Vapes, or electronic cigarettes, are devices used to simulate the experience of smoking by delivering nicotine and flavourings to the user in vapour form. Smokers and tobacco users often use vapes as an alternative to traditional cigarettes and tobacco, offering a method of nicotine consumption that is 95% less harmful than smoking, according to the Public Health England (PHE) and the National Health Service (NHS).
There are two primary types of vapes: open vape systems and closed vape systems. The main difference between the two is that open vape systems, such as refillable vapes, open pod systems and box mods, are rechargeable and allow for more personalisation and customisation of the vape components. Customisable vape components include the vape pod or tank, e-liquid or vape juice flavour, nicotine strength, nicotine type (freebase or salt), and the ratio of vegetable glycerine (VG) to propylene glycol (PG). In contrast, closed vape systems, such as non-refillable pod devices, closed pod systems and disposable vapes, are not typically customisable. Instead, they are usually non-rechargeable and pre-filled with a specific flavour and nicotine strength. Closed vape systems like disposable vapes offer a more straightforward and convenient vaping experience, eliminating the need for maintenance and refills, but lack the flexibility and variety provided by refillable vapes.
Advantages of using vapes instead of traditional cigarettes or tobacco include a reduction of harmful chemicals and toxins inhaled, such as carbon monoxide and tar, reduced risk of cancer, reduced risk of heart attack, reduced risk of stroke, improved lung function, reduction in coughing, improved blood pressure and heart rate and improved sense of taste and smell. When you quit smoking and start vaping, those around you also benefit from reduced exposure to secondhand smoke. Disadvantages of using vapes are mainly vaping side effects such as dry mouth, mouth and throat irritation and sore throat.
Disposable vapes are electronic cigarettes that are pre-charged, pre-filled and mostly non-refillable. Advantages of disposable vapes include ease of use, draw activation, no setup or maintenance requirements, small physical size and pre-determined puff count. The main disadvantages of disposable vapes are their environmental impact, low value for money and limitation of one flavour as they cannot typically be refilled with vape juice.
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Vape juice, or e-liquid, is a liquid substance used to refill electronic cigarettes and consists of four main ingredients: vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, flavourings and typically nicotine. The ratio of vegetable glycerine to propylene glycol (the "VG/PG ratio") determines the density of the vapour that the user exhales. High VG e-liquids, such as 70 VG / 30 PG, 80 VG / 20 PG, 90 VG / 10 PG, and 100 VG / 0 PG shortfills, produce denser vapour upon exhalation than high PG vape juice, such as 50 VG / 50 PG e-liquids.
Nicotine-free e-liquids or 0mg e-liquids do not contain nicotine. Nicotine-containing e-liquids are either freebase nicotine e-liquids (TPD 10mls) or nicotine salt e-liquids (nic salts). The main difference between the two is that freebase nicotine e-liquids produce a stronger throat hit when inhaled, whereas nic salts produce a smoother throat due to their lower pH. Nic salts have a pH of around 5-6, whereas freebase nicotine solutions have a pH of 8, according to a 2022 study published by Neal L Benowitz from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California. The lower pH of nic salts is formulated by bonding the nicotine extracted from the tobacco leaf with an acid such as lactic acid, benzoic acid and levulinic acid. While nicotine salts are smoother, less harsh and less bitter, they do not materially impact the flavour of the e-liquid when compared to freebase nicotine e-liquids.
Flavours of e-liquids include the following 19 flavour categories: baked, candy and sweets, cereal, chocolate, dessert, drinks, food, fruit, ice and cool, lemon and lime, mint and menthol, nuts, rhubarb, snacks, sour, spices and herbs, tobacco, vanilla and yoghurt. The two most widely used vape juice flavours among vapers are fruit (29.4% of users) and tobacco (28.7% of users), according to a 2018 vaping survey conducted in Canada and the United States by the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
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Buying a vape mainly involves choosing between an open vape system and a closed vape system. Open vape systems, like refillable pod vapes and sub-ohm vapes, enable you to refill your devices with a wide range of e-liquids, offering more flexibility in the context of flavours and nicotine strengths. In contrast, closed vape systems, such as pre-filled pod systems and disposable vapes, provide a more straightforward and hassle-free experience, as they come pre-filled with e-liquid and can be disposed of once used. As well as your choice of vape system, consider your preferred flavour, nicotine strength and nicotine type, battery life or puff count, and cost.
Here are five key points to consider before buying a vape:
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