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Buying and Using an Electronic Cigarette: A Primer

Discussion in 'New Members Forum' started by DC2, Aug 18, 2009.

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  1. DC2

    DC2 Tootie Puffer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Jun 21, 2009
    San Diego
    Buying and Using an Electronic Cigarette: A Primer

    The first thing to know is that everyone is different.
    Everyone has different reasons for smoking cigarettes.
    Everyone gets different things from the smoking experience.
    Everyone has different needs and wants.
    And everyone has different tastes

    The second thing to know is that there is no perfect electronic cigarette.
    They all have pluses and minuses, depending on your needs and wants.
    What one person considers a plus may be considered a minus by another.

    The third thing you should know is that you will probably change your mind.
    There is a very good chance you will stop caring how much it looks like a cigarette.
    There is a very good chance you will stop caring if it tastes like your old brand of cigarette.
    And of course, there is every chance that you may not change your mind as well.

    The last thing you should know is that there is a learning curve.
    This is not going to be as simple as picking up a cigarette and a lighter.
    Parts will eventually die on you, so you'll need backups.
    There are issues to overcome, and things to learn.
    But in the end, it is well worth it to make the effort.

    Prefilled cartridges versus refilling your own
    Cartridges are basically made up of a mouthpiece and filler material that holds the liquid.

    Using cartridges prefilled with liquid can become relatively expensive.
    Also, this limits the flavors and strengths of juice you can use to what they come filled with.
    Almost everyone quickly switches to refilling their own cartridges for the above reasons.
    This is one reason your first order should always include at least 10ml of juice.

    Cartridges can be refilled a number of times, but not indefinitely.
    The filler material contained within the cartridge stops working quite as well after awhile.
    Many people simply clean the filler and keep using them even longer.
    Regardless, you will eventually need new filler, but can continue using the same mouthpiece.

    One option is to buy your own cartridge filler, which is very inexpensive.
    Another option is to buy blank cartridges that have filler but no juice.

    Manual versus Automatic batteries
    Manual batteries require you to push a button to activate the battery.
    Pushing a button will reduce the degree of duplicating the cigarette smoking experience.
    However, most people say it becomes second nature in less than a day.

    Automatic batteries are activated by the act of inhaling.
    Some automatic batteries are activiated by the sound of inhaling, and some by the suction.
    Therefore, they may also be activated by such things as loud noise, wind, or car air conditioners.

    Automatic batteries allow you to use your electronic cigarette hands free.
    However, electronic cigarettes are too heavy for some people to hold comfortably in their mouth.

    Automatic batteries have a cutoff which causes them to stop after a certain number of seconds.
    This is the source of much frustration for most users, and detracts from their enjoyment.
    It can lead to various issues such as juice in the mouth or poor vapor production.
    With practice, certain techniques may be employed to help overcome these issues to some extent.

    Manual batteries avoid the above issues by providing complete control over the atomizer.
    The vast majority prefer the manual battery, but there are some that do prefer the automatics.

    NOTE: Please also see post #8 below for more detailed information.

    Throat Hit and Vapor Production and Flavor
    Most people want a good throat hit, however some people want less throat hit.
    But everyone agrees for the most part that more vapor is a good thing.

    In general, throat hit and vapor production go hand in hand.
    The hotter you can get the atomizer the more vapor and throat hit you should get.
    But this may also cause the juice to lose some flavor as well.
    And it will definitely cause you to use more juice.

    Manual batteries will allow you to get the atomizer hotter for longer.
    This is another important factor in the reason most people prefer manual batteries.

    Also, vapor production and throat hit can be greatly influenced by the juice you use.
    And at this point, vapor production and throat hit do not always go hand in hand.
    Nicotine strength is often cited as having a very big effect on throat hit.
    And different flavors from the same company often produce more or less throat hit and/or vapor.

    Mods generally provide much longer battery life.
    They use larger batteries that are more common, easier to get, and much cheaper.
    For this reason they look far less like a cigarette.

