The "Big VaPOR" Industry

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What types of devices are there?


There is not one blanket statement that covers all the different types of electronic cigarettes, so we'll run by a few of the basics. First up, we have what is commonly called a "Cig-A-Like" due to the fact they resemble a cigarette. There are dozens of brands, but the most well known are produced by tobacco companies. In general, they're expensive to maintain and overall ineffective due to their minimal vapor production and limited selection of flavors.

Pen-Style Devices

Next up we have what is typically referred to as a "Vape Pen" or "Vape", and as you can see - it no longer resembles a cigarette. Big Tobacco does not produce any devices of this type, and is actively lobbying to get this (and anything other than a Cig-A-Like) banned so that their devices dominate the market. They typically use a refillable top that allows you to use thousands of different flavored e-liquids - and most these days have replaceable heating elements so that your cost to maintain remains lower than if you had to buy a whole new top. They are charged via a USB dongle, are simple to operate, and are currently the most commonly used device on the market due to their low cost and decent performance compared to cig-a-likes.

Regulated Mods

From here on are more powerful devices, often referred to as "Mods", though even that term is separated into "Regulated Mods" and "Unregulated Mods" which can technically be broken down even further - but we won't go there. Both are essentially a battery pack for the atomizer (the part of the device which creates the vapor). This example here is a regulated mod. It uses special batteries that give it tons of power, magnitudes more than the vape pens, but has protections that prevent the battery from overheating or shorting. They come in various shapes and sizes, and are sometimes referred to as "Variable Wattage Devices" as their power output can be adjusted. They can be anywhere from a 15 Watt device to a 260 Watt behemoth. The options allow for the vaper to pick and choose what works for them.

Unregulated Mods

Last we have the other end of the Mod spectrum. The "Unregulated Mod". These use the same type of battery as a regulated mod, but do not offer any of the protections that a regulated mod has. This is both boon and bane. There is technically no limit to how hot you can build your atomizer, though battery safety is a concern. Don't build hotter than your battery can handle. I'm not going to go into that here. They are essentially a sleeve in which your battery is housed, and a button pushes the battery up to meet the bottom of your atomizer and causes it to discharge into the atomizer and create heat on the atomizer coils - which in turn creates vapor.

What are atomizers?

Rebuild-able Atomizer (RDA, RTA)

This is what is referred to as a "Rebuild-able Atomizer" where the vaper uses a special wire (the most common is kanthal wire) to create a coil which is then wicked with cotton, rayon, or silica. The device heats the liquid soaked wicking material and the vaper then inhales the vaporized liquid. There are two types. The one pictured is a standard rebuild-able, but they also have a secondary type that combines a tank with a rebuild-able deck so the vaper does not have to constantly drip juice onto the wicking material. Now they are not for beginners, as there is more to them than simply sticking a coil on them and firing away. Consult your local brick and mortar vape shop for more information in regards to rebuild-able atomizers.

Clearomizer, Cartomizer

This is what is commonly referred to as an "eGo Tank", and is the most basic of atomizers. They may or may not have replaceable coils (this kind are pre-made, so no need for the vaper to build them). They typically have low air flow, but are very inexpensive as far as atomizers go. You may spend $3 to $5 on one of these, whereas you could easily spend $35 or more on the rebuild-able type to the left. They are most commonly used by beginner vapers.

What did you mean by battery safety?

The batteries used for electronic cigarettes, oddly enough, were not designed to be used in electronic cigarettes to begin with. Some originally were used in laptops, some in high powered flashlights. I recommend getting a full battery safety course from your local brick and mortar (as with the rebuild-able atomizer) before delving into electronic cigarettes that use independent batteries.

Basically each type of battery has a size, capacity, pulse rating, and continuous rating that governs what it can and cannot do. The most common type of battery is an 18650 battery. It is the larger one in the image to the left. They resemble a AA battery, but are orders of magnitudes more potent. Mods that use these types of batteries are typically reserved for intermediate to advanced vapers only. When operating under conditions that are within the safe operating parameters, these batteries and the devices they are used in are relatively safe.

