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How to Switch from Cigs to E-cigs?

Welcome. In this piece we're going to talk about transitioning from combustible cigarettes to vapor products: how it works, what to expect, tips on how to do it.

If you haven't already, consider taking a look at some of Breazy’s earlier articles explaining what vaping is and isn't, examining the key differences between smoking and vaping, and discussing known and potential health effects. If you already know what you're in for, and you've decided vaping is a change worth making, we're here to help.

Step 1. Get a Vape

This is the obvious first step. We dive into the different types of devices, and why you might choose one over another, in separate articles. For our purposes, there are broadly two categories of modern vaporizer: refillable "open system" devices and "closed system" ones powered by disposable pods that, while simpler, cost more in the long run and offer fewer personalization options.

One recommendation we will make here: don't drop too much money on your first vaporizer. With the recent proliferation of technology, prices are dropping across all segments of the vaping market, and you may want to experiment with a few different types before picking a favorite.

Maybe the compact size, simplicity, and tight draw of a cigalike or pod system appeal initially, but after using one for a while you decide you want more airflow or longer lasting batteries. Alternately, you might be initially intrigued with the customization options an advanced personal vaporizer (APV, or just "mod") offer, but decide later you don't need all the bells and whistles.

Regardless of where you eventually land, it won't hurt to have a couple devices. That’s because the first rule of successfully switching to vaping is: have backups in case your device fails and you're tempted to smoke cigarettes again. The second rule: have backups for your backups.

Step 2. Get Some E-Liquid

This is where the world of vaping really starts to get interesting. Instead of just "smoldering tobacco ash" and "minty smoldering tobacco ash," you've literally got thousands of flavor choices from Apple to Yogurt (we couldn’t find a  Z but we’re sure it’s coming). Flavors range from exotic fruit blends to your favorite pastry.

We recommend trying a few that sound appealing to start, including at least one non-tobacco offering. Right now you're probably thinking along the lines of: "If it's going to replace my favorite smokes, it's got to taste like my favorite smokes, so I'll try the tobacco-flavored liquid."

We've all been there. It’s probably the biggest freshman mistake noob vapers make. So, let us save you the expense and disappointment. We say this because the taste of fresh tobacco in an e-liquid is not the same taste of dried tobacco that's been doused with thousands of chemicals and then set on fire that you’ve become accustomed to as a smoker. Don't worry, though. Once you find the flavor that works for you, there's no looking back.

Step 3. Choose a Nicotine Strength

Both "open system" devices that use refillable e-liquid tanks, and "closed system" devices that use disposable pods are available in a variety of nicotine concentrations. We suggest trying a few different strengths. For many of us, part of the goal of quitting smoking is to reduce or completely eliminate nicotine dependence. Having the ability to control nicotine levels so you can taper off is a powerful tool in achieving that objective.

Modern open-system devices tend to produce a lot more power and vapor, meaning you'll consume more liquid than with limited-power closed system devices. This means there's a wide variance in the nicotine content of liquids intended for use in one device type or another. Liquid for open system devices generally have lower nicotine concentrations while closed system devices use liquid with higher nic levels.

For an open system, most vapers use a nicotine strength of 3-6 milligrams per milliliter of fluid. Stronger options are available, though, and users who've recently quit smoking may use as much as 12, 18, or even 24 mg/ml in order to keep cigarette cravings at bay. Remember, though, nicotine is a stimulant so it's not a bad idea to have a low-octane blend on hand for vaping close to bedtime.

If you're regularly smoking a half-pack of cigarettes a day or less, you may want to start experimenting with 6 and 12 mg open system liquids. If your habit is closer to a pack a day, try some 12 and 18 mg blends. Lastly, 24 mg and stronger liquid is generally reserved for heavy smokers who have been burning through two or more packs a day. It's important to keep in mind, however, that increasing nicotine levels will also result in a stronger throat hit. That may be welcomingly familiar for those who've recently quit smoking, but after vaping for a while, your appreciation for the harsh punch is likely to fade.

Closed system devices use a "nicotine salt" liquid. These have been chemically altered from the traditional liquid nicotine to make it easier for the body to absorb and less harsh on your throat at high nicotine levels. Because closed devices produce less vapor and operate at lower power, you'll still end up getting a dose comparable to regular non-salt liquids containing less nicotine delivered through a more advanced device.

Salt-based liquids for pod mods start at around 18 mg/ml in strength and go up as high as 60 mg/ml. These numbers are sometimes represented in percentages rather than the vape-standard mg/ml. To convert, just add a zero: a liquid advertised as 5 percent nicotine then, contains 50 mg/ml.

Getting Started

Once you have your gear and liquid all set up, it's go time. Remember, whenever you get the urge for a smoke, try turning to your vape instead.

