Which e-cigarette is best for my sister?
December 2, 2013 10:13 AM   Subscribe

My sister wants/needs to stop smoking, so she's requested an e-cigarette for Christmas. But she's overwhelmed with choices and doesn't know which one she wants, other than that her doctor recommended she get one with no nicotine. And I know next to nothing about real cigarettes, let alone electronic ones, so I don't know where to begin looking. Can you suggest a good one? What even makes a "good" e-cigarette?
posted by rhiannonstone to Shopping (23 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
1. Get a kit that has a rechargeable battery that has cartridges that you use. (Don't buy the one time use battery versions.)

2. Find out what her local grocery store carries. My mother buys Mystic because that's what Walmart sells. If the grocery store doesn't carry any no-nicotine ones, check the smoke shops closest to her home.

3. Once you have an idea of what brands the stores around her are selling, check them out online. Google the names and see what kind of information you run across.
posted by royalsong at 10:18 AM on December 2, 2013

It's been a few years since I used a nicotine vaporizer but when I did, I found this site to be a valuable resource. I recommend it to your sister to read and ask her questions there.

What makes one "good" is largely a matter of personal preference. My preference was not for the ones that look like a cigarette with a light on the end because of the short battery life. I used an APV (Advanced Personal Vaporizers aka a "mod") that used rechargeable AA batteries. Your sister may wish to browse sites such as this one once she has a better idea of what she wants. Like I said, it has been a few years for me so I don't know what is new and exciting these days.

Just about any can be "no nicotine" because they will vaporize whatever you fill them with. Sites that sell "juice", such as this one, sell them in a variety of flavors and nicotine contents, including 0.0% nicotine.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:22 AM on December 2, 2013

This is really complicated, but I will tell you that starting with no nicotine is setting up for failure. Start with a comparable level to her current consumption and step down over time.

I agree with royalsong to use what you can get easily, except I think it's fine to start with disposables. I like Square, Njoy, and Aer (which also come in kits with chargers), all of which I get at convenience stores.

[Warning - links below have autoplaying video. It's helpful, but maybe you don't want the guy coming out of your speakers right this second.]

As far as the next step up from disposables, I started with 510s, before most of these others were available. I'm using the eGo now.

I would encourage starting with pre-filled nicotine cartridges, and then moving on if she chooses to all the flavored liquids/self-filling. There are a lot of options, this is a major hobby for some people, but it's overwhelming to start with.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:29 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't have any specific brand recommendations, but I came in to say that it's a bad idea to go straight from cigarettes to no nicotine, so I'll just +1 Lyn Never's recommendation to step down. The nicotine juice comes in different strengths so she can step down gradually. My husband has been doing this, and he tells me it's so much easier that way than any other attempts he's made to quit.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:44 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The first thing would be to find out if she wants one that looks like an actual cigarette. Those tend not to be the best ones, but the best ones look basically like asthma inhalers, and many people don't mind the slight drop in quality in exchange for the more 'normal' appearance. Once you know that, the sites linked above will be helpful in choosing your model.

Most people recommend starting with nicotine vapor and then gradually reducing the nicotine content of the vapor (you can buy different strengths). Nicotine itself isn't the main problem with cigarettes- I mean, it's the addictive part, obviously, but it's not the part that gives you cancer.

The thing to be aware of is... when smoking cigarettes, you know when you've smoked one cigarette's worth. But it is possible to idly puff away on an e-cig for far too long, making yourself feel lightheaded and ill. Make sure she's aware of that!
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:47 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Re: no-nicotine, apparently her doctor recommended that she use a nicotine patch in conjunction with the e-cigs. So she won't be going cold turkey off it.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:56 AM on December 2, 2013

I've navigated the world of e-cigs, and upgrades over the months. There is too much info out there, so here is what I would do if starting out again.

First, thirding not doing the 'no nicotine' thing. The idea is to wean yourself off smoking over time, so start out with a strong liquid and drop down as time goes on.

Buy this starter kit, or any similar starter kit. This one is good as it's very easy to use, plug and play essentially. You take it out of the box, fill the container with liquid (bought separately) and vape away.

Add to that a few flavors of e-liquid, such as these ones, and it will be a great, inexpensive, but functional foray into the world of e-cigs. For e-juice flavors, I would get one tobacco flavored one, and a couple of fruit flavored ones. Every cigarette smoker always wants to start replicating the flavor of tobacco, but finds themselves enjoying other flavors very quickly and inevitably.

This will likely last her a few months before she decides to order replacement parts or bigger batteries or something. But it's easily a six month kit, with the exception of coils that have to be replaced once a month or so, are dirt cheap and can be purchased on the same site as the kit.

She can try the e-liquid with the patch, but if that doesn't work for some reason, she can order a high nicotine e-liquid and see if that works better. I've had no success on the patch, but mixed with e-cigarettes, it might just work.