    Many also allow for higher voltage which will also allow you to get the atomizer hotter.
    Many users eventually move to a mod for the above reasons.

    Juice recommendations
    This is the place where I repeat that everyone has different tastes.
    The best advice I could give is to find yourself some sampler packs, the smaller the better.
    And read up in the Juice Reviews section of this forum.

    Nicotine Strength
    There does not seem to be a clear pattern as to what strength nicotine you might need.
    Some people find they need higher strength than they thought.
    Some find that they need lower strength.

    The general rule of thumb is get something maybe a bit higher if unsure.
    You can always get some that is lower to cut it back with.

    And you can keep some around for spiking to a higher strength if a bad craving hits you.

    PG versus VG juices
    PG is propylene glycol and VG is vegetable glycerin.
    Either of these ingredients can be purchased relatively cheaply and easily by themselves.
    They can be used for making your own liquid if desired. or for cutting juice you have purchased.

    As far as differences go, this is what I have gathered from reading things here and there.

    1) VG is thicker (more viscous)
    2) VG vaporizes at a lower temperature
    3) VG produces better vapor
    4) VG is somewhat sweeter

    Because of the above...

    1) VG does not wick quite as well
    2) VG may gunk up your atomizer more quickly
    3) VG produces a somewhat cooler vapor which may reduce throat hit

    Dry atomizers, flooded atomizers, and wicking
    Basically, you want to keep your atomizer happy with plenty of juice, but not too much as to flood it.

    A good sign that it's flooded is that it gets a little harder to draw on and you get little or no vapor.
    Flooding it, however, won't hurt it at all, and you can just blow out the extra juice.

    Letting it get too dry, on the other hand, is not good for the atomizer supposedly.
    But regardless of whether it is bad for the atomizer or not, you still don't want to do it.

    You can tell it is too dry when it starts to taste like crap.
    A nasty sort of burnt plastic type of taste.

    One reason it might get too dry is if you burn through the juice faster than it can wick up more.
    That is why people experiment with different kinds of filler materials to use in their cartridges.

    If you take only a drag or two every now and then, you should be fine.
    But if you use these like a cigarette, the wicking process will have trouble keeping up.
    There are ways to deal with this, and people have different methods that work better for them.

    And of course, when the cartridge is running low on juice, it needs topping off for this reason.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. DC2

    DC2 Tootie Puffer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Jun 21, 2009
    San Diego
    Feel free to offer feedback or criticism, I can take it.
    I consider this is a work in progress.
  3. Ursa

    Ursa Full Member

    Aug 13, 2009
    Philadelphia PA USA
    I think it's really good. I'm only a few days into it and I'm so used to the manual I am not even sure I'll care when the auto battery I ordered arrives. At first I thought I'd want one but now I actually don't. I also don't care about it being so cig-like and don't even want to go after the old analog taste.
  4. Duckies

    Duckies Super Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 20, 2009
    Great job! This is a super resource for those just joining.

  5. DC2

    DC2 Tootie Puffer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Jun 21, 2009
    San Diego
    My goal is to make this worthy of being a sticky.
    Although my ultimate goal is to make the New Members section obsolete.

    But seriously, this kind of thing is long overdue.
    And I think we should all work to make it something we can point newbs to.

    I really hate to see frustrated newb questions going unanswered.
  6. C6Silver

    C6Silver Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Jul 17, 2009
    Nice write-up. A few points.

    1. I would make a clearer distinction between "carts" and the filler material itself. The cartridge can be used indefinitely, but the filler material cannot. The car is the hard plastic shell while the filler material is typically polyester batting stuffed inside.

    2. I would disagree about throat hit and vapor production. My DSE-601 e-Pipe and Ruyan e-cigar have fantastic vapor production but no throat hit. I think this may have more to do with the temperature of the vapor itself and the contents of the vapor.

