Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
It wasn’t until I decided to start vaping that I actually managed stop smoking for good. It’s now been ten years since I switched to e-cigarettes, and I haven’t looked back – or smoked again, since.
But the world of vaping has changed massively since I first got into it back in 2011. For smokers who are brand new to coils, e liquids and tanks, it can be hard to know where to start with vaping in 2021.
The number of smokers choosing to get into vaping has also grown since I started all those years ago. Every year, around 20,000 Brits manage to stop smoking by swapping their fags for e cigs. In fact, there are now around 3.6 million e cigarette users in the UK altogether.
If you’re currently smoking and you’re after some first-hand tips on how to start vaping in 2021, then this smoker’s guide is for you.
Here are nine essential beginner vape tips I wish someone had given me when I first started!
1. Be honest with yourself about why you want to start vaping
When it comes to deciding whether to switch from smoking to vaping, it’s worth asking yourself what your motivations are.
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 home 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!
Starting vaping to give up nicotine
However, if you want to start using e cigs to give up the evil nicotine altogether, I’d probably say vaping is a less appropriate option. Or at least in the short term, that is.
This is because e cigarettes (like patches and nicotine gum) are really just another form of nicotine replacement. Or 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.
Non-smokers starting vaping to reduce appetite
Some non-smokers start vaping to lose weight, because cigarettes contain nicotine, which can suppress appetite.
However, it’s probably not a good idea to take up vaping if you don’t already smoke, even if it is to reduce your appetite. Needless to say, nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and weight-loss effects of vaping are likely to be short-term only.
2. Get proper advice before you start 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.
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 really important if you have any kind of health issue. 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 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 a reliable source of official guidance on smoking cessation and transitioning to vaping.
3. Which beginner vape devices are right for you as a smoker?
The best vape device to start with depends largely on what kind of smoker you are right now. For light smokers, cheaper, easy-to-use vape pens, basic pod systems and cigalikes are often the best option.
On the other hand, heavy smokers new to vaping often prefer optimum flavour control and superior battery life. In this case, MTL mod tank combos or all-in-one type vape devices would be the best choice to start with.
MTL mod-tank combos
MTL-compatible mod-tank combos are the best type of device for heavy smokers to start vaping with because they offer more power and more flexibility.
Mod-combo type devices usually have large, long-lasting batteries and big juice tanks for longer vaping. This is important for heavier smokers who are just starting out with vaping. Bigger batteries mean longer vaping sessions at higher wattages in return for stronger hits and more flavour.
Adjustable power controls are another huge advantage of mod-tank combo models for heavier users.
MTL vape coils are sensitive to power changes and require finely-tuned adjustments to produce optimum flavour and strength. Mods are the best first-buy option in this respect for habitual smokers, who often want to be able to get vapour quality just right.
All-in-all, mod tank combos are usually the most expensive choice for a first vape purchase. But they are by far the most powerful, reliable and versatile type of vape device for heavy smokers to begin vaping with.
Smokers like pod vapes because they’re designed precisely with smokers’ needs in mind. Pods are definitely the ideal first-vape purchase if all you need is reliable and instant relief from nicotine cravings.
Some of the cheaper, more basic pod vape models, such as ePuffer’s XPod are also great for use as back-up devices for new users.
Pod vapes are the most affordable and practical option for smokers moving on to vaping. With such low prices and fool-proof features, pods can be a good way for smokers to see if they enjoy vaping before they actually make the switch.
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 and so not ideal for new users.
So, cigalikes are fine as emergency back-up vapes, but don’t expect them to replace smoking as effectively as bigger devices do. After all, they only look like cigarettes.
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 and that means you may 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 cut-down, budget mod-tank combos. Again, a great, affordable choice for smokers who want to dip into vaping before taking the plunge.
4. Start vaping with the right e liquids or refills
New vapers can choose to buy vape liquid in bottles (for refillable devices) or else already pre-filled in disposable cartridges or pods. Pods and cartridges are certainly the easiest option for new users, as no refilling is involved. Users who are starting vaping to stop smoking will also need convenience, and pre-filled disposables are an ideal choice in this respect.
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.
Which e liquid flavour should smokers start with?
Many smokers coming into vaping from smoking go for tobacco e liquids at first. No surprise here!
However, if you do go for a tobacco e liquid, you’ll find that some flavours are good, while some are just dreadful.
In my experience however, there are only a handful of realistic tobacco flavours out there worth trying. These are e liquids containing real tobacco extracts, designed specifically for people switching from smoking to vaping.
Non-tobacco vape flavours
However, some smokers prefer to get as far away from the flavour of tobacco as possible when they start vaping. 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 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 the best option for smokers, all round.
Which e liquid nicotine strength to go for?
Smokers usually choose liquid (and pod or cartridge refill) nicotine strengths based on how much they smoke. Use the suggestions here to match your e-liquid to the amount you smoke:
- 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 (16mg – 20mg)
How to choose a smoother e liquid
Adequate nicotine strength in your e-liquid is important for getting that “cigarette smoke” effect, but don’t forget about smoothness. Some newcomers to vaping enjoy a harsh vapour though most don’t. That’s why it’s important to know which factors can make vapour smooth when choosing your first e liquid.
For smoother throat hits, smokers preparing to switch to vaping should look for e liquids and refills with the right mix of ingredients:
- 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 generally 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.
- To get even more control over the smoothness of your vape, why not try making your own e liquid? DIY vape juice is cheaper by far, and surprisingly easy to make, even with basic ingredients and household equipment.
5. Make the switch to vaping easy for yourself
It’s important not to go into vaping all guns blazing if you’re a complete beginner who’s come straight from smoking. Taking things easy at first will give you time to feel more comfortable with vaping and make you less likely to give up.
For many smokers, this means not completely giving up smoking as you begin to get the hang of using your e cig. In other words, you mostly vape but just don’t let having the odd cigarette from time to time get you down.
The best way to make the transition from smoking to vaping as easy as possible is to make a simple plan for yourself. This will give you as much time as you feel you need to get started with vaping until you stop smoking altogether. And it all starts with your “switch date”.
6. 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!
7. Keep your e cigarette close by when you start vaping
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.
Doing this makes sure you get into the habit of reaching for your e cigarette when cravings strike rather than your lighter.
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.
8. 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.
Maximising the inconvenience of smoking can activate the “I can’t be bothered to smoke” mind set. This attitude can make moving on from smoking to vaping much easier.
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.
9. Try to commit to vaping in the long term
Making the initial commitment to start vaping is easy, but you have to stick at it to keep vaping in the longer term. Once you’ve begun to feel comfortable with vaping, you’ll be more likely to carry on and stay away from smoking. The key to committing to vaping in the long term is to “make friends” with your e-cigarette until using it becomes second nature to you.
Here’s how to make sure you stay off the cigarettes and remain committed to vaping as the weeks and months go by:
- 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
- Level 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
Related questions about starting vaping
Here are a few common questions typically asked by smokers who have either already started vaping or who are planning to switch to vaping.
How easy is it for 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. 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 it. For instance, you may decide that a clean switch from smoking to e cigs works better for you than cutting down while vaping. In this case, your transition from smoking will happen right away.