What is Vaping? Ultimate Guide to Vaping: 101

What is vaping?

Vaping is a method of inhaling nicotine or other substances in the form of a vapor rather than the traditional tobacco smoke you inhale with cigarettes. Using an e-cigarette or a vaping device is referred to as “vaping”.


What are the different vape products?

As vaping has evolved, so have the many different types of vape products. Some of the most common ways to vape are:

All vapes are built around the e-liquid they contain and heat to create vapor. Each type of vape has different pros and cons, as well as unique performance, but the parts and the way they work are mostly the same.

Most vapes are small, compact devices you can carry in your pocket, while a few are slightly larger and intended for stationary use. 


E-cigarettes or e-cigs are small, compact, pen like vaping devices that mimic the shape and feel of a cigarette. They typically have a certain number of hits before running out, and are completely disposable. Some have refillable cartridges, but most are one time use.

E-cigs are made up of 5 main parts:

  • Mouthpiece
  • Cartomizer
  • LED Light
  • Battery
  • Atomizer

The LED light alerts you when you are taking a hit, when batteries are low, or when settings are being changed, etc… depending on the model you have.

The mouthpiece can be interchangeable, but typically each one comes with its own specific design. E-cigarette batteries are usually rechargeable with USB cords and wall charger adapters.

The cartomizer holds the e-liquid above the atomizer, which is heated by the battery to vaporize the e-liquid in the cartomizer.

People like e-cigs because they are:

  • Small
  • Easy to maintain
  • Long lasting
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to conceal
  • Affordable

Vape Pens

Vape pens are the most advanced type of vape that comes in such a small, portable pen shape. They are made up of two main parts; where the battery and atomizer are held, and where the e-liquid is held and vaporized.

  • Battery
  • Buttons
  • Atomizer
  • Charging Port
  • 510 Connector
  • Mouthpiece (Drip Tip)
  • Coils

The batter connects to the 510 connector, powering the atomizer and coils, which heats the e-liquid in the coil head and sends the vapor up the chimney to the mouthpiece. The battery is rechargeable, usually using USB cords.

Pod Vapes

These are very simple systems, usually with extremely small batteries and a small disposable vape juice container that is attached to the mouthpiece. The perfect example of a pod vape is the classic Juul design.

People like pod vapes because they are:

  • Easy to use
  • Not Messy at all
  • Very Cheap
  • Easy to Replace
  • Rechargeable
  • Very small, discrete, and portable

High Wattage Vape Systems & Box Mods

High wattage vapes are for people who are a bit more advanced when it comes to the world of vaping. These are the types of vapes that typically have interchangeable parts, and are open to a lot of customization when it comes to temperature and power control. Parts can be replaced, e-juice is manually refilled, and you are responsible for choosing proper wattage and resistance settings for your vaping experience.

High wattage vapes are made up of 6 main parts:

  • The Battery
  • Sub-Ohm Tank
  • Power Button
  • Display Screen
  • Buttons
  • Charging Port

Lots of experienced vapers prefer high wattage systems and box mods because they:

  • Are a lot of fun
  • Offer tons of customization
  • Can be easily modified
  • Have thousands of flavor options
  • Have some of the best performance
  • Have stronger batteries with longer lives
  • Have the largest variety of options

What is a closed system vape?

A closed system is made up of the e-cigarette battery and a pre-filled tank filled with the vape juice or e-juice, that is connected to the mouthpiece. Closed system vapes are usually smaller and easy to take with you on the go. Some of these vapes are entirely disposable, making them extremely convenient.

What are the benefits of a closed system vape?

Because the cartridges are replaceable, you don’t have to worry about refilling or carrying juice with you at all times. Just take out the old pod, save it for later to refill, or dispose of it and then plug a new one right in with very little to no mess every time.

Another benefit is that this keeps your vape clean, which ultimately makes it easier to keep nice, and get the most out of in the long run.

Lastly, closed system vapes tend to be smaller, more compact, and easier to conceal/travel with when compared to open system vapes.

