It wasn’t until I made the switch to vaping that I actually managed to stop smoking for good. I understand all too well how hard stopping smoking can be. After all, I spent twenty years of my life trying to give it up. But how actually easy is it to stop smoking and start vaping?
If you’re still smoking and you’re after some first-hand tips on how to switch to vaping in 2021, then this guide is for you.
Why 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.
The NHS (and others) have been doing their best to clear up myths about dangers of switching to vaping for a while now. But despite this, official advice about the huge benefits of vaping still isn’t getting through to everyone.
Over 15% of us in the UK still smoke, and 78,000 people are dying from smoking-related illnesses every year.
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 what your motivations are.
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. 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.
Get 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 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 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 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 to expect when you start vaping
People who start vaping can expect a similar sensation to smoking, and a cleaner, safer and more comfortable way to quit. Making a new start with vaping should leave you feeling healthier and more energetic than you did when you smoked. Some people may experience headaches, hiccups and a sore throat when they first begin vaping though this is not typical.
1. Vaping feels a bit like smoking
Smokers who have never vaped before are often surprised at how similar vaping feels to smoking when they start. Though some aspects of vaping (smell, feel in the hands) 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 musty taste of smoke that you get with cigarettes.
2. 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 was a smooth, natural and comfortable transition. It was as if I was getting the “gain” of quitting, but without so much of the pain.
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 maybe one reason why e cigarettes are twice as effective as patches, gum and sprays for quitting smoking.
3. 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 aftertaste, 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.
4. 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.
5. More energy
Many smokers who start vaping find they have more energy and vitality than when they smoked, and this isn’t surprising.
Just like smoking, vaping gives you a hit of nicotine. But unlike with ciggies, you don’t get the energy-sapping carbon monoxide that usually comes with it. And that means more oxygen in your bloodstream and more energy to do the things you want to do.
6. Vaping side effects
Some new vapers and ex-smokers can expect mild side effects when they first start vaping. These are possibly due to reactions to nicotine in vape liquid, and can include:
If you experience any kind of serious side effect when you use an e-cig for the first time, it’s best to stop vaping and get medical advice before continuing.
Which vape device should smokers start vaping with?
Which vape device you start with depends on what kind of smoker you are. For light smokers, cheaper, easy-to-use vape pens, basic pod systems and cigalikes are often the most suitable options. 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.
How to choose e-liquid when switching to vaping
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 you start with?
Many smokers coming into vaping from smoking go for tobacco e liquids at first. No surprise here!
Of course, the familiar flavour of tobacco is what most smokers want at first when they’re getting started with vaping.
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 when you first switch to vaping?
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 (18mg – 20mg)
Smooth e liquid for new vapers
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.
How to switch to vaping easily
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to commit to vaping after you switch
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 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
- 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
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.
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.
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.