What is Vaping? A Complete Newbie’s Guide!

by Steve Barrett

What is Vaping?  A Complete Newbie’s Guide!


James Corden, host of the US Late Late Show, demonstrates just how popular vaping has become by highlighting how not leaving the house without your vaporiser is as routine as not forgetting your wallet, phone and keys!

What Does “Vape” Mean?

Vaping is the act of producing vapour by inhaling vaporised liquid from an e-cigarette or vaping device. Unlike with traditional cigarettes, with vaping there is no combustion, no tobacco and the user inhales only vapour - not the toxic tobacco smoke found in traditional cigarettes. Vapers are people who use vapourisers or e-cigarettes.

The ‘Father of E-Cigarettes’ is widely regarded as Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist who patented the first nicotine based e-cigarette in 2003. In 2004, he was the first person to commercially manufacture and sell this product, initially into the Chinese market, before expanding internationally. By 2014, the vaping community that had risen in the wake of the popularity of these devices was so influential that the Oxford English Dictionary made the word ‘vape’ their ‘Word of the Year.’

What is Vaping? The Basic Terms, Equipment and Ingredients to Get You Started

If you are thinking of trying vaping, any initial research can make the prospect seem very complex.

There seems to be many different terms. References to ohms, resistance, coils, atomisers, clearomisers etc. However, believe us when we say it does become very familiar and can all be clarified with a quick chat with a specialist supplier. In fact, vapers use different words for the same thing in many cases and like any movement the ‘slang’ has developed a life of its own.

To begin, your best option is to purchase a starter kit – this includes all the parts necessary to enjoy your first experience. A specialist supplier will advise you on the most important aspects of choosing the right e-liquid with the correct strength and flavour to suit your individual needs. A starter kit will simplify the process and ensure you are not bogged down with terminology and merely appreciate the experience.

Below is a glossary guide to the most basic vaping terms to get you started on your vaping journey.

Unsure of how to answer the question what is vaping? Don’t know where to start? Pick up a starter kit of basic equipment to guide you.



  • The e-cigarette power source – longevity between charges is indicated by the mAh strength, which stands for Milliamps / Hour.

  • E-cigarette batteries tend to be rechargeable through a USB connection.

  • Starter kits do not have replaceable batteries. The more advanced kits do use interchangeable batteries.

  • There are two types: manual (a button is pressed to activate), or automatic (the power is triggered by inhaling).

 Clearomiser / Atomiser / Tank

  • The clearomiser is attached to the battery, filled with e-liquid and holds the coil – turning liquid to a vapour.

  • Clearomisers can be refilled with liquid and as the level decreases, you can change flavours as you wish.

  • Coils within the clearomiser are interchangeable as they burn out.


The Coil, a key piece of equipment to get to know when learning to understand what vaping is.

  • The term ‘coil’ usually refers to the small element that combines the heating wire and the surrounding organic cotton. These can be bought as ready made or advanced vapers do build their own.

  • The cotton soaks up your e-liquid and the coil heats it to produce a vapour.

  • The power of the coil is measured in ohm resistance. A lower resistance burns at a higher temperature and will produce more vapour.

  • When a resistance is below 1 ohm the term ‘sub-ohm’ vaping is used and vapers produce large clouds of vapour.

Cartridge / Cartomisers

  • Normally reserved for the earlier ‘cig-a-like’ models – cartomisers are pre-filled disposable capsules screwed to the cig-a-like battery which would power on when inhaled and emit a blue or green light at the end.

  • They cannot be refilled and have one pre-designated flavour.

 USB Chargers

  • Used to charge the battery through a USB connection.

  • A very important part of the kit – it is important for safety that vapers use the charger provided with the kit as battery overheating can occur when people use other chargers such as phone chargers to recharge their batteries.

 Instruction Manual

  • All kits should come with an instruction manual which should be read before using a new kit.

 Confused about ingredients and e-liquids? purplebox vapours is here to help you decipher it all and to answer the question, what does vape mean?



  • Also known as ‘e-juice’.

  • Once vaporised it creates vapour.

  • Made from VG, PG, water, food grade flavouring and pharmaceutical grade nicotine (if required).

  • Nicotine strength can vary from 0mg to 18mg for heavier ex-smokers.

  • Flavour ranges include: Tobacco, Fruits, Drinks, Sweet style flavours such as Custard / Apple Pie and Turkish Delight.

 PG (Propylene Glycol)

  • The first of the two base ingredients used in e-liquids.

  • PG is used in vaping to provide a throat hit similar to smoking a cigarette and carries the flavour of the liquid.

  • It is an over-the-counter substance that is used widely as a food additive and for medicinal purposes in Asthma inhalers.

  • It also helps to thin the viscosity of e-liquid.

 VG (Vegetable Glycerin)

  • The second of the two base ingredients used in e-liquids.

  • VG is the main vapour producer in vaping.

  • Widely used as a food and drink additive in addition to being a thickener for many medicines.

  • The more VG in an e-liquid, the better the vapour production. High VG / low PG and low nicotine ratios of liquid are used in sub-ohm vaping.

