Using a vaporiser is known as ‘vaping’. Vaporisers (vapes or e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (usually containing nicotine) into an aerosol for inhalation. Vaping is used as a safer substitute by smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking or nicotine with approved therapies. It is not recommended for non-smokers or young people under 18 years of age.

Vaping is effective because it:

  • Delivers nicotine and relieves the urge to smoke, and
  • Provides a ‘smoking-like experience’ – it addresses the behavioural (hand-to-mouth action), sensory (‘throat hit’, taste, inhaling and exhaling a visible ‘smoke’) and social aspects of the smoking ritual – but without most of the harmful toxins in smoke.

There is growing evidence that vaping has helped many smokers to quit. Millions of smokers have quit overseas with vaping and personal vaporisers are the most popular quitting aid in the UK, US and EU.

Complete cessation of all tobacco and nicotine is always the preferred goal. Where this is not possible, vaping is a form of tobacco harm reduction (THR) which aims to prevent the harm from smoke without necessarily ceasing nicotine.

In Australia in 2016, 1.2% of adults or 240,000 Australians were using a vaporiser, according to the 2017 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. It is legal to use nicotine in a vaporiser in Australia if you have a prescription from a registered Australian doctor.

Vaping terms

Below is a list of common vaping terms.

  • 510 - Is the threaded connection between the tank (or atomizer) and the device. The term ‘510’ is used to refer to the male thread on the tank and to the female thread on the device.
  • 18650 - One of the most popular types of battery used in vaping devices. ‘18650’ is the measurements on the battery (i.e. 18mm diameter & 65mm long).
  • Airflow - Allows air to be sucked into the Tank or Atomiser. More open airflow is usually required with higher powered devices to produce more vapour.
  • All Day Vape - Refers to an eliquid that a vaper enjoys and is able to use all day without changing to another flavour. Very much a matter of personal preference.
  • Amps - The abbreviated word for Amperage