It takes a little while to get used to 'smoking' e-cigs, so tell her to hold down the button, draw some vapor into her mouth, THEN inhale (slowly at first). Otherwise it's a bit too much for the throat and takes a little while to get used to the sensation.
posted by tatiana131 at 11:08 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would start off with an ego twist starter kit or a Kanger eVod kit with some e-liquids. The hardest part will be trying out flavors that she'll like. If you have a local vape shop near you, they usually have taste test bars set up. If you do not have a place like this locally, I would suggest Mt Baker Vapor as a starting place to order and try e-liquids.

They have disposable ones from the gas stations but they produce very little vapor, have shitty taste and are not cost effective.

There is a learning curve to all of this and I learned most of it from local shops, local meet ups, various websites and youtube videos.
SteveK's Site has alot of great info.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:16 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can I also be so bold as to recommend you buy her a copy of Allen Carr's Easy way to Stop Smoking in addition to an E-Cig? It's a WONDERFUL book and literally changed my life without the need for expensive nicotine replacements (Which statistically have a terrible success rate at helping people quit smoking)

I literally cannot emphasize how amazing this book is. Buy her an E-Cig by all means, but it can't hurt to buy the book as well!!
posted by JenThePro at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

My wife and I switched from a pack-and-a-half a day to vaping pretty much overnight, and we're both delighted with our returning lung capacity, extra money in our pockets, and the opportunity to remain seated in the cozy warm bar instead of having to duck out into the cold to inhale nicotine.

Kanger eVod is what we both bought, and we're pretty happy with them. The starter kit contained two batteries, two chambers, a charging cord, and five replacement heating coils. Each kit was around $65 and included a 30mL bottle of juice, which the guy at the vape store allowed us to choose after sampling a few.

I am not a doctor and I wouldn't want to contravene her physician's advice, but I question the necessity of the patch -- we were both heavy, heavy lifetime smokers and we switched straight to vaping with no discomfort whatsoever. My wife uses a high-nicotine tobacco-flavored juice (24 mg/dL) and I use a blend of that and a lower-level coffee flavor.

The only change in equipment I'm contemplating is I'd like to switch out the plastic chambers for glass ones, but that's more an aesthetic decision than anything else; the ones I have work fine.

It can be intimidating when you start to research this stuff online, there's a whole hobbyist community spouting stuff like "throat hit" and "coil resistance" and "drip tips" and "clearomizers" and so on. Ignore all that. Buy the Kanger eVod. Understand that "resistance" is a measure of how much heat the coil is generating -- the higher the resistance, the hotter it gets and the faster it drains your battery. A hotter coil will of course create more vapor. Too low a resistance and you won't get a satisfactory pull. And of course this is all affected by the composition of the ejuice, which is basically liquid nicotine, flavoring agents, and food-grade propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin.

What I'd do is buy her the Kanger set-up and maybe a gift certificate so she can shop around for the juice that suits her the best.

Good luck, and congrats to your sister for putting down the cigs and picking up the vape. I just wish I'd done it years earlier. It's so easy it feels like cheating.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:54 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Came in to say every time I've tried Nicotene Patches they dramatically increased my cravings and I'm pretty sure that is by design. Unless your sister is a consistent double-fisted smoker, the steady dose of Nicotene patches deliver will only deepen her addiction. Even on the lowest lowest patch dose.

E cigs with Nicotene have worked much better for me.

My first (expensive) vaporizer was bought 4 years ago and was pretty useless. I'm watching this thread and also thinking of upgrading to A different model. Good luck to your sister, I hope this helps.
posted by jbenben at 2:08 PM on December 2, 2013

Another vote for stepping down the nicotine with the vaporizer rather than the patches. I like the eGo vaporizer kit. It's well-known and performs well and getting replacement parts is easy. With any rechargable e-cigarette, *always* use the manufacturer's original charging cords. You risk fire/explosion if you use other charging cords that look like they'd fit.

For liquids, I like Velvet Cloud Vapor's the best (Burly Beard is my favorite flavor). The ingredients are natural - they use vegetable glycerin rather than propylene glycol and natural flavor extractions rather than chemical flavoring agents.
posted by quince at 2:43 PM on December 2, 2013

the higher the resistance, the hotter it gets and the faster it drains your battery

I think you've got that backwards. Lower resistance pulls more electricity, gets hotter, produces vapour faster (but also cooks away a little flavour), drains the battery.

There must be a good shop in the Berkeley area. If you can't find one and no one here recommends one, ask at this reddit. As with everything, ordering online is cheaper but a live person can help you more. But I see no reason not to go with the eVod kit everyone is recommending.

The most popular (according to forum polls I have seen) strength of juice is 18mg so I'd get her liquid that strong. If you've got $$$ left over maybe a small bottle of 24mg and a small bottle of 12mg. 18mg is what I started at and what I've stayed at for 5 years.

