Reg man inhales the smooth, non-cancerous, taste of USB nicotine

Do e-cigarettes give you a dose of the vapours or a breath of fresh air?

Notes for the beginner

Shopping for the first time is intimidating: “what on Earth do I buy?” That's especially so, given the complexities of mixing juice, VG/PG and nicotine. So here's the El Reg e-cig first-timer's shopping list:

1. E-cig starter kit – make sure you have a tank (or clearomizer/iser) and battery charger as a bare minimum. A decent starter kit should also comes with bottles and the odd medicine syringe to help you when it comes to mixing juice, and a squeeze bottle with a metal tip, for filling your tank.

2. Spares – spare parts can be so cheap that they'll cost less than postage, so put a pack of spare tanks and a second battery in your first order. Make sure the spare tanks match the battery you bought.

3. Flavours – It's hard to give advice here, but don't expect to hit your flavour mark first time. Buy a few different flavours (with at least one tobacco-style) in your first order, and order more than you think you'll want. The flavour bottles are tiny and cheap, and again, there's no point in spending five dollars on postage for two dollars' worth of flavour juice.

4. Alcohol – In particular, Vodka: lots of "vapers" use vodka as a cleaning agent. Others add it to the juice. I haven't tried either.

5. Nicotine – You're only allowed to buy it for personal usage in Australia, which means it's going to come from overseas. It's pretty cheap, so you should be able to get six months' supply in your first order. One word of advice: it's better to buy nicotine mix too strong and dilute it, than to buy it too weak. Without the nicotine hit, your e-cig won't go anywhere near replacing tobacco.

What about quitting?

I have replaced some of my cigarettes, and I can manage whole days on vape alone, but I haven't made it all the way, yet.

I will say this: I've tried gum (tooth fillings are costly), patches, inhalers and sprays from the pharmacy.

They're all designed by people who are deeply hostile to smokers, so they fail for me because they are unpleasant to use. The nicotine replacement therapy designers simply can't imagine designing a product that someone wants to use because they like it. The punitive mindset appears ineradicable.

The e-cigarette isn't the real thing: it's a noticeably different experience. But it's also a relatively pleasant experience. It also has one huge advantage over pharmacy nicotine replacement therapies: after the initial purchase, the consumables (VG and PG, flavours and nicotine liquid) are very cheap.

VG and PG

These are the agents used to dilute the flavours and nicotine. Vegetable glycerine produces lots of cloud and “softens” the vapour in the throat. Propylene glycol delivers a sharper “throat hit” but less “cloud”. Mixing them is a personal preference; most advice suggests the user start at 50-50, and adjust it from there.

Nicotine

The nicotine liquid comes diluted in 50-50 VG-PG, in differing strengths. Buy the strongest mix your supplier offers, because you'll be diluting it anyway – there are many online calculators that will help you work out the proportions.

Support

Wherever you shop – there is a small host of online suppliers – check out what other e-cig users have to say in online forums, because a lack of support is a pain in the neck.

GenEcigs, which provided two of the review units – the Ego-510 and Ego cigarette style – were responsive to all of El Reg's questions. ®

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