Where Did I Start? Where Did I Begin?
Mixed-martial arts class. Maybe it was to get in shape. Maybe it was to defend myself against women trained in karate with a history of violence. In any case, after three sessions of teetering near black-out levels of wheezing, I decided to shelve that pursuit until my lung capacity was at least greater than that of a dime bag. (* That said, a quick unrelated note that Pride Martial Arts in Williamsville is an excellent school with all-round awesome teachers and fellow students and I heartily recommend it to anyone in better shape than myself was, or with greater determination.)
Obviously, smoking carbon was doing something bad to my lungs. Maybe it was bad like anal rape versus smooth and loving consensual Barry Brown anal sex, since it did give me a kinda sexy voice and seems to have steeled myself against infections of other sorts. In either case, I'm still risking a rip.
I've debated the "badness" of cigarettes, but I'll never deny that smoking "analog" is no better than locking yourself in a room in a house on fire. Still, unless you're a monk begging for rice on the steppes of the Himalaya, shove your complaints about the "filthy" habits of others.
Was I afraid of cancer? Hell no. As with a not-insignificant cohort of smokers, the danger and self-destruction is a major draw, and kept me at it in times of grief and such. So, while cancer was not a problem, there was the bad breath, and the stinking clothing. Losing those couldn't but help my then-active post-separation dating success.
This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get
When I was inpatient for "shock therapy" there was no smoking. When my wife indirectly had me committed to a mental asylum, it was the same. Those places aren't the luxury resorts portrayed in film, folks. Not like Shutter Island, cigarette dangling from my lips as I and a creepy murder-rapist (in that order) trim the hedges with sharp instruments of grass destruction. Ahem.
Nicotine patches are issued. Even the sometimes-sadistic sentries of the sanitariums know a loony's gonna be less riled if he's getting his fix. That might temper the physical withdrawal, but there are other reasons we smoke. There is far more to smoking than just nicotine. First and foremost, there's the smoking. Gum and patches aren't gonna make beautiful greyscale billows blossom from my lips. "E-cigarettes" would.
For a guy buying mass-produced packs of cigarettes, that's enough of a plus when deciding on a path out of the smoking room. I'd been rolling my own for almost two decades, starting with such devilish concoctions as "Black Death" and other half-zware European blends. For me, there was a ritual involved. When I was in the asylum, I crumpled notebook paper into something soft enough to roll, stripped off stand-in tobacco leaves, and rolled my fake cigarettes to pass the time and bypass the desire. E-cigs -- "digital" cigarettes -- have that gadgetry and ritual. There are countless devices and modifications and flavors and mixes.
Yeah, these are for me.
All The Right Friends
A co-worker and friend had been using the G6 from Halo. They intrigued me, but I wasn't ready to plunk down $60 for the starter kit just yet. One morning on the way to work, I picked up a cheap disposable e-cig. Just a plastic cigarette you'd smoke as you would its analog cousin. At the time, I had nothing against which to compare it, but I was decidedly impressed at being able to smoke at a near-constant rate, indoors and out.
The next day, I put in my order for the G6 with a half-dozen "carts" pre-filled with Torque-56 flavor.
Now I had a reference point. Although I'd later come to eschew this model, the G6 is far better than ghetto gas-station digi-fags, and an excellent choice for someone just dipping their lungs into the "vaping" scene. In addition to what's pictured above, there's a male USB dongle that screws into the white "cigarette" battery tube to facilitate charging directly at your PC or through a wall adapter as shown. Be very careful about where you stick your dongle! The ultimate reason for my "movin' on up" to a different style of e-cig resulted from making the mistake of plugging mine into the USB adapter in my car. If it isn't pushing the voltage through the amperage as shown on the official adapter, you're gonna blow your dongle.
Hadn't done that since college.
It's a good starter kit, and I recommend it to those who aren't sure they're gonna stick with the vaping life. Me? Cold-turkey off the death-sticks after my first puff of clean, digitally-remastered smoke. However, I've a friend who didn't take to them. He bought the G6. He likes it, but it just doesn't take the place of cigarettes for him. In my personal experience, he's a rarity among those who've tried a second-tier e-cig. Most have stuck with the digital suck, although many of them are only casual puffers.
I've heard of many who hated e-cigs when they first tried them. (What -- you loved smoking the first time, too?) In all of those cases, they were suckled at the dirty plastic teat of a gas-station fag. If you're seriously considering vaping as an alternative to old-fashioned dirt-smoking, then get something like the G6 or any of the other re-usable alternative kits from reputable dealers. Not a gas station. Not the mall. I'll reference more later, but Halo is a great place to start.
I Ain't No Rocket Scientist
I don't keep up with the "vaping" community. My terms may be wrong. My understanding of the science may be wrong. However, I'm smart enough to know when I'm absolutely wrong, and I'm mostly right.
Anyway, I should go over the mechanics and the terms before we move along. First, the vapist vernacular:
- digital cigarette, e-cig, vaporizer - an electronic device intended to deliver nicotine
- analog cigarette - the ones that burn leaves and "give you the cancer"
- vape - to use en electronic cigarette
- vapist, vaping, gang-vape - darkly humorous appelations for users and use of e-cigs
- battery - in the G6, the part that looks like the cigarette
- base - the neutral liquid base of e-juice, usually "PG" or "VG"
- PG - propylene glycol base, thinner than VG
- VG - vegetable glycerine base, thicker than PG
- juice, e-juice - flavor and/or liquid nicotine suspended in a PG and/or VG base
- atomizer - a heating element that vaporizes the e-juice, usually including some electrical resistance
- wick - absorbant material that sucks up the juice, wherever it may be
- cartridge - a tube filled with fibre and a wick through which atomized vapor is drawn
- cartomizer - a combination cartridge/atomizer
- tank - a cylinder containing e-juice for cleaner and longer vaping periods between refills
How does an e-cig work? A battery and two wires connected to an heating element. Activation is either automatic (just suck it) or manual, requiring a button press before you draw. Automatics provide a familiar gateway for beginners, but are rare in all but entry-level devices. Beneath the atomizer are holes to facilitate your inhale delivering the vapor to your hungry lungs.
