Vaping 101
November 15, 2018

Learn What Vaping is and How to Inhale Properly

What is vaping?

The definition of vaping is the act of inhaling smoke-looking vapor from an electronic cigarette or vape device. Vaping simulates smoking but in a less harmful manner.

A flavored nicotine liquid called vape juice (e-juice) is what’s in a vape, but not all vapes contain nicotine. The user decides the flavor and amount of nicotine they wish to use, if any at all.

What is a vape?

What is a vape

Vapes are handheld electronic devices designed to produce inhalable vapor. It’s a technological solution to nicotine and tobacco smoke dependency, where the user can choose to step down or control the nicotine consumption similar to using gum or a patch, but with the familiar sensation and hand-to-mouth action as smoking.

The first retail vape was an electronic cigarette designed to look just like a tobacco cigarette. Designed by Hon Lik, it was released by the China-based company, Ruyan, in the early 2000s and in Europe and America around 2007. Now different types of vapes range in design, power, and vapor-making ability, but the basics of their functions and usage are the same as the first one made.

How does a vape work?

All vapes work on the same premise: a battery source (vape mod) powers a heating element (coil) that vaporizes e-juice in a small chamber (atomizer). The user then inhales the vapor through a small mouthpiece.

A vape works as a complete system. No one component is the vape, it’s what you have when it all comes together. Although many experienced users shop a la carte for mixing and matching vape parts, beginners are advised to stick to pre-packaged kits with everything included to ensure appropriate compatibility.

The power source

the power source

The vape mod is a battery device, normally using lithium ion batteries. These devices can come in many forms and sizes. They’re named accordingly, like box mods, vape pens, tube mods, to small designs called pod vapes and e-cigarettes. The term “mod” is a nod to the early days of vaping when users modified devices for more power.

Nowadays, vape mods have a broad range in electronic features and power limits. Some are more advanced and can be adjustable in watts (variable wattage mods) or even controlled in temperature (temperature control mods); others have no adjustability and require no technological understanding from the user.

The levels of power in a vape mod generally dictate the ease of use, as well as the experience required to safely operate them.

Low power: pod vapes, vape pens, e-cigarettes, AIOs (all-in-ones)

  • No experience required
  • Small rechargeable battery (unless it’s a disposable e-cig)
  • Normally without adjustable power
  • Concealable; ultra-portable

Medium power: AIOs (all-in-ones), tube mods, box mods

  • Some experience required
  • Battery safety knowledge recommended
  • Medium size rechargeable battery built-in or replaceable
  • Often with adjustable power (up to 100 watts)
  • Pocketable (though rarely concealable)

High power: box mods, mechanical mods

  • Experience is a must
  • Multiple replaceable batteries (rarely built-in)
  • Requires battery safety knowledge
  • Pocketable (but heavy and bulky)
  • Normally with adjustable power (up to 200+ watts)

The replaceable batteries in vapes most frequently used in vape mods are 18650, 20700, 21700 sizes. These cells are much more powerful than your average remote controller batteries and require a firm understanding of battery safety. That’s why, it is strongly advised that new users purchase devices with built-in, non-removable batteries that can be charged directly in the device from a USB port.

The vapor source

what is vaping vapor source

Vapor is made in what’s called a vape atomizer, sometimes called a vape tank. It’s a self-contained chamber electrically connected to the vape mod. It houses a resistance heating element – a metal coil – and an absorbent wick saturated with e-juice (containing similar base ingredients to theatre “smoke”). When the user takes a hit, the coil heats the liquid from the wick, instantly making smoke-looking vapor.

All atomizers hold e-juice (mL), though some hold more than others. Many are designed for simplicity, and others are far more complex and suited for hobbyists. In order of ease of use, the four main categories are:

  1. Prefilled: single-use; non-replaceable coils; disposable
    • Pods, cartridges, cartomizers
  2. Refillable: multi-use; non-replaceable coils; disposable
    • Pods, cartridges, cartomizers
  3. Refillable with replaceable coils: indefinitely reusable
    • Sub ohm tanks, clearomizers
  4. Rebuildable: user-installed wicks and coils; indefinitely reusable
    • Any atomizer written as an acronym beginning with “R”, like RDA, RTA, RDTA, etc.

Just like with vape mods, there’s a lot of variation to atomizers. The key thing to remember that they need to be compatible with the vape mod. Not all will physically fit on all vape mods, and some aren’t appropriate due to their coil resistance and the power they may require to function properly.

The coils in atomizers come in various resistance ranges (ohms/Ω). Some coils make voluminous clouds (low resistance; less than 1 ohm) and others make more discreet vapor (high resistance; near or above 1 ohm). Regardless of the resistance, or type of atomizer, all coils are discarded after time. They don’t die like the filament in a light bulb, but flavor and vapor will decline after prolonged usage. This can range from a couple days to a week or longer.

How to vape

How to start vaping

The best chance at success is to keep it simple with the device you buy. Simple vapes are in no way inferior to advanced devices, they’re just easier to use.

Step 1: Get a basic vape starter kit. No matter the look, they all make vapor in the same way. These devices range in price from about $20 to about $60. There are four major categories for these kinds of vape kits for you to choose from.

