[June 2021] Smokers nowadays like having more options when it comes to choosing the most appropriate vape pod or pen to quit smoking with, but which e cig is closest to the real thing?
Similar to heat-not-burn innovations like the IQOS, some newer vape e cig devices now come with “smoking features”, like soft tips and other things to make them feel more like a real cigarette. Vape kits like these promise to deliver a realistic smoking experience at an affordable price.
But do they really do it for smokers?
This article tests three newly-released e cig pod kits for smokers to see which one gives the closest, most realistic vape to the experience of smoking a real cigarette.
But first, why do some types of e cigarette do the best job at mimicking the characteristics of real cigs, while others don’t?
Which kinds of e cig are closest to the real thing?
Basic, pod vape e cig models tend to offer the best overall cigarette-like vape (especially to new users), and this is for several good reasons:
Low-power pod vapes are the closest e cigarette alternative to real cigarettes because they are small, lightweight, suction-activated and provide tighter suction to match the smoking experience more closely. Pod vapes are also compatible with nicotine salts, which produce vapour with a smoother texture, like cigarette smoke.
Suction-activated pod vapes range in style from those with flat, rectangular bodies and wide mouthpieces (like Juul) to “pen-style” pods (like Smok Stick G15). Pen-style pod vape e cigs are cylindrical and have narrower, rounded mouthpieces, and so feel more like real cigarettes.
Some e cigs are more like cigarettes than others
It’s true that many MTL tanks, vape pens and all-in-one e cig kits can produce vapour with a very similar taste and texture to cigarette smoke. And for heavier smokers, these are often the best choice of device to quit smoking with.
But these more serious devices are often bulkier, too, so feel heavier in the hand. They may also include power buttons or other more advanced features which can make them feel less like cigarettes for some smokers.
On the other hand, really small e cigarettes like “cigalikes” do look a lot like real cigarettes and are usually suction-activated.
But cigalikes are usually too small and unreliable in terms of power and flavour output to come even close to providing real smoking satisfaction.
So now we’re clear that pod vapes are the way to go, let’s see which one turned out to be most like a cigarette…
Pod vape most like a cigarette: my tests
Products tested for similarity to smoking
Here are the three suction-activated, low power pod vape e cigarette models I tested to see which was most like a cigarette. Skip to results
Each device tested is a refillable, suction-activated pod vape kit, and each is supposed to produce very similar sensations to those produced by lit cigarettes:
Key points of similarity between real cigarettes and vapes
For the sake of realism, I identified some key smoking characteristics to test these pod vape kits up against against. These were:
- Appearance (similarity to a cigarette in looks alone)
- Device mouth feel (on lips and tongue) compared to smoking
- Vapour mouth feel (flavour richness, vapour warmth, draw resistance) vs smoking
- Vapour inhale quality vs tobacco smoke (texture, strength and smoothness)
- Responsiveness to suction compared to cigarettes
- Hand feel (e cig size and weight in hands) in relation to cigarettes
- Nicotine relief and satisfaction vs cigarettes
E cig smoking similarity results
Here are the results of my tests on all three vape devices to see which was most similar to cigarettes. You can also see my verdict further down this page.
NOTE: I tested each model with 50/50 PG-VG nicotine salt e liquid (natural tobacco and menthol flavours) at 10, 12 and 18 mg strengths.
|Innokin EQ FLTR Vape Kit||Smok Stick G15 Pod Kit||Geekvape Wenax K1 Pod Kit|
|Appearance||Very small (around 105mm long with tip fitted) so roughly the same length as a king-size cigarette. |
Soft tip resembles cig filter tip
|Longer (around 115mm with tip) than a real cigarette. No real visual similarity to cigs||No visual similarity to a cigarette as flat shape and longer (114mm) in size|
|Device mouth feel||Soft tip gives real cigarette feel in your mouth and tight, realistic draw resistance with soft tips||Plastic mouthpiece is same size / shape as cigarette filter but is harder so feels less like cigarette in mouth |
Loose to medium tight draw resistance with plastic tip
|Plastic mouthpiece too hard and wide to feel like a real cigarette in mouth|
Medium-to tight draw which resembles smoking quite closely
|Vapour mouth feel||Excellent reproduction of sweetness / bitterness even with subtle flavours|
Cool vapour even on long draws
|Reproduces brighter flavour notes very well (menthol, fruits, etc) but softer tobacco flavours not so obvious.|
Vapour quite warm on long draws
|Excellent flavour production with both natural tobacco and menthol flavours|
|Vapour inhale quality||Only soft throat hit with 10ml nic salts (similar to light cigarette inhale). Stronger, more distinctive and rounded throat hit with 18mg nic salts (like regular cigarette)||Adequate throat hit with 10mg nic salts but closer to inhale from regular cigarette at 12mg. 18 mg (salts) gives very strong but slightly sharper nicotine hit||Very smooth and strong inhale at 12mg+(salts) but not satisfying enough below that strength.|
|Suction response||Good responsiveness to suction except when charge is running low or contacts are damp||Excellent vapour release in response to even the gentlest or shortest of sucks, much like smoking a real cig||Great responsiveness to light or short sucks in suction-activation mode and very similar to response from a real cigarette|
|Hand feel||Feels very comfortable and light () in the hand||Very light to hold but still too heavy (37g) to feel anything like a real cigarette – more like a mid-sized cigar||Very light (60g) but doesn’t feel anything like a real cig in the hand|
|Nicotine relief||Very noticeable with e liquid strength at over 18mg (nic salts) but not much at lower strengths||Excellent, noticeable nicotine relief at 12mg (nic salts) and above||Excellent, noticeable relief at 12mg – better at 18mg and still very smooth|
Closest vape to the real thing? My verdict:
For me, Innokin’s EQ FLTR offers by far the closest feel to a real cig than the other pod vapes I tested. Here are a few reasons why:
#1: Innokin EQ FLTR Soft Filter Pod Kit
Look and feel vs real cigs
The EQ’s soft tips add a surprising level of ciggy similarity to this e cig by hypnotising you into feeling that you’re actually smoking while vaping. I like the look and feel of this feature a lot.
