop smoking, you should be realistic about what you can really achieve.
For some smokers their switch date could be the week after they start vaping. For others, it might take a few months.
Of course, if you’re just vaping to cut down (and not to quit smoking), you won’t need a switch day at all!
Build-up to your switch date with a “cut-down” plan
If you’re taking things slowly, you can schedule a weekly “cut-down” plan before your switch day. This means you’ll be smoking fewer cigarettes each week until you feel comfortable enough with vaping to make the switch completely.
To do this, just write out a simple plan for the weeks ahead. Then set a maximum number of cigarettes you can smoke each day with a lower number for each week. (See example below).
Your final date should be your planned vaping switch date. This is of course the day you plan to smoke no cigarettes at all, and just keep vaping.
Example cut-down planner
Weeks from vaping start date
My daily cigarette limit
WEEK 1 (start vaping)
0 – SWITCH DAY!
2. Keep your e cigarette close at hand to ease the switch
To ease your switch from smoking to vaping, try to keep your e cigarette accessible at all times. And this is most important during the early stages of your switch plan.
Keeping your vape device close at hand and ready to use at all times makes sure you use it. More importantly, it makes it harder for you to switch back from vaping to smoking.
Your vape will become your “new cigarette”
If your e cig is there when you need it, your vape pen or mod will become your “new cigarette”. So keeping it close by will rescue you when cravings creep up on you.
Just as having spare cigarettes around keeps you smoking, so ensuring easy access to your e cig keeps you vaping.
Tips to make sure you’re never without your vape:
- Keep your device charged up and ready to go after you’ve switched to vaping. Almost all vape mods available nowadays come with USB ports and charging cables. These let you recharge your vape easily while you work or relax.
- Get an emergency “back-up” vaping device before you decide to switch. This could be a cheap cigalike or pod system.
- Order enough pre-filled pods / cartridges or e liquid to get you through the first couple of weeks of your switch from smoking to vaping. For pod vapes, you’ll need between 1-3 pod refills per day. As for refillable vape devices, people tend to get through about 4-6ml of e liquid per day.
- If your device uses removable, rechargeable batteries, then get a multi-charger. These are cheap and let you charge several batteries at once.
- Keep all of your vape gear (coils, batteries, vape juice) all together – in a box, for example. That way you’ll be able to find things easily. Your vape gear should ideally be close wherever you spend most time at home. However, if you have kids or inquisitive pets, keep vape stuff (especially e liquid) locked up or out of reach.
3. Make smoking harder to ease your switch to vaping
Another useful trick to help make your switch from smoking to vaping easier is to make it harder for yourself to smoke. Let’s face it, smoking is usually pretty inconvenient anyway. Just think how often you’ve had to smoke outside in horrible car parks in the cold and rain.
Taking the inconvenience of smoking a step further can activate the “I can’t be bothered to smoke” mind set. This attitude can make moving on from smoking to vaping much easier. But how does it work in practice?
Hide your cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays!
A couple of weeks before you switch to vaping, start putting cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays out of reach. You could start by putting them on top of cupboards.
A week or so later, why not lock your cigarettes in a shed – or even in your loft? You’ll know they’re still there, but they won’t be close to hand.
This way, you’ll hopefully begin to feel that reaching for that cigarette is just not worth the trouble. Even better, you should start to see vaping as a more convenient alternative to smoking.
How to keep vaping and stay away from smoking after you switch
Once you’ve decided on switching to vaping, chances are you’ll carry on vaping and stay away from smoking.
But then again, there’s also the possibility that you might slip – and drift back into smoking, again. So how can you make this less likely to happen?
Here are some tips to keep you off the cigarettes – and on your e cigarette – in the longer term.
- Hard-wire vaping into your routine by vaping during your old preferred smoking times, such as after meals
- Always bring your e cigarette out with you and don’t be afraid to use it when with smoker friends or family
- Keep your vaping fun and varied by experimenting with new, weird and wonderful e liquids and devices
- Grade up to a more advanced device, but only when you feel ready
- Keep in mind the benefits of vaping, such as better health and a nicer-smelling house
My journey from smoking to vaping
I’m not a smoking cessation expert, but I understand all too well how hard stopping smoking can be. After all, I spent twenty tedious years of my life trying to give it up. But it wasn’t until I made the leap to vaping that I actually managed to stop smoking for good.
An e cigarette user for around ten years now, I’ve got no interest whatsoever in smoking tobacco any more. I’m still vaping and I don’t smoke at all. If I hadn’t switched to vaping back in 2011, I’d almost certainly still be smoking a cigarette right now.
Here are a few common questions typically asked by smokers who have either already started vaping or who are planning to switch to vaping.
Can even heavy smokers switch to vaping?
Vaping can help you to stop smoking no matter whether you’re a light or heavy smoker. However, more hardened smokers may need more time to switch from smoking to vaping than lighter smokers. Also, a heavy smoker might prefer not to stop smoking right away. In other words, they might start vaping to reduce smoking gradually rather than giving up altogether.
However they achieve this, the right support, device and vape juice will also make it much easier for a heavy smoker to switch to vaping.
How long does it take to stop smoking with vaping?
It could take days, weeks or months to stop smoking with vaping depending on how quickly you take to vaping. For instance, you may decide that a clean switch from smoking to vaping works better for you than cutting down while vaping. In this case, your transition to vaping will happen right away.
The key thing with going from smoking to vaping is to take things slowly at first. That way, you can give yourself some stress-free space to feel at home with things. Also, you may need time to get settled with a vape kit and liquid that you feel comfortable with as a smoker.
Should I get rid of my cigarettes and ashtrays when I start vaping?
When people are trying to switch to vaping, they probably need a bit of leeway with their existing smoking habit. Personally, I think it’s OK to hold onto cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters for a while.
This lets you take things easy and cut down your smoking slowly until vaping replaces it. This is what worked for me and for other vapers I’ve met. If in doubt though, speak to your GP or cessation clinic.
I only smoke a few cigarettes per day, so should I start vaping?
According to medical authorities, even one cigarette a day can increase your risk of serious illness by a considerable margin. In other words, any amount of smoking is most likely bad for you. Vaping is an effective way to quit even occasional smoking. However, other methods (such as NRT) might be equally useful. Again, your GP will give you a clearer idea.