What are some of the disadvantages of a closed system vape?

You don’t usually have as much battery power with a closed system vape, making for less intensity and less puffs per charge.

You also don’t have a lot of options when it comes to customization, but that is the sacrifice you make for the convenience of disposable cartridges. 

What is an open system vape?

The main difference between the two major types of vapes is the way they are loaded. Open system vapes are refillable, and do not have disposable cartridges. They are separated into three main parts; the mouthpiece, the clearomizer (where e-liquid is stored), and the battery.

What are the benefits of an open system vape?

First of all most open system vape pens have pretty standard sizes, making finding spare parts like batteries, atomizers, coils, etc… easy for most closed system vapes.

Most open system vapes have more battery power, allowing them to last longer, and typically making for more temperature control, as well as smoother hits.

These types of vapes are also usually more customizable, as you can get to the atomizer, coils, and battery much easier in order to switch out parts and try new things.

What are some of the disadvantages of an open system vape?

Open system vapes tend to clog and break more easily because they need to be refilled manually, which can be messy if you try to do it on the go. However, if you take the time to do it right and are not in a rush, and keep your vape clean, you can make it last much longer.

They also tend to be a bit larger, and you need to carry the e-juice on you in order to refill your vape, which is much more bulky than cartridges and somewhat inconvenient. However, this usually allows for a wider flavor selection, and for you to mess around with how much e-juice you are getting with each puff. 

How do Ohms and resistance relate to vaping?

All vaping devices contain a battery which powers the heating element called the atomizer. The atomizer is responsible for superheating your e-liquid and producing the vapor that you inhale.

Ohms are units of measurement that measure the amount of resistance in an electrical system. Without being complicated, this is how Ohms relate to vaping:

  • If you are using a vaporizer with an atomizer coil, the lower the resistance, the larger amount of current flows through the coil
  • By comparison the higher the resistance, the lower the amount of current flows through your coil

Low Resistance Vapes

Overall, low resistance makes for a certain type of vaping experience, defined by:

  • The coil getting hotter and generating more energy
  • More vapor being generated
  • Larger, harsher hits
  • Warmer vapor with less defined taste
  • Burn through e-liquid faster
  • Shorter battery life
  • Shorter atomizer life
  • Some people enjoy huge clouds

High Resistance Vapes

Meanwhile, high resistance vapes produce a vaping experience that is quite the opposite:

  • The coil generates less heat
  • Less vapor is generated
  • Smaller, smoother hits
  • Cooler vapor with more defined taste
  • Conserve vape juice
  • Longer battery life
  • Longer atomizer life
  • Overall best vaping experience

Wattage’s Importance to Vaping

One thing that is important to note is how the relationship between voltage and resistance affects your vaping experience. Much like resistance, voltage can be adjusted by changing the intensity of the battery’s output, or the overall power rating of the battery in your vape.

By adjusting the wattage and the resistance together, you can begin to experiment with different levels of power and resistance until you find the right mixture for your taste.

Adjusting Flavor, Smoothness, and Throat Hit: Wattage and Voltage

The level of resistance, or the amount of Ohms, will determine the intensity of the taste and the level of throat hit when you vape.

This means that you can adjust the strength of every puff you take, the amount of vapor you enjoy, and the intensity of the flavor. You might, on occasion, want a soft and mild throat caressed while on another occasion you might want that instant throat hit to satisfy your appetite.

To achieve:

You need:

Soft, mild throat hit

Higher resistance + lower voltage

Instant throat hit

Lower resistance + higher voltage

Limited amount of vapor

Higher resistance + lower voltage

Large amount of vapor

Lower resistance + higher voltage

Mild flavor

Higher resistance + lower voltage

Intense flavor

Lower resistance + higher voltage

What is vape juice / nicotine juice / e-liquid?

Vape juice, also known as e-liquid, is what you smoke out of your vaping device. Some e-liquid is refillable, while other vapes have disposable cartridges that are convenient and easy to replace.