  • It makes e-liquids thicker and syrupy.


  • Pharmaceutical grade nicotine is used in varying strengths (0mg – 18mg) in e-liquid and a specialist supplier can recommend the right level for you akin to your previous smoking habit (if you are a former smoker).

  • Nicotine is addictive but has no harmful effect on the body when vaped in moderation. It results in similar neurological and physiological effects as its nearest neighbour – caffeine. This is according to comments made by Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependent Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London.

What is vaping? That’s not the only question that is asked by vaping newbies. Which is also why our word cloud of vaping terms is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vaping lingo.

General Terms

All Day Vape

  • Is a term used when a vaper finds a flavour that they can vape all day without getting bored or sick of the same flavour: e.g. “Decadent Vapours Rainbow Fruit is a great All Day Vape flavour.”

 Sweet Spot

  • A term used by a vaper to describe a super vaping experience combining the perfect flavour, the optimum power settings from the kit, a satisfying throat hit and the precise amount of vapour cloud produced. For example, “My sweet spot would be DV Apple Pie, with a 0.6 ohm coil set at 14 watts”.

 Throat Hit

  • The sensation after the vapour hits the back of the throat to give a similar feeling to smoking a traditional cigarette. Getting the throat hit right is an important psychological part of giving up smoking.

  • The throat hit can be varied by altering the nicotine strength and the PG ratio of an e-juice.

  • It is important to hydrate when vaping as you are exhaling more water vapour than normal from the body and the throat can get dry as a result.

  • The body also recognises the toxicity of smoking and salivates the process – this does not happen when vaping as no toxic elements are present so keeping hydrated is crucial.

 Dry Hits

  • Dry hits occur if the clearomiser has run out of juice or the coil has burnt out and needs to be changed.

Eradicating the Myths: Vaping Vs Smoking

Vaping vs smoking, what are the differences? Here we eradicate some of the biggest myths.


As the popularity and the success of vaping to help people stop smoking increases, and with the publication of more and more studies on the subject, many health bodies are reviewing their stance on vaping.

 1. Nicotine is the Harmful Component, Not the E-Cigarette

Because vaping devices are hand held, inhaled and produce a vapour, essentially mimicking the act of smoking, they have been tarnished with the ‘tobacco’ brush and the public conscious is reluctant to see them differently than smoking.

With this in mind Cancer Research UK is now initiating a campaign to separate nicotine from smoking and to debunk the myths surrounding nicotine and endorse vaping and e-cigarettes as a much healthier and successful alternative to smoking. To read more about this, see this blog post.

 2. E-Cigarettes Are Not a Gateway for Youths to Abuse Tobacco

Dr. Ted Wagener, a researcher from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center conducted the first study to examine e-cigarettes as a possible gateway for young people to become addicted to tobacco cigarettes in 2013.

1,300 college students (with an average age of 19) were surveyed about their tobacco and nicotine usage. 43 students identified their first nicotine product as an e-cigarette and only one of those 43 students said they went on to smoke tobacco cigarettes. The vast majority of students who began vaping e-cigarettes said they were not currently using any nicotine or tobacco.

This lead the researcher to conclude that e-cigarettes are not a gateway for young people to abuse tobacco cigarettes.

More studies, conducted by such organisations as ASH UK, have resulted in the same findings – it is now generally accepted that vaping is not a gateway into smoking.

3. You Cannot be Exposed to Toxic Combustion Products from Second Hand E-Cigarette Vapour

According to the results of a study conducted by the Oxford Journal, e-cigarettes are not a source of second hand exposure to combustion toxicants.

Depending on the amount of vapour produced, using an e-cigarette indoors may involuntarily expose non-vapers to trace levels of nicotine from exhaled vapour, which is derived from tobacco.

Dr. Farsalinos, a cardiologist working at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, published a study on passive vaping in The Journal of Environmental Research which concluded (following their study of passive vaping) that the levels of nicotine absorbed from “passive vaping” are not only harmless but do not even produce any biological effect (not even heart rate acceleration).

However, it is also worth pointing out that not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine and none produce tobacco smoke.

4. E-Cigarettes Do Not Stiffen the Aorta That Pumps Blood to Our Hearts

Researchers from the Department of Cardiology in the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Greece conducted a study to measure the impact (if any) of e-cigarettes on the Aorta compared to cigarettes.

The Aorta is the largest artery in our bodies and the main artery coming from our hearts. It was found that two tobacco cigarettes significantly decreased elasticity and elevated the stiffness of the Aorta after smoking. However, no adverse effects were observed on the Aorta after using the e-cigarette device.

US Tissue Engineering Company MatTek and Dr Michael Mosley in his Horizon programme for the BBC, tested vapour from e-cigarettes on human airway tissue and found no adverse affects what-so-ever. The tissue remained healthy compared with complete cell death from tobacco smoking.

Dr Michael Mosley investigates the world of e-cigarettes in this BBC Horizon documentary ‘E Cigarettes: Miracle or Menace?’

