New to vaping? If you’re just getting started, the terminology can be a bit overwhelming. Getting fully familiar with the jargon often requires first-hand experience, but don’t let that stop you from brushing up on your vaping vocab. Once you dive in, it’s not really all that complicated. Like any hobby, it just takes a little research.
Here’s a quick, straightforward guide to get you on the path to becoming a knowledgeable vape guru.
The atomizer is the heating element that turns e-liquid into vapor. It typically contains a metal coil and a cotton wick saturated in e-juice. The battery delivers power that heats up the metal coil, and the metal coil heats the juice to its evaporation point. Some atomizers have replaceable or rebuildable coils, while others are disposable.
The battery delivers the power required to heat up the atomizer. Many vaporizers use lithium-ion 18650 batteries. Basic vape pens usually use disposable batteries, while more elaborate box mods have replaceable batteries. Batteries have an mAh (milliampere-hour) rating. Higher numbers (1000-2500 mAh) hold more power so they require less charging, while lower numbers (200-300 mAh) batteries need to be charged more frequently.
- Box Mod
A box mod is a vaporizer that’s shaped like a box and usually features more technology than basic vape pens. They often have settings to control the atomizer’s temperature, giving you more control over your hits. Many box mods use more than one battery for more power and require less time between chargings. Box mods are ideal for more experienced vaper hobbyists who enjoy tweaking their rigs to perfection.
Cartridges are tanks that are pre-filled with e-liquid. While they’re most commonly associated with cannabis vapes, there are nicotine cartridges too. Cartridges are disposable, so they’re not an ideal choice if you plan to use your own e-liquids. Most cartridges use 510 threading, which refers to the ridges that hold the cartridge (or tank) in place when you screw it to the battery.
The charger charges the battery. The vast majority of vaporizers use USB chargers. It’s important that you exercise caution when charging your device to prevent battery combustion.
Dripping is when you drip drops of e-liquid directly onto the coil every few hits, rather than filling your tank. Vapers who drip usually use customized sub-OHM RDAs (Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers). Dripping produces more flavor and larger clouds, but because the devices are usually modified (or even built from scratch), they can be dangerous. Avoid dripping until you’re confident in your vaping knowledge.
- Dry Hit
A dry hit is when you inhale before the wick has had time to absorb the e-liquid. Dry hits often taste like burnt cotton because, well, you’re burning cotton! After filling your tank, it’s important that you wait 10-15 minutes for the wick to become fully saturated. You can also apply e-liquid directly to the wick to speed up the process — this pre-saturation method is called priming.
An e-cigarette, or e-cig for short, is the most basic type of vaporizer. While vape pens are technically e-cigarettes, the term usually refers to small, cigarette-sized vaporizers that are often disposable. They don’t deliver as much flavor or cloud production as larger vapes, but they do feel similar to a cigarette in hand, so they’re often used as a tool to quit smoking.
E-liquid is the juice that you vape. It’s available in countless flavors, from fruits, candies, and desserts to more traditional tobacco flavors. Most e-liquids are made from vegetable glycerin (VG) and/or propylene glycol (PG) and natural flavorings. VG tends to produce bigger, thicker clouds, while PG delivers a stronger throat hit. Nic salt is another type of e-liquid (more on nic salts next).
- Nicotine Salts
Nicotine salts, or nic salts, refer to the natural nicotine and plant alkaloids extracted from tobacco leaves, as opposed to the purified and concentrated nicotine found in traditional e-liquids that are often referred to as “freebase.” Nic salt juices allow you to vape higher concentrations of nicotine with less harshness. Some ex-smokers prefer nic salts because they deliver the familiar ‘rush’ associated with analog cigarettes.
- Nicotine Strength
As you might assume, nicotine strength refers to the amount of nicotine in the e-liquid. Most e-liquids have a range of 0mg, 3mg, 6mg, 12mg, and 18mg, although some are as strong as 36mg. 3mg is usually a good starting point for light ex-smokers, while heavy ex-smokers may prefer 12mg or 18mg. It all comes down to preference. Nicotine strengths are higher for nicotine salts.
- Starter Kit
A starter kit is a comprehensive package that includes everything you need to start vaping out of the box. Most starter kits don’t include e-liquids, although some companies may offer package deals with juice included. Make sure you check the contents of your starter kit to see if you need to order e-liquid separately.
Sub-OHM vaping is when you use coils that have less than 1-OHM of resistance, causing the battery to produce more power. While some companies do offer sub-OHM box mods, many vapers build their own sub-OHM devices for dripping. Because sub-OHM vaping heavily strains the battery, it’s extremely important that you take proper precautions.
The tank is the piece that contains the atomizer, coils, and wick. It’s usually made out of clear glass or plastic. Most tanks use 510-threading. They’re available in many different sizes and shapes.
A toot is just a slang word that means a quick draw or hit. “That smells nice. Can I get a toot?”
- Throat Hit
A throat hit is the stinging feeling you get when the vapor hits the back of your throat. It’s common for ex-smokers to prefer a strong throat hit to replicate the experience of smoking an analog cigarette. If you want a powerful throat hit, choose an e-liquid with a higher ratio of PG.
- Vape Pen
A vape pen is a compact, no-frills vaporizer. They’re a great middle-ground between disposable e-cigarettes and elaborate box mods. They’re super portable, and they deliver stronger hits and bigger clouds than disposables. Some vape pens do have variable voltage controls, but many of them are just a battery with a fire button.
- Vaper’s Tongue
Vaper’s tongue is when you’ve vaped the same flavor e-liquid so often that it starts to lose its taste. While many vapers have a go-to “all-day vape,” it’s still a good idea to switch it up from time to time to keep your palate fresh.
- Variable Voltage
Variable voltage is a setting that’s found on most box mods and some vape pens. It allows you to adjust the amount of voltage the battery produces in real-time. Not getting enough cloud production? Try cranking the voltage up. Variable voltage gives you control over your vaping experience. It’s a great tool to have if you like using a wide variety of e-liquids.
- Vitamin E Acetate
Vitamin E acetate is the ingredient that caused a number of vape-related lung injuries in 2019. The ingredient is harmless on its own, but when vaped, it causes serious health issues. Vitamin E acetate is most commonly associated with cannabis cartridges, but you should always check to make sure your e-juice doesn’t contain it, just to be safe.
Questions? Reach Out to the Community
These are the most common terms you’ll see throughout your vaping career, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The vaping community is famously friendly, so if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts. Many of them have used vaping to give up smoking, and they’re often thrilled to spread the good news. Vaping may seem complicated on paper, but it’s pretty easy in practice. Learning is a big part of what makes the hobby so fun. When in doubt, reach out!