You can find vape juice in a variety of flavors and varying degrees of nicotine content. In fact, there are zero nicotine options for those who enjoy the activity of vaping but don’t want the nicotine.

Vape juice is mostly made of:

  1. 1
    Propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin (90%)
  2. 2
    Food grade flavorings (~9.5%)
  3. 3
    Nicotine (.5% or less)

The propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, which accounts for 90% of the e-liquid, is used to distribute the flavor and vapor.

  • Propylene glycol is a humidifier, a popular product that can be inhaled or ingested, brushed into products, etc... It is odorless and has a faintly sweet taste that you likely won't notice if you have a particularly flavorful vape juice.
  • Vegetable glycerin is also colorless, with no smell, and produces larger clouds of vapor. It is an alcohol, technically speaking, entirely made from vegetable products and mode without any oil. 

The food grade flavorings, which when mixed with nicotine comprise the final 10% of the e-liquid, are the same flavorings used in commercial products like salad dressings, ketchup, and ice cream.

Is vaping healthier than smoking cigarettes?

Government studies indicate that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes in large part due to the chemicals in cigarettes absent in vaping, and the lack of tar and carbon monoxide, and tobacco. Similar studies have found vaping to be a useful way of quitting cigarettes among adults.

The same studies point out that vaping still results in the consumption of nicotine which can cause addiction and neurocognitive impairment. For regulatory purposes vaping is still classified as a tobacco product in spite of the fact that it does not have tobacco or produce the toxic combustion products that cause lung cancer. At this time there is limited information on the long-term health effects derived from vaping.

A recent study of existing literature found that some of the chemicals in vaping liquid can cause throat irritation and coughing while other research suggests exposure to vapors can be linked to lung function impairment .

Still, a chemical analysis in said studies, of the profiles for vaping versus smoking traditional cigarettes suggested at this time that e-cigarettes have a reduced carcinogenic profile and therefore a lower potential for disease . Clinical research from Johns Hopkins confirms that regular tobacco cigarettes have over 4,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and not found in e-cigarettes, making vaping safer and healthier insofar as the exposure to toxic chemicals is limited. 

How does vaping / electronic cigarettes work?

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that convert e-liquid or vape juice into a vapor which you inhale. There is no fire, no smoke, and no ash generated from this process.

Most e-cigarettes have a few main parts:

  • A mouthpiece
  • Heating element (coil or atomizer)
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Electronic circuits

As you suck on the mouthpiece, it activates the heating element inside your device which vaporizes your liquid solution, after which you vape or inhale the vapors that are produced.

The mouthpiece is typically a cartridge affixed to the end of a tube and that cartridge can be refilled or replaced. There there is a sensor and when you suck on the mouthpiece the sensor activates the heating elements. Alternatively, some vapes require you to press a button and sometimes wait for them to charge up before taking a puff.

Most of the time the batteries are lithium ion and rechargeable. These batteries are responsible for powering the heating element. This heating element is referred to as the atomizer, which sits either directly with or beneath the e-liquid container.

Do electronic cigarettes taste like traditional cigarettes?

Yes and no. There are over 7,000 flavors for e-cigarettes, which means you can find just about any flavor you want, even ones close to traditional cigarettes and cigars if that’s what you prefer .

If you want an electronic cigarette to taste like your traditional brand, you can find flavors that have a combination of tobacco and menthol and try to mimic very specific traditional cigarette brands. Or, you can experiment with literally thousands of different flavors.

How much nicotine do I need in my vaping device to satisfy my nicotine cravings?

Vaping devices have nicotine content that varies from 0 milligrams per milliliter up to the extra high levels would contain anywhere between 24 and 36 mg per milliliter.

Vaping devices have been shown in studies to be effective for those who want to stop smoking, by slowly reducing nicotine cravings, and are most effective when combined with expert support from Professional Services .

Generally speaking, the average cigarette contains about 12mg of nicotine, with most common brands ranging between 8-20mg of nicotine per cigarette. So, if you have an e-liquid that contains 20mg of nicotine per mL, with a dropper that is 1mL, then one dropper full is equivalent to one of the strongest cigarettes on the market.

That said, if you are trying to quit smoking and you have never used a vaping device before, you will be undergoing the process of weaning yourself away from your nicotine addiction which means you should start with the highest level nicotine strength available for your vaping device.

Once you have used the device for anytime between 1 week and 1 month, and become comfortable with it, it's time to start dropping down the nicotine level. You will notice the difference, a feeling tantamount to changing to a slightly lighter tobacco brand of cigarettes, but gradual decreases will make the process less painful long-term.

No one can tell you the specific time to make your gradual changes and decrease to the next highest nicotine strength. It's something you should do when you personally feel comfortable. 

  • If you get the hang of the vaping device immediately and you know that just like any previous changes to your smoking habits, your body will get used to it one way or the other, make the change after one week.  
  • If it takes you a few months to really get the hang of things, that's fine too. 

Work your way from the high strength to medium strength until you get down to the low strength.

And once you get to low strength, it's time to start leaving your vaping device at home are more regular basis, not having it immediately on hand every time you leave the house. You are just a short step away from being a nonsmoker, nicotine free.

Don't push yourself or you will end up agitated. Better to take your time and do it properly then to end up right back where you started.

Is vaping / electronic cigarettes safe?

As mentioned, vaping bypasses many of the health risks associated with traditional tobacco smoking and as a direct result have been found by government associations and academic institutions alike to be a more healthful alternative.

Studies suggest that the use of vaping and be an effective way to quit smoking . Others studies suggest that modest benefits are afforded to those who want to quit smoking and the use of e-cigarettes is a potentially beneficial resource for those who want to cut back on their addiction .

The CDC found that e-cigarettes can benefit adults as a replacement for other tobacco or nicotine products as long as set adults are not pregnant .The CDC does not recommend the use of vaping or e-cigarettes for young people, or during pregnancy.

While it is considered by many governments and medical professionals alike to be significantly safer than traditional cigarettes that does not mean it is not entirely without risk on its own. As of 2016 the Surgeon General did declare that the use of e-cigarettes was becoming a public health concern particularly as it has been marketed to young teens and adolescents which has incentivised vaping at a young age instead of smoking, exposing younger children to nicotine addiction .

Recently, there have been talks about the banning of some vape products including flavored products in the US because of the concerns of them appealing too much to minors and the dangers associated with propylene glycol when inhaled in the form of vapor. 

Is it safe to vape while pregnant?

You should not consume any tobacco product or vape while pregnant. Nicotine alters nerve cell functioning in developing organisms which studies have shown can cause birth defects . Moreover, post delivery there are still concerns about passing the limited amount of tobacco from vaping through breastmilk. In short: don’t vape while pregnant.

The media says vaping is dangerous. Why should I switch from smoking to vaping?

There are certainly risks to vaping, as there are with any other type of smoking or inhalation of vapors and substances. Also, there are dangers associated with nicotine.

However, millions of people who made the switch from cigarettes to vapes were also able to successfully quit smoking for good, and cut down or even eliminate their vaping altogether over time.

The most common reason that people choose vaping over smoking is that it is the start of a road to quitting. At the end of the day, quitting smoking is one of the hardest things many people will ever accomplish or try to achieve. To try and do it cold turkey is nearly impossible, and those cravings will stay for years before truly going away.

Vaping allows a way for smokers to wean off of their addiction to nicotine slowly over time, at your own pace, with better flavor, more choices to customize your smoking experience, more convenience, and overall is much less expensive in the long run. There are literally thousands of trusted brands, products, and massive communities of vapers who enjoy the activity and love sharing their experiences, just like our community at Mt. Baker Vapor.


Longtime vaping enthusiast teaching people how to transition from traditional tobacco smoking to vaping.