5. E-Cigarettes Are Largely Used to Avoid the Harm Associated with Smoking and Can be Effective Even in Highly Dependent Smokers

A worldwide survey of more than 19,000 consumers to determine the characteristics, perceived side effects and benefits of e-cigarette use, was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2014.

The participants were divided into two groups, former and current smokers, with the vast majority being former smokers. 81% of participants, the former smokers, reported complete substitution of cigarettes with e-cigarettes. The former smokers were also highly dependent and heavier smokers (when they used to smoke) compared to current smokers, having averaged 21 cigarettes a day when smoking. The current smokers reported a reduction of smoking consumption from 20 to 4 cigarettes a day while vaping e-cigarettes. All participants were using e-cigarettes over an average of 10 months.

Participants experienced significant benefits in physical status and improvements in pre-existing respiratory conditions including asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease.

The results of the survey concluded that e-cigarettes are mostly used to avoid the harm associated with smoking and that they can be effective even in highly-dependent smokers used as a long-term substitute for smoking. It also concluded that side effects are minor, but the health benefits are substantial, especially for those who fully substitute smoking with vaping.

6. The Variety of E-Liquid Flavours Exist to Service Vapers’ Needs and to Assist with Smoking Cessation

Critics argue that the large variety of e-liquid flavours that are available to vapers, (including fruit flavours) are aimed at attracting a younger audience.

A survey of more than 4,600 participants was conducted to find out about the impact of flavour availability on e-cigarette use and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2013.

Participants were divided into two groups, former and current smokers. The majority, over 91%, were former smokers and the rest were current smokers who had reduced their cigarette consumption from 20 to 4 per day. Both groups had an average cigarette consumption history of 22 years and had been vaping on e-cigarettes for 1 year.

It was found that participants were using 3 different varieties of e-liquid flavours regularly. Former smokers were found to switch between flavours more often with a little over 69% switching flavours daily. At the time of the survey participation, fruit flavours were more popular, however, tobacco flavours had been more popular when they had initially begun electronic use a year previous.

The majority of participants stated that flavour variability was very important in their effort to reduce or quit smoking and their restriction would make e-cigarettes less enjoyable. More than 48% stated that restricting the variety of e-liquid flavours would increase their craving for cigarettes. Almost 40% stated that restrictions on e-liquid flavours would have made it less likely that they would reduce smoking or quit entirely.

The results of the survey concluded that e-liquid flavours exist to satisfy vapers’ demand and contribute towards the effort to reduce or quit smoking as well as the perceived pleasure from using them. It also concluded that e-liquid flavour variability should be maintained as implementing regulatory restrictions could cause harm to current vapers. Any potential future risk for youngsters interested in vaping can be minimised by prohibiting e-cigarette product sales to this specific population age group.

Smoking is the biggest killer of the 10,000 taste buds found on the tongue – as these return when a person is vaping, experiencing the plethora of flavours on offer can enhance the vaping experience and helps assist with an ex-smoker staying off cigarettes.

Is Vaping Safe? Even the UK Government Thinks Vaping is Way Less Harmful to Your Health

Is vaping safe? See what the Chief Executive of Public Health England has to say on the matter.

In August 2015, Public Health England, an executive agency, sponsored by the UK Government Department of Health, published an expert independent evidence based landmark review.

The Key Findings

  • E-cigarettes are approximately 95% less harmful than smoking.

  • No evidence exists to suggest that e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway to smoking for children or non-smokers.

  • There is no indication that e-cigarette users are exposed to dangerous levels of aldehydes compared to the negative media campaigning on the issue.

  • The majority are using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, or to stop them going back to cigarettes.

  • Less than 1% of adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular e-cigarette users.

The Supporting Evidence

  • The components of cigarette smoke that harm health are either absent in e-cigarette vapour or (if present at all), are largely at levels way below the 5% of smoking doses, mostly below 1%, and far below safety limits for occupational exposure.

  • The main chemicals present in e-cigarettes have not been associated with any serious health risks.

Public Information and Media Led Stories Have Been Misleading

  • More than 1 in 5 people think e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than smoking.

  • This opinion has rapidly risen from 8.1% in 2013, to 22.1% in 2015.

  • Almost 1 in 4 people (22.7%) say they don’t know.

  • In the US, 82% of people believed that vaping was safer than smoking in 2010.

  • However, this percentage declined to 51% in 2014 as a result of negative media campaigning.

Many health organisations and leading health professionals are now committed to debunking the myths and scaremongering surrounding vaping. This scaremongering originates from organisations who have a vested interest in not seeing vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking or other Nicotine Replacement Therapies.

Specialist suppliers of vaping products and juices are campaigning for sensible regulation and legislation within the industry to ensure the highest of standards regarding equipment and e-juices.

The fascinating and evolving world of vaping, its accessible and welcoming community, its trends and its impact on former cigarette smokers and their health, all continue to attract new vapers. Long may it continue!


Steve Barrett
Steve Barrett


Steve is passionate about changing people's lives for the better by helping them switch to vaping. Life is definitely more colourful smoke free. purplebox vapours is built upon expert advice, customer service and helping you choose the right product to make your vaping journey a success.

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