What is Vaping?
What is Vaping?
Vape. Vaping. Vaper. Vapor. There's likely zero chance you haven't heard these terms somewhere— social media, the news, advertising, your local corner store, somewhere.
What's often missing, though, is useful context. What is vaping? Who does it? Why? How does it work? That's what we’re going to get into here.
In the broadest sense, vaping is an activity originally designed to replace conventional smoking. Using a battery-powered device, vapers heat a liquid until it is converted into a cloud of steam that's inhaled and exhaled. Much like the process of lighting a cigarette on fire and inhaling the smoke as it burns, minus the fire, smoke and burning parts.
Vaping as Cigarette Replacement
Vaping was invented expressly to appeal to tobacco smokers who wanted to avoid the thousands of toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. By inhaling from a handheld device and exhaling a stream of white vapor, vaping mimics many of the beloved rituals of smoking—the hand-to-mouth motion, the physical feeling of inhaling something, and the visual satisfaction that comes from exhaling a cloud. E-cigarettes can also provide the nicotine that smokers crave.
Because nicotine is both a mild stimulant and a powerfully addictive substance, it’s an optional ingredient for smokers who want an alternative to cigarettes but don’t want to go through nicotine withdrawal symptoms. As anyone who has tried to quit smoking knows, withdrawal can be anywhere from unpleasant to downright excruciating. E-cigarettes can be used to substitute the nicotine smokers once got from from cigarettes. Vaping offers a variety of different nicotine concentrations, including none at all, allowing former smokers to wean off nicotine altogether if they choose to do so.
Let's get this out of the way now: vaping is an activity designed for adults who want to switch from smoking. Age restrictions on vaping exist virtually everywhere in North America, because once again nicotine is a powerfully addictive substance that provides no health benefits and can be harmful to developing adolescent brains.
If you're not old enough to purchase tobacco products, and you're not already a tobacco user, vaping is not a good choice. While there's an undeniable risk in inhaling anything that’s not clean, fresh air, many studies suggest that e-cigarette vapor poses less of a risk than the smoke emitted by combustible cigarettes. Still, your best bet is to not vape or smoke if you don't already.
How Vaping Works
There are varying degrees of complexity to this answer, but for now let's keep it simple. A vapor device has a lot of names but they’re most commonly called electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or just e-cigs (For the record, we astute vapers aren't too fond of any of these terms because what we're not using are cigarettes).
That said, even though vaping doesn’t actually involve any tobacco, it is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration as a “tobacco product” along with cigarettes. However, unlike burning tubes of tobacco, which date back to the 9th century Mayans, the modern vapor device was invented in 2004, which dates back to the year Facebook was founded. Therefore, as one might expect, vaping utilizes more cutting edge technology than igniting leaves on fire.
Components of a Vaping Device
Vapes consists of three main parts: a battery, an atomizer, and an e-liquid.
Mod: Also known as box mods if they are square in shape, tubular mods if they are round cylindrical in design, or simply mod if they are as simple as small power sticks resembling USB memory cards. That latter typically referred to as a pod mod or cigalike such as JUUL or Vuse. In the early days of vaping these devices did not include chipsets or internal computing systems that regulated performance. These days mods can include features including but not limited to speech recognition, Bluetooth, and artificial intelligence software. The mod is the conductor of the power generated by the batteries and process that then powers an atomizer within your tank, or the pod within your pod mod.
Battery: Rechargeable high-amp batteries deliver the power that a mod uses to power up an atomizer in order to convert liquid into vapor. High-amp batteries are vital to vaping as they must have an output considerably higher than the batteries you would use in a remote control or other electronics. OVer the counter store bought batteries are not suggested for vaping as they cannot handle the output or drain needed to power a mod.
Tank: Commonly referred to as a sub ohm tank, this device houses your e-liquid, your atomizer, and is the where the production of vapor takes place. Power is fed to your tank via a 510 connector pin that feeds that into an atomizer which has absorbed some of your desired e-liquid an turns it into an mist that can be inhaled. The tank allows you to adjust airflow to produce either a restrictive or airy vaping experience.
Atomizer: Next is the atomizer. In vaping, this part of the device converts the liquid into a foggy mist by heating it into steam. In this way, the steam helps smokers imagine they're smoking (an activity that nicotine has wired their brains to associate with pleasure and satisfaction) when they're not. These are also referred to as replacement coils.
Rebuildables: Rebuildables have different classifications such as rebuildable tank atomizer also known as an RTA, which is similar to the tank explained above but requires some manual work on your part of loading up a coil and wicking material. Rebuildable dripper atomizer also known as RDA, which also requires you mount a coil and wicking materials but provides a more concentrate flavor experience but requires regular manual saturation of your wicks with your e-liquid. . Rebuildable dripper tank atomizer also known as RDTA which again requires mounting a coil and wicking material with the exception that the tip of your wicks sit within a body of e-liquid and absorbs the liquid directly. Rebuildables require an understanding of ohms law and the capabilities of your mod.
E-liquid: This substance is composed of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). These ingredients are used in products such as pharmaceutical inhalers, toothpaste and cosmetics. The liquid also contains flavor extracts, most of them generally recognized as safe as food additives. And the last ingredient, which is optional, is nicotine (measured in milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid). Liquids come in an astounding variety of flavors ranging from fruits, sweets, and some elaborately complex dessert recipes as well as more basic flavors such as tobacco and menthol, which are meant to mimic the taste of conventional cigarettes.
Why Vape, Though?
As mentioned, thousands of chemicals are found in cigarette smoke. Literally, thousands. A significant number are known to be toxic (poisonous) or even carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Hence, smoking causes about 85 percent of lung cancers in the US and is the LEADING CAUSE OF PREVENTABLE DEATH IN THE WORLD. (Forgive the all caps, but this is a pretty important point).
While the long-term health risks of smoking are well-known, the potential risks associated with vaping are not because the technology is still so new. The science is undecided when it comes to vapor products, and in all likelihood it will be years before a meaningful analysis of their long-term health impact becomes available. That very important disclaimer aside, recent research suggests that vaping is less harmful than cigarettes and many reputable health agencies have gone on the record to say so.
Ultimately, the question of vaping is a question of choice. Smokers should have as many alternatives available to them as possible to switch, and while vaping is not a medically-endorsed practice or recognized as a smoking cessation aid in the US (it is in the UK), many former smokers are happy they decided to switch to vaping.
Our aim here, and with other articles in this Easy Breazy series, is to give you all the information you need to make the choice that's right for you.