  1. Pod vapes: prefilled or refillable; disposable cartridges
  2. AIOs: refillable; replaceable coil
  3. E-cigarettes: prefilled or refillable; disposable cartridges
  4. Disposable e-cigarettes: prefilled; the entire device is disposable

All vape kits come with some sort of instructions. Since nearly all the devices are made in China, the wording may be a bit broken in the instruction manual. However, the instructions will explain how best to use your specific kit and will typically have useful diagrams for clarification.

Aside from prefilled kits, all vapes will need to be filled by the user with vape juice. If you find yourself needing more help, do a Google search for a review of the kit you have, in the off-chance your instruction manual doesn’t tell you how to fill your device.

Step 2: Get the best vape juice for the kit type. Choose a flavor that appeals to you, then choose a nicotine level. High nicotine vape juice typically comes in smaller bottles (30 mL or less), and bottles of lower nicotine juice will typically come in larger bottles (30 mL or more). Nicotine preference depends on the user, but there are general recommendations for the best experience with different devices:

  • Higher nicotine: 12 mg to 60 mg; best with lower power
  • Medium nicotine: 6 mg to 12 mg; best with low to medium power
  • Lower nicotine: 0 mg to 6 mg; best with higher power

If you don’t know what specific nicotine level is right for you, determine for yourself which bracket you think you’ll appreciate more. Are you a heavy, light, or recreational smoker? Extra high levels of nicotine (often sold as nicotine salt vape juice) can be felt fastest, and can be a more intense experience. Lower nicotine takes a bit longer to feel, and is normally a less intense experience.

Once you determine whether you want to try low, medium or high nicotine, start at the lowest levels in that range and assess from there – and make sure the power of the device is suited to that level of nicotine.

How to inhale a vape

MTL vs DL inhaling

When you vape for the first time, the way you inhale can make or break the experience. This is extremely important! If you inhale incorrectly, it could lead to coughing or an unpleasant rush of nicotine.

There are basically two types of inhalation techniques: mouth-to-lung and a direct-lung draw. The ideal inhalation technique depends on the vape you want to use.


MTL hits will normally work best in smaller vapes with high resistance coils, using high nicotine. When you take a drag from these devices, no matter the size of the device, it should feel like sucking air through a coffee straw. It should be tight! This type of draw makes low vapor and feels like the act of smoking, providing a similar type of hit to the throat that many smokers crave. It’s a simple technique.

  1. Slowly draw vapor into your mouth for a few seconds
  2. Hold the vapor in your closed mouth for a second or two
  3. Open mouth and breathe in the vapor to your lungs (not a “swallow”)
  4. Exhale after vapor is in lungs

Direct lung

The DL hit is mostly ideal for larger vapes with low resistance coils, using low nicotine. Taking a drag on one of these devices will usually feel like sucking air through a milkshake straw. This type of draw makes the most vapor and feels like taking a “bong hit,” though it’s considered a smooth and easy hit since it’s used mostly with low nicotine.

  1. Quickly draw vapor directly to the lungs
  2. Exhale vapor almost immediately

If you can’t figure out the best draw for your vape, or if your device has adjustable airflow, the nicotine content is the best gauge for how to inhale it. As a rule of thumb, high nicotine (12 mg – 60 mg) is better suited for MTL, and low nicotine (0 mg – 6 mg) is best for direct lung inhales. Medium nicotine (6 mg – 12 mg) can be okay for both types of inhale, but typically 6 mg is the cut-off for direct lung inhales.

Cigar puff

Some users opt out of inhaling to the lungs and puff on the vape like a cigar. Although not technically inhaling, the cigar puff can be used with high power (similar to DL) or low power devices (similar to MTL). This kind technique still works to consume nicotine because it gets absorbed in mucus membranes. Some would even argue that inhaling to the lungs is unnecessary.

What can you vape?

What can be vaped

Although cannabis concentrates and cannabis flowers (weed) can be vaped, they have their own style of vaporizers to handle vaporizing herbs or thick waxes. Do not buy a vape designed for vape juice to use with cannabis products unless it’s sold as multi-use. The one exception for cannabis products is CBD since it’s available in non-nicotine vape juice.

No other products, solutions, or chemicals should be vaped. Nothing from your kitchen, like cooking oils or syrups. Although vape juice feels like an oil, it’s not. The base ingredients of vape juice are water soluble, but that doesn’t mean either that you can vape something like soda. Vaping is made for vape juice! Even if you’ve seen someone doing something crazy on YouTube, do not attempt to vaporize non-vaping products.

Should you start vaping?

The decision to start vaping is a personal choice for adults to make, usually to combat an addiction to smoking. Vapes are not wellness or smoking cessation products, though they have helped many people become tobacco and smoke-free. Vaping has its fair share of pros and cons, but the act of vaping is considered harm reduction – particularly when the only alternative is smoking.

I'm the chief editor here at Vaping360 and I reside in southeast Michigan. I've been vaping since my first ecig purchase in 2010. For more reasons than I can list, vaping has been a lifesaver for me. Now, my goal is to help other smokers make the switch.