The juice is usually saturated in a fibrous medium, or wicked up from another source, eventually brought across the heating element. In the case of simple "drip tips", the liquid is dropped directly onto the element, which in those resemble a metal-mesh cone. I have one of these, but it is relegated to sampling new flavors, sharing with others, or testing my device. There's a distinct crackling as the liquid is vaporized indicating power is being supplied.
Movin' On Up
The G6 uses "cartomizers". One drips e-juice into the fibrous material inside until it is soaked. I'd load my carts in the morning, and one would usually be dried out by the afternoon. Use a cartomizer too long and it starts to taste burnt. Worse than that, really. It's a kinda metallic, acidic, really harsh nasal sting.
Maybe some have the patience to use them. I didn't, so I decided to purchase a LavaTube from Volcano E-Cigs with a "tube-tank". The LavaTube is part of a class of vaporizers that deliver a variable voltage charge (3.0V-6.0V) allowing the user to conserve battery life and/or modify the amount of smoke produced when vaping. The LavaTube has a "510" interface. Others have an "EGO" type interface. There are adapters to facilitate your using accessories made for one type in your other-type device.
The LavaTube and tank gave me a new hymen and broke it all over again. Smoking from a tank with control over the voltage was a wonderful experience. No more dripping until it looked like the fibre in the cartridge might be soaked enough. I just filled the tube and a-vapin' I did go.
The downside? Well, besides being plastic or glass and using rubber or metal stoppers, a tank is just a hollow cylinder. The "Tube Tank" still uses cartridges -- they've just got holes punched near the bottom so that the juice in the tank is pulled inside and you don't have to do the dripping.
But they're still cartridges filled with what might as well be cotton and, although the constant moisture mitigates the issue somewhat, they eventually deliver that aforementioned horrible burn. Furthermore, that fibre is more likely to retain flavors than other methods of drawing the juice, which means you're kinda forced to change the cart in your tank if you switch flavors.
I felt I was on the right track with the LavaTube, but not quite there. That cartridge was the deal-breaker for me.
Fate stepped in and broke my LavaTube. I pressed the button, but nothing happened. I rolled cigarettes for the first time in months. Tasted like dirt. Grabbed some ghetto fags from the gas station. Not the same.
I frequent the "Super Flea" indoor/outdoor flea market in the warmer season(s), and recalled a booth there selling e-cigs. It was a weekday and the market was closed. A little googling found them: Vapor Trail in West Seneca. After work that day, I made the drive and bought another 510, this time with a different style of tank -- the "Vivi Nova."
The "Torpedo" [ahem] is essentially the same as the LavaTube. What was new here was the tank. The Vivi Nova has a metal base with an integrated pedestal. Into that pedestal is screwed an assembly with an integrated atomizer and resistor, and a wound set of wicks lain atop the hollow in which it sits and jutting out on either side like bright white tentacles. The atomizers are typically fitted with 1.8Ω, 2.4Ω, and 2.8Ω resistors. That upside-down U with the feet is the Greek letter "Omega" and it represents the "ohm" -- a unit of electrical resistance. It came with the tank, the pedestal bottom, the top, and three of those atomizers. (Ultimately, I found the 3.5V @ 2.4Ω combo works best for me.)
Well, now. Hoo-boy. If the Lava-Tube reconstructed my hymen and penetrated me like a virgin, this one switched my sex again and had me experiencing a truly sublime vaping experience.
Because the liquid just went through the wick (in turn wrapped in wire that served as the atomization element), there was no bulky fibre between me and my juice. It was, and remains, the cleanest type of vaping I've experienced.
Let's Not Go [...] Just Yet
The Viva Nova is good, but nothing's perfect, right? Not yet, at least.
One can easily burn out the wick by applying too much voltage. It's not nearly as bad as the taste you get from a burnt or dried-out cartomizer, but it's unpleasant. Fortunately, it sometimes restarts delivering pleasure anew when it gets sufficiently wet. (You realize all those turns of phrase are intentionally lewd, right?)
The other problem is not to do with the mechanism itself, but with the interchangeability of parts. I was delighted to find I could cheaply replace the atomizer tips, so I ordered a few. When they arrived, I discovered they weren't right for my Vivi Nova. In one case, the pedestal height and the atomizer height combined made it impossible to screw on the top. In another, the atomizer was too short and there was a gap. I ended up purchasing a new Vivi Nova and set of replacement wick/atomizer stubs.
A recent alternative to the Vivi Nova is the iClear30 by Innokin. It's a 3ml capacity dual-coil "clearomizer". It doesn't feature a removable tip, but a rotatable one is integrated into the stainless steel housing. The tube itself is plastic, which is a problem when you're mixing certain juices.
Until Next Time
I've been sitting on this post for some time now. It's a departure from my usual depression-and-post-marital-strife content, and a lot has happened in that area since the last update. So, with a final paragraph above and this epilogue, I'm gonna push this baby out for your consideration. Should I ever make the time to write them, future vaping articles will feature my adventures in mixing my own juice -- amateur home-chemistry that virtually eliminates the primary recurring cost of digital smoke.
Until then, I hope all you dirty-puffers make the switch. Happing trails, fellow vapists.