The oft-mentioned Mt Baker has a good reputation, and I also like Gourmet Vapor for good selection/quality/price. After my first order, they kept sending me great promotional coupons.

And, yes, the patch-plus-no-nic-ecig seems like well-meaning but unhelpful advice from someone who's never smoked or tried to quit or used an e-cig.
posted by K.P. at 3:36 PM on December 2, 2013

That Evod starter-kit tatiana131 linked to is a pretty nice deal.

Unless it's a necessity, I wouldn't recommend the gas station / Wallmart / disposable types or even a rechargeable cig-alike (and pre-filled replacement cartridges). They're just not cost effective and not very satisfying unless you're the most casual of smokers.

The bigger eGo/Evod styles that are just a bit bigger around than a AA battery and about 5-6 inches long, that have a tank you refill and heads (heating coils) that are replaceable (they will eventually fail) are so much more enjoyable. If you start with the cig-alikes and then move to the eGo/Evod style... you'll hate yourself for having wasted your time and money on the cig-alikes.

BitterOldPunk, got the resistance thing backward... low-resistance == warmer vapor and faster battery draining, high-resistance == cooler vapor and slower battery draining. At least roughly.

I find Reddit's /r/electronic_cigarette much easier to handle than the ECF forums. ECF has tons of information spread out all over, but you have to jump through hoops before they'll let you ask questions, and you better not bad-mouth a sponsor

I am the type of vaper with several big 18650 Variable Voltage/Wattage mods and Twists and rebuildable atomizers and tanks and mix my own eliquid, yadda yadda. If anybody has questions beyond starter kits.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:39 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

No e-cig recco, but I want to +1 @jenthepro's suggestion of stop smoking the easy way. Its easy to read, non-judgemental, and encourages the reader to continue smoking while reading the book. I kicked a 20yr habit 3 years ago and haven't relapsed once. A bunch of my friends have similar success stories. I can't recommend it Strong enough for those that are interested in quitting.
posted by askmehow at 4:44 PM on December 2, 2013

Question for the old hands at vaping in this thread: there are a lot of choices for nicotine concentration, what is the recommended "normal" dose or range?
(oops, 18mg, got it)
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:49 PM on December 2, 2013

I've been vaping for a while and while I'm about to upgrade my kit, I will say that as a starter it would be hard to go too far wrong with a Kanger Mini Protank 2 on top and a Joyetech eGo-C Twist on the bottom (get the 1100mAh version). This is what I've been vaping on for the last few months and it's served me very well.

You want two batteries, a charger, and some spare atomizer heads. I'm of the opinion that head resistance doesn't actually matter all that much, but 1.8 ohm heads (medium resistance) are a pretty good way to go. You'll also want to get her some e-liquid.

The nice thing about the Mini Protank 2/eGo-C Twist combo is that it works very well and provides a variable voltage setup (which lets her adjust the heat of the atomizer so that she gets optimum flavor without any burning) in a package that is small and pocketable. Most of the bigger, more advanced setups (and quite a few of the ones that are based around an eGo-style battery, too) are bulky and kind of ridiculous looking which is a turn-off for a lot of new vapers.

The Mini Protank 2 gives great flavor and vapor for its class and is pretty trouble-free to use. It comes apart for cleaning and the pyrex tank lets you see how much juice you have and helps prevent flavor transfer. It's easy to fill, you just open it up and squirt more juice in there, and change out the head (which is very easy) every so often when it goes bad.

The eGo-C Twist, in the 1100mAh size, will give her enough power to vape pretty heavily for a few hours at a time if she wants, and by the time it's empty her second battery will be recharged. I highly recommend the Twist as it has the variable voltage feature which is well worth the little extra it costs. I recommend the Twist over the very similar Vision Spinner because it will "burn" for a longer time before automatically cutting off – my Spinners sometimes decide they're done a little too quickly, whereas my Twists do not.

The entire unit will be about eight inches long and three quarters of an inch wide, and will look something like this. (Apologies for the crappy camera phone pic.) The batteries come in various colors, including pink if she's into that.

The whole setup – tank, atomizers, two batteries, and a charger – will probably run you somewhere around $70.00 by the way.

As far as e-liquid, I'd honestly recommend talking to the folks at the local shop. There are a gazillion flavors out there (tobacco, chocolate, coffee, fruits, liquors, cinnamon, menthol...) and much of it is individual preference but the people at your local shop (if you're lucky enough to have one) will be able to help steer you toward something she will like. Maybe get her a whole selection of small bottles in different flavors to try out, or even just have her come in herself.

