A Guide to Vaping

By Samuel Lawrence

E-Cigarette producing vapour


The best choice that any adult smoker can make, without question, is to quit altogether. However, for those who do not want to quit, or are unable to, there are a variety of alternatives to smoking available in the UK which represent a better option than continuing to smoke.

This article covers the fundamentals of vaping – explaining how vaping differs from smoking and how different vaping devices work. It also provides an overview of the types of vaping devices available on the market and describes how e-liquids are produced.

How vaping differs from smoking

If you were to smoke, you would light a cigarette with a flame. The resulting process of combustion from the cigarette burning would then produce smoke – containing nicotine. Vaping doesn’t use this process of burning. Instead, when you use a vaping device, the e-liquid is heated and converted to a vapour, which is then inhaled. Unlike cigarettes, e-liquids used with vaping devices do not contain tobacco.

By eliminating the process of combustion, the vapour produced contains far lower levels of harmful chemicals than cigarette smoke. Whilst not risk free, this presents a better alternative than continuing to smoke.

Vaping devices are electronic and come in many forms, from ‘cig-a-likes', typically the smallest type of device designed to resemble a cigarette, to box-mods, typically the largest type of device. Regardless of their appearance, all vaping devices work on the same principle and have similar component parts.

Types of vaping devices

Whilst there is a growing range of products on the market at varying prices, devices will typically fall into one of the following four categories:

  • Cigalikes (or ‘cig-a-likes’)
    Cig-a-likes are designed to look as close to a conventional cigarette as possible. These devices are usually small, lightweight and sometimes include a light at the end to replicate the glowing lit end of a cigarette. They can be either reusable or disposable. With cig-a-likes, features like wattage and temperature cannot be altered.
  • Pod vapes
    A pod vape is an ultra-compact and easy to use two-piece device including a battery and a pod. These devices are available with either closed vape pods or refillable pods. Depending on the specific brand and model of pod vape chosen, these devices may include features such as variable wattage.
  • Vape pens
    Most vape pens are small and thin, featuring a refillable tank and replaceable coils. Vape pens are considered intermediate vape devices – more advanced than pod vapes and e-cigarettes, but simpler than box mods. Like pod vapes, the specific features will depend on the model chosen. Depending on the specific device, this may include the ability to vary the wattage and voltage that the device is used at.
  • Box mods
    These devices are larger and generally have more customisable features, with longer battery life and multiple changeable elements, often including wattage and temperature control.

A guide to e-liquids

Vaping devices are used with e-liquids, also referred to as ‘e-juices’ or ‘vape juices’. These liquids are made up of VG (vegetable glycerine), a natural derivative of vegetable oil used to produce dense vapour clouds, PG (propylene glycol), a synthetic additive used to provide a ‘throat hit’, flavourings and often nicotine.

Some vaping systems use pods pre-filled with e-liquid; e-liquid comes in the form of a pack of disposable cartridges that you insert into your vaping device and then dispose of once the liquid has been used up.

With other ‘refillable vaping systems’, e-liquids are poured directly into refillable pods or the device’s tank. Rather than buying packs of pre-filled e-liquid pods, you will need to keep your device topped up by purchasing new bottles of e-liquid.

E-liquids are available in a variety of nicotine strengths. The nicotine strength of the e-liquid is indicated on the container either as a percentage or displayed in milligrams per millilitre (often shortened simply to ‘mg’).

Generally, higher nicotine strengths are used by people used to a higher consumption of nicotine – for example, those that were previously heavy smokers before switching to the use of a vaping device.

There are also lower nicotine strengths – and, indeed, nicotine-free liquids available.

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This website is restricted to adults in the United Kingdom who would otherwise continue to smoke or use nicotine products. Our nicotine and tobacco products are not an alternative to quitting and are not designed as cessation aids. They are not risk-free. They contain nicotine, which is addictive. Only for use by adults. Please visit the Important Information page for further risk information.