It's not uncommon for the quitting process to take a while. We've heard stories of people who've taken their first drag off a vaporizer and immediately thrown their cigarettes in the trash, never to smoke again. Let’s make that more clear. We've heard stories. But we've never met anyone who's done this in real life.

Do: try hard to vape instead of smoke. In the beginning, the easiest cigarettes to cut out tend to be the random, opportunistic ones throughout the day. But some daily events like morning coffee, finishing a meal, or hopping in the car for a drive might be rituals that you strongly associate with a desire to smoke. These will be the last of the cigarettes to leave your life, most likely.

If you've tried vaping for a bit and you still feel like smoking, try to wait five to 10 minutes for the urge to pass. Nicotine is absorbed by the body differently when it's in vapor form instead of smoke. Cigarettes have chemical additives such as ammonia specifically designed to increase the body’s nicotine uptake rate. Since e-liquid manufacturers aren't bleaching juice like Big Tobacco does, it takes longer for the nicotine to enter your bloodstream, so you’d be well-advised to give your vape time to do its job.

Don't: beat yourself up if you continue to smoke, at least for a while. In order to fully realize the benefits of quitting smoking you'll have to quit eventually. But even reducing your daily intake by a few cigs week over week gives you some tangible progress to be proud of and a new goal to keep reaching for.

A common refrain from the early days of the vape Interweb that still holds true for quitters today: don't count the cigarettes you do smoke, count the ones you don't.

Things to Look Forward To

If you've ever tried to quit in the past or been pressured to do so by loved ones, you've probably heard these factoids about what happens to you after you put down the cigarettes. Still, we think they're worth mentioning.

Day 1: Smoking dumps carbon monoxide into your lungs, which your blood has to filter out, reducing your oxygen content. Eight hours after your last cigarette, oxygen levels in your blood return to normal. By the end of the first day, your body will have filtered all of the carbon monoxide out of your system, improving your breathing patterns and blood flow.

Day 2: After two days, your sense of smell and taste will begin to return. It's long been known that people who quit cigarettes using conventional methods tend to gain weight during their transition away from tobacco. Part of that could be related to the urge to put something in your mouth, but you'll also begin to find that food is just…better. Having that sweet, non-tobacco e-liquid on hand is a helpful stopgap to noshing. Also, if you've been an indoor smoker, you'll likely get the urge to undertake a massive cleaning mission around your house because you'll become keenly aware of how foul it smells.

Day 3: Breathing and lung function improves to the point you'll physically feel it. Simple tasks like climbing a flight of stairs that used to leave you winded will start getting easier.

One Month: Make it all the way to the one-month mark and your lungs and circulation will have markedly improved. Most traces of "smoker's cough" have disappeared and your body may be ready for more rigorous athletic activity like running.

Nine months: In the time it takes to make a baby, your lungs will have regrown the tiny, hair-like tissue called cilia that help expel mucus and other toxins from the airways. Your risk of lung infection has dramatically decreased.

One Year: Your risk of coronary heart disease has been cut in half. It'll only continue decreasing from here.

One Decade: Your risk of lung cancer is now roughly half that of a smoker. Within another five to 10 years, your body may fully recover from the damage done by smoking.

We've got to note here, however, that the risks of vaping for this long are still unknown. While it's widely accepted today that these risks are lower than those of continuing to smoke, only time will tell how much of the full benefit of quitting will be conferred to vapers.

Things To Dread

It's not all milk and honey when it comes to making the switch, and we'd be remiss not to warn you about some of the challenges those who've come before you have faced.

First, there are the cravings. If you've ever tried to quit before, you're familiar with them. Vaping does a lot to take the edge off and it's an effective substitute for some people, but most of us still go through a transition where we still want to smoke. As we said earlier, there's a lot more that goes into a cigarette than just tobacco, and some of those chemicals are added specifically because the cigarette companies know they keep you coming back. Tapering your smoking over a period of two to six weeks while you're first starting vaping goes a long way toward lessening the blow, however.

If you thought smokers' cough was nasty, you're really not going to like quitters' cough. For a few weeks (maybe as long as a month) after quitting completely, your body is going to want to expel all of the mucus and crud that you've built up over years of inhaling tar and ash. That means your cough (especially the morning hacks) may get worse for a while—it's not the vaping that's doing this, it's the quitting. You're just going to have to power through it. Again, we've been there. It gets better.

A small percentage of vapers report a sensitivity to one or more e-liquid ingredients. These are often minor and frequently confused with normal symptoms of a body recovering from smoke exposure. If you've got a slight irritation that doesn't improve after a short period, look into switching your liquid. As with any quit attempt, talk to your doctor about what you're doing and why, and report any serious reactions immediately.

Stop Reading, Stop Smoking

We hope these tips will help you prepare for the smoke-free life we all aspire to, and the one that many of us have found thanks to switching to vaping.

Read on to take a closer look at some of the biggest missteps many new vapers make, so you can hopefully avoid them along your journey.