I would recommend starting her with something close to a 50/50 PG/VG mixture. (PG, propylene glycol, gives better flavor definition and more "throat hit" sensation, whereas VG, vegetable glycerin, gives more vapor. A few people find that they don't react well to PG but it's not very common.) I would also start at something like 12mg/mL nicotine which is pretty middle of the range. Don't start her at 0mg/mL nicotine, she will find it totally unsatisfying. One of the nice things about e-cigs is that you can step down your nicotine concentration if you want to quit, but if she's going from traditional cigarettes to an e-cig starting at 0mg/mL will just have her going straight back to traditional cigarettes.

By the way, as far as my own research has been able to determine e-cigs are probably but not definitely safe. I'm not speaking as a scientist here by the way, just as a person who's tried to read around on the issue. The chemicals in the liquid (PG, VG, flavorings, sometimes colorings) are all considered safe by the FDA. That's for ingestion rather than inhalation of course, but I haven't found anything that would imply that inhaling them would make them become dangerous. The nicotine itself is definitely very addictive but it's not really very harmful. It's not a carcinogen and it doesn't damage the heart. As far as I have been able to find out it's about on par with caffeine, albeit the addiction is probably even stronger. However, e-cigs haven't been on the scene long enough for long-term health risk studies to be done. The small number of short-term ones that have been done have not to my knowledge shown any significant health effects.

Hope that helps!
posted by Scientist at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

DuraSmoke The liquid comes in a variety of fun flavors to keep things interesting as well as in varying strengths of nicotine (all the way down to none) so you can wean yourself down to freedom. I haven't had a real cigarette since I got mine. And I was a die hard smoker for 10 years.
posted by unicornologist at 7:48 PM on December 2, 2013

Oh, and yes. E Cigarette Forum is a great resource, albeit it's pretty geeky (e-cigs get very geeky) and it can take a while to figure out what the heck people are talking about and to sort the truth from the personal preference from the bullshit. There's a lot of knowledge in there though once you get the hang of it.

Also, those little "cig-alike" dealies that you get at the drugstore, the ones that are about the size of a cigarette? They're crap. They're what I started with, and I found them totally unsatisfying. The battery life is ridiculously short, the amount of flavor and vapor that you get is unsatisfactory, and you generally only get to choose from a very small number of flavors. I didn't stop smoking tobacco until I switched to the setup that I described above – but since doing so I've found I have absolutely no desire to smoke traditional cigarettes, even if I'm out drinking with friends and they're smoking and I know I could easily bum one.

I've also painlessly stepped down my nicotine concentration from 24mg/mL to 12mg/mL and recently to 6mg/mL, with no cravings and without increasing my vaping frequency. And on the health front again, I will say that subjectively I feel completely healthy – none of that tightness in the chest, the shortness of breath, the persistent cough, the constantly feeling like I have a low-grade cold, etc. I feel normal. Also, I don't stink.
posted by Scientist at 7:49 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really appreciate the specific suggestions and information! I'll be looking at the Kanger and eGo kits everyone's recommended, and send her a sampler pack of liquids and maybe a gift cert for more, since she lives across the country from me, and in a place with very few shops that might carry the good stuff (unless anyone can recommend somewhere in Raleigh?).

I'll pass on the information about the nicotine, too, and yes, she's already getting the Easy Way to Stop Smoking because she's asked for it as well.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:37 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are a number of e-cig stores in Raleigh and at least one in Cary.

The Kanger pro tank takes the same replacement coils as the eVod and so should perform close to the same but be more durable. Beyond that, it's visually different and has a metal mouthpiece instead of plastic.

The kit that tatiana linked to looks like a real bargain. They stock Kanger eVod batteries that change voltage like the eGo twist. If you order from then you might want to ask if they will upgrade one or both batteries in the kit.
posted by K.P. at 3:14 AM on December 3, 2013

The other important difference between the ProTank and the eVod is the glass tank. The eVod has a plastic tank, which I've been told (though I cannot confirm this) can get cracked by some types of juices, particularly ones that are a bit more acidic. I know the guys at my local shop will ask people what kind of tank or cartomizer or whatever they're using before selling them some of the more citric flavors, and will warn them about possible tank damage if they have a plastic tank.

They're also a bit harder to clean and you get a bit more flavor transfer, but that's probably not really such a big deal. I also happen to think that the Mini ProTank 2 is much nicer-looking, but that's admittedly just an aesthetic thing.

In any case, this starter kit comes with a Mini Protank 2, an eGo-C Twist, and a charger for $35. You'd want a second battery with that, which at that site would push you up to $55. That's $8 more than the eVod starter kit linked above, but I think the upgrade to variable voltage batteries and a glass tank would be well worth the small extra outlay.
posted by Scientist at 1:30 PM on December 5, 2013

Thanks again, all! I ended up getting her the Kanger eVod starter kit, and called a shop near her and got them to send her a gift cert so she could choose her own liquids. She's happy with it all!
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:47 PM on January 1, 2014

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