And the minimal size and weight of the EQ FLTR also add to its appeal as a worthy cigarette substitute.
I also really love the way this e cig has been designed to look like an IQOS device. But what’s even better is that the EQ FLTR e cig actually tastes nicer than one of these (in my humble opinion).
Flavour and strength in relation to cigarettes
The EQ FLTR gives out way more flavour than a lit cigarette (or heat-not-burn) ever could and can reproduce even very subtle e liquid flavours and tones very nicely.
I particularly like the way the EQ handles real tobacco flavours, which taste really strong and very cigarette-like.
Nicotine strength, throat hit and relief are all potentially impressive as long as you use a strong enough e liquid. I would suggest using at least 18mg strength nic salt liquid with the EQ FLTR to get the same satisfaction that you’d expect to get from the real thing.
Areas for improvement
The only area in which the EQ FLTR is not so much like a cigarette is responsiveness to suction. But given all its other “cig-alike” qualities, I think we can forgive this. It’s not like you don’t get any vapour at all, but more that sometimes you have to suck a bit harder to release it.
Intermittent suction responsiveness is only an issue when the battery is run down or if contacts aren’t completely dry. Best advice is to dab contacts with a cotton bud from time to time and keep battery topped up.
Innokin EQ FLTR isn’t my all-time favourite kit of all time, and it should be said this is very much a “beginner” device. However, this e cig does do a good impression of a real cigarette in terms of feel, flavour and performance. And all at a very affordable price.
#2: Smok Stick G15
The Smok Stick G15 comes a close second but only really because of its slight shortcomings in flavour compared to the other two devices.
Vapour flavour is strong enough, but it seems I’m only getting higher, sweeter notes, rather than really interesting, bitter ones.
For the G15 to be a more like the real thing it would need to be able to reproduce tobacco flavours more accurately. This is tricky to fix, though using it with very strong tobacco e liquid flavours would likely solve it to some extent.
Longer and fatter
The shape of this e cig is also a fair bit longer and fatter than that of the the EQ FLTR – this issue also takes away from its potential as a true cigarette substitute.
Strength, satisfaction and suction response
However, what the Smok Stick G15 does do well is nicotine strength and quality of throat hit with even relatively low-strength (12mg) e liquid. I was very impressed with the quality of throat hit in terms of its similarity to smoke inhaled from a cigarette. What’s more, it will consistently generate vapour in response to even gentle sucks.
I also like the cigarette tip-shaped mouthpiece which adds to its charm. However the mouthpiece felt even more realistic better when I removed the plastic tip and replaced it with an EQ soft tip instead (perfect fit!).
The Smok Stick G15 is definitely a worthwhile, though somewhat bulky pod vape kit to replace your cigarettes with. It will certainly satisfy cig cravings too, though you may need a more flavoursome e liquid to go with it.
See my full review of the Smok Stick G15.
#3: Geekvape Wenax K1
The Wenax K1 pod vape does a lot of things right as a ciggy replacement.
For a start, it gives out a lot of strongly-flavoured, realistic-tasting and satisfying vapour as you might get from a real cigarette. Throat hit and nicotine strength and relief are also impressive and the device is very responsive to suction.
My only real issue with the Wenax K1 is really how the device looks and feels compared to a cigarette.
However good its vapour tastes, the mouthpiece is just too wide to resemble a cigarette tip in any way, and there is no room for modification. There’s also a power button, which though optional, is a bit of an unnecessary distraction, especially considering its auto-suction is so good.
The same goes for the device body, which is longer and flatter than the other two devices tested, and not remotely cigarette-shaped.
But I’m not saying that the Wenax K1 looks or feels horrible – quite the opposite.
I actually love the appearance, texture and feel of this model way more than the others. It’s just that when it comes to getting maximum cigarette realism from this e cig, it just doesn’t make the grade.
How close to the real thing can you expect e cigs to get?
Vaping was originally invented to help smokers quit, so it’s no surprise that some e cigarettes can get you very close to at least a few of the pleasures of smoking.
Here are some of the ways in which e cigs really do resemble the real thing:
- Smooth vapour throat hit which stimulates your throat in the same way as cigarette smoke
- Heated vapour which can taste very similar to cigarette tobacco (or any other flavour you choose)
- Vapour release when you suck, as with cigarette smoke
- Satisfying nicotine hit and relief similar to smoking
- Very similar oral (feeling of device and vapour in your mouth) and manual (hand-to-mouth) actions to those smoking
But despite the strong similarities that e cigs do share with real cigs, most realistic vapers would admit that there are some pleasurable aspects of real lit cigarettes that you just can’t achieve with vaping.
- Appearance and super-lightweight feel of real cigarettes
- A realistic “smoky” flavour when you inhale
- The lingering aftertaste of cigarette smoke in your mouth (though not always something you want!)
- Being able to rest your cigarette comfortably between your fingers between puffs
How to make your e cig even more like a real cigarette
Finding an e cigarette that tastes and feels more like real cig is a lot easier these days, thanks to the recent invention of (good) pod vapes. But there are still a couple of things you can do to make your e cig even more like the real thing.
- Use nic salt e liquids in your e cig rather than standard ones for smoother throat hits that feel more like those from a cigarette
- Get a good tobacco e liquid, preferably made from real tobacco
- Use at least a 50/50 PG-VG ratio vape liquid to improve, flow, flavour and strength of your e cig vapour