    3. PG is not glycerin. PG is made by the reaction of propylene oxide and water. It metabolizes in the body as lactic acid not glucose like VG would. Glycerin, however, can be made from either plant or animal. PG can cause some reactions in people such as itching and sore throat while VG tends to have less adverse reactions for those with PG issues. VG is much easier to find in stores for those looking to make their own juices.
  7. moorea

    moorea Unregistered Supplier ECF Veteran

    Aug 11, 2009
    Marion, MT
    As a new user there are few places where links to more info or just adding the more info would have been nice. For example I'd like to know:

    "One option is to buy your own cartridge filler, which is very inexpensive."

    What can I buy to fill my cartridge with and where can I find it?
  8. Kent C

    Kent C ECF Guru Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 12, 2009
    NW Ohio US
    Manual versus Automatic batteries

    Because this is a basic choice in choosing an ecig, more information is needed on this part. This is a edit of Deadcat2's more compact statement (with his consent ).

    Manual batteries require you to push a button to activate the battery.
    Automatic batteries are activated by sound or the act of drawing on the ecigarette.

    Automatic Batteries:

    You have liquid in the cartridge. In order for the liquid to become vapor, it has to be vaporized. For that to happen the atomizer must heat to the point of vaporizing the liquid. Auto batteries are activated by drawing on the ecig or producing noise of drawing. The sequence is:

    1. draw
    2. battery activates
    3. atomizer begins to heat up
    4. the atomizer continues to heat up
    5. the liquid is vaporized
    6. you inhale

    From 1 to 3 the liquid is still in liquid form. From 3 to 4 _some of the liquid_ in the area of the atomizer is still in liquid form. From 1 to 4 the mouth piece is acting like a straw and you can get liquid in your mouth.

    One workaround is to take what's called a 'primer puff' - where you make the noise of drawing to start the battery but do not continue to draw. You then wait for the atomizer to atomize the liquid and then draw. Another work around is to start to draw but not very hard - because you'll get juice in your mouth - this sometimes starts the battery and sometimes it doesn't. If it does, if you then increase the amount of draw pressure and draw slowly like drinking a thick shake through a straw. But this prolonged drag can also take time to where you may run into the auto battery's 'cutoff' where the atomizer shuts off. Sometimes a 'waiting period' to where you can't start the cycle again, because the auto battery is still in the 'cutoff mode'. Iow, the battery controls you at that point.

    Manual Batteries:

    With manual batteries, you have to push a small button in order to start the above 1-6 sequence.

    Here, the only part of this that is not part of the smoking experience is pushing the button. When you push the button before drawing, numbers 2 through 5 above occur before you take a draw. When you do draw, you draw vapor not juice, and this is very much more like taking a drag on a cigarette.

    And, most people say that using the button in this manner becomes second nature in less than a day.


    Most electronic cigarettes auto or manual, are too heavy for some people to hold comfortably in their mouth without using one's hands.

    And while it takes many words to explain what happens, some have been able to use automatics to their satisfaction. But don't fall for ad line - that because you don't have to push a button, that it somehow is 'more like the experience of smoking a cigarette'. It is not. The ones that look most like a cigarette have been the most problematic - super minis - 4081, 401, 402, etc.

    A majority of vapors here prefer the manuals. Some with automatics are perfectly satisfied with the smaller amount of vapor of some autos, yet there are some here that have mastered auto techniques, get good vapor and enjoy their autos. And it is those people that can help you out, and they are more than willing to help if you have bought one and are having problems with the auto sequence.

    But if you have not purchased yet and are looking to actually duplicate the smoking experience - the actual action of smoking - rather the 'look' of smoking, then you may want to start off by buying a manual starter kit and either bypass the auto or try one out later.

    And don't take my word for it on any of this. Before purchasing read the "New Members" forum for a few days or even a week, and look up the type of ecig that the majority of people are complaining about and having problems with. Read enough to understand whether it is a manual battery or an auto battery and which type of atomizer and whether the person is doing something really unusual - like not filling the cartridges... or something else where it may not be the equipment. ;-) Or is the person truly trying to get vapor and is getting juice in the mouth instead or simply not getting much vapor at all. After reading these new posters threads, and determining what their problem might be, only then decide which way you want to go - manual or automatic. No ecig is entirely trouble free. None are 'exactly' like cigarettes. And performance on nicotine delivery will, for most, be more important than how it looks.