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I’ve learnt much from your tips, but I’m now ready for a box mod after using

.2ohm @ about 75w for about a year.

Without telling me it depends on this or that, I just want a straight out option that’ll be reliable for years and good coil option tank.

Revenge x and Species were my initial thought, but heard SMOK don’t last more then a year on average and tank/coil quality is also lacking, but good flavours.


Hi, I was interested to read your article as I had heard to avoid mouth-to-lung vapes. Reading your how to vape section, it definitely sounds like a classic case of not what equipment you have but how you use it that counts. I’m going to pass this information onto my dad who has COPD and yet continues to use his pod vape.


I vaped all day yesterday for the first time. Inhale make me cough and the holding it in my mouth seems to not give me that sensation from smoking. Any guidance on this is appreciated.

Jeremy Mann

Hi Tammy.

I’d like to help, but I first need a bit more clarification.

What type of device are you using?
What nic strength are you using?
What type of inhale are you using?


Novo pod
I’m new to all of this. Is inhaling okay to do? Why am I coughing every time? I want a pod system as it is low maintenance.

Jeremy Mann

You are free to inhale, but it may take a moment to feel normal.

With that high of a strength of nicotine, it’s advisable to do an MTL hit, as discussed in the section on how to inhale a vape.

If you’re coughing, maybe you’re inhaling too long or too aggressively (or a mixture of the two.)

I see you’re using the Novo Pod. That should have a standard MTL type of draw. Based on the nic strength you have and the device you have, I’d try just puffing on it like a cigar to get used to. Or, shorten your actual puffs and try and relax as you take it to your lungs. If this feels foreign to your body, again, I recommend just doing the cigar puff since you can still absorb nicotine through your mucous membranes in your mouth. You won’t feel a hit to your chest or your throat (which I actually crave), but the nicotine will still get in your system. This should allow you to ease into an actual inhale once you’re comfortable and used to the sensation.

Let me know how this works for you. If you’re using vaping to quit smoking, we’re all pulling for you! Good luck.


Vaper of 5 years here. I just want to make a notation about this article. In regards to the “Direct Lung” info, and I quote:

“Direct lung
The DL hit is mostly ideal for larger vapes with low resistance coils, using low nicotine. Taking a drag on one of these devices will usually feel like sucking air through a milkshake straw. This type of draw makes the most vapor and feels like taking a “bong hit,” though it’s considered a smooth and easy hit since it’s used mostly with low nicotine.” I believe the analogy of “bong hit” not only adds a bit of stigma in it’s description, but once again subliminally places vaping in an uncomfortable position to be associated with smoking weed.
If you’re going to write an article about vaping, especially in this day and age with the FDA making a huge fuss about vaping anything, you need to choose your words very carefully. This statement will leave a bad impression on new vapers and others who don’t agree with pot smoking. I say this because I do both and even I can can differentiate the vibes from people who are have no affiliation with weed.

In the future, choose your words carefully, young man. I’m sure big wigs like Busardo and Dimitris, who do ALL of the fighting for vaping, would NOT approve of this intermingled association. Weed is NOT legal in all states. Be smart.

Jeremy Mann

I have respect for both, Busardo and Dimitris, but they are not the vaping government. They are leaders in the community for sure, but it’s a wild exaggeration to say they’re doing “ALL of the fighting.” I imagine that was just a poor choice of wording on your part. Not to speak for them, but I’d imagine they wouldn’t disagree with me on that.

To your point about my analogy: I chose my words very carefully. It’s a good analogy because it’s true. If people get what is meant, then they are free to associate as they wish. And I can’t babysit my explanations out of fear that someone may dislike the illustrations, especially in such a minor instance on a site that already has cannabis-related content.

Having said that… I get your point to a degree. For instance, I hate even having to use the analogy of MTL being like smoking a cigarette, but that’s the best way to describe it. So if people disagree with pot smoking, I’d urge them to not smoke it. And about the legality of cannabis, a state’s laws on it have zero effect on me making an analogy about a direct lung inhale. I don’t really understand your reason in pointing out cannabis is not legal everywhere. Vaping nicotine is not legal everywhere in the world, but this site is still accessible by people that live in some of those areas.


Actually, having taken into consideration your response and your passive aggressive stance, all I really see here right now is smoke and mirrors.
I wasn’t pointing out that you were wrong, in any way other than associating one vice with another. You can assume that most people will categorize them differently, but with the way society is today, I’d rather just stick to the basics.

Jeremy Mann

Let’s agree to disagree. Thanks for your comment anyway.


personally i prefer to vape pod, like JUUL and FEELM , it is prefilled and small, can really help me to stop smoking, I smoked for 10 years


Biig article! To me, vaping is definitely connecting people! Ignoring the borders and differences between people.


I agree man i started an IG just for vaping and the whole vaping community is very nice i have not got one bad message sent to me even though some of my pictures do suck lol People in general should be nice to one another we are the only ones here for this time period in the world so people should respect and be nice to our fellow travelers on earth.

Jim McDonald

Agreed. Thanks!

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