Example: A Samsung 25R (a popular battery) has a 2500 mAh capacity, a 25 Amp continuous rating, a 80 Amp pulse rating, and is considered safe down to a 0.25 Ohm build limit. If these terms are foreign to you, please, for the love of everything holy - do not buy or use an electronic cigarette that uses external batteries! You could harm yourself or others.

  • Do NOT short.
  • Do NOT leave unattended when charging.
  • Do NOT leave unattended immediately AFTER charging.
  • Do NOT carry in your pocket or purse unless they are in a secure non-conductive carry case. 
  • They are not toys. Do not let your children or pets play with them.
  • Do NOT recharge with cheap chargers that keep on trickle charging after the normal cycle or that do not follow the Constant Current / Constant Voltage (CC/CV) algorithm properly. In other words, do not skimp on the charger and buy a cheap $5 charger because the risk of the battery exploding is too high!

Battery Safety Videos

What is e-liquid?

Good question! Let us start with the basics. E-Liquid is NOT juice squeezed from a tobacco leaf like some media organizations would like you to believe. It is far more than that. Now, for the sake of argument, I am only going to go into juice made here in the US using practices that the industry has placed as a guideline on themselves. A typical US Made e-liquid contains the following:

For the sake of keeping it simple, I have also provided links here to what these ingredients are. This said, if you choose to import your juice from overseas or order from a company that sells you say - 120ml of juice for $5 - you're taking a chance that the ingredients are not food grade. Rule of thumb. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If you have any questions, feel free to ask your local brick and mortar vape shop!

Wait, Fox News said it contains cancer!

The link to the official study that disproves this statement is in my Important Links section, but I will briefly summarize it here. The scientists that performed the study that claimed electronic cigarettes contained more formaldehyde than cigarettes purposefully rigged the test to force it to produce what they wanted. Essentially they took a very basic atomizer (designed to be run between 3.0 volts and 3.8 volts while filled with e-liquid) and cranked up the voltage to 5 volts. The atomizer was not designed for that level of heat, so it caused the liquid to burn off quickly and begin burning the wicking material. Now, if a vaper were to be inhaling at 5 volts on that type of atomizer - he would feel as if he were inhaling burning shirt. Burning materials produce carcinogens. If you burn your chicken breast, and eat the burnt crusty outside, you're ingesting high levels of formaldehyde! But, no one would willingly do that, it would taste like a block of coal! Same with this. No vaper would willingly use a basic atomizer at 5 volts.

Wait, Dr. Oz said one drop can kill someone!

This is extremely exaggerated, and is also based on the assumption that e-liquid is pure nicotine and that the body absorbs 100% of nicotine (it doesn't, it's more like 30% actually absorbed). A bottle of e-liquid has a nicotine milligram count. A 3mg bottle has 3mg of nicotine per milliliter (which is way more than a drop), and a 24mg bottle has 24mg of nicotine per milliliter. 24mg is the highest you can buy in most places.

Here is the lethal dose information on Nicotine:

"The fatal human dose has been estimated to be about 50 to 60 mg [Lazutka et al. 1969]. [Note: An oral dose of 50 to 60 mg/kg is equivalent to a 70-kg worker being exposed to about 30 to 40 mg/m3 for 30 minutes, assuming a breathing rate of 50 liters per minute and 100% absorption.]"

So, basically, it's impossible for standard liquid dropped on the skin to kill you. No one is going to just leave copious amounts of e-liquid on their body without wiping it off.

That said, people who DIY their juice, have access to 100mg per milliliter nicotine concentrate. This stuff CAN BE deadly, and should only be handled by those familiar with the dangers of pure nicotine concentrate. Gloves, goggles, and a syringe. The odds of this stuff laying around somewhere kids can get it is extremely slim. Your kid is more likely to be poisoned by a Tide laundry packet than 100mg/ml nicotine concentrate.