    If you must have an auto:

    Most 510 kits are now all manual but there are vendors that offer 1 auto battery and 1 manual battery - that would be a good choice for people that want to try an auto, and the 510 (and the 901) while not as small as a super mini is still cigarette-like. The 801 is the penstyle and is longer (like a pen) and holds more juice in the cartridge.

    Or.... get another model that also has the option of a manual battery like a dse901 or 801 that could also be used in a manual mod, where you're parts will still be useful.

    If you decide on a manual, go for the 510, or the 901 with a manual battery. Later you may want to move on to a 'mod' (modification of basic models for longer batt life and more vapor) but at least you'll have something that is very reliable on producing vapor.
  9. SuperSpliff

    SuperSpliff Full Member

    Aug 14, 2009
    Beaverton, OR
    OMG! Someone with power sticky this post! Good gawd this would have saved me a ton of time of research and forum trolling. Very good info for noobs like myself. Thanks so much for taking the time and putting this together. A very good read! :D
  10. Burnie

    Burnie The Bug Man Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Jul 1, 2009
    Sunny Florida
    Good info and a nice wright up.

  11. wezzie

    wezzie Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 18, 2009
    New Orleans, La
    Wow, this is a great thread! Thanks Deadcat and others...hopefully there will always be a need for the New Members Forum. :)

    I just added this to my "PV save" file...please someone make this a sticky.
  12. chris2650

    chris2650 Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 29, 2009
    North Carolina
  13. DC2

    DC2 Tootie Puffer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Jun 21, 2009
    San Diego
    I'm trying to keep it as short as possible and as simple as possible.
    But I'll definitely work a bit of that in later today when I have some time.
  14. DC2

    DC2 Tootie Puffer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Jun 21, 2009
    San Diego
    Kent, that's a lot of information, but I think it is valid and important.

    I was trying to keep this as short and simple as possible.
    But there are some good points I will work into my post later.
  15. C6Silver

    C6Silver Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Jul 17, 2009
  16. DC2

    DC2 Tootie Puffer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Jun 21, 2009
    San Diego
    I wanted to avoid links as generally there are so many different threads out there about any given topic, and the prevailing sentiment can sometimes change over time, but I would not be able to come back and edit the original post to change the links.
  17. mama

    mama Full Member ECF Veteran

    Jul 29, 2009
    NH USA
    Great write-up. I agree with putting some links in, that way you can still keep it compact and "clean", but readers can link to information they need more explanation on.

    Again, great job and thanks for all the info!
  18. JeannieB360

    JeannieB360 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    You might want to mention this re: cartridges - this is based on my shopping for 901 cartridges, but I imagine the relative pricing is similar for other models.

    Pre-filled cartridges average $1.00 to $1.20 each in the US, where empty cartridges run from $0.40 to $0.80 each from US suppliers. Ordering from a supplier in China, however, I can get prefilled cartridges for around $0.60 each and empty ones for as little as $0.17 each.

    For me, it makes sense to stock up on cartridges from a supplier in China when I'm placing an order for other supplies, in order to make up for the international shipping charges.

    AND if you decide to add links to your intro, DEFINITELY add a link to the sticky that has pictures of the most common models.
  19. gatsby

    gatsby Super Member ECF Veteran

    Apr 16, 2009
    Albuquerque, NM
    Nice DC,
    I would also add a section on exposed vs. recessed atomizers and how that affects carts and dipping/dripping.
  20. misterME

    misterME Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Jul 28, 2009
    Charleston, SC - USA
    Amen to that! Had I had this to reference several weeks ago, I could have saved myself about $100 in defunct equipment, and about a week's worth of scouring these forums for info. Between this and Spikey's "Intro to Vaping" post, I can't imagine too many questions going unanswered right off the bat for a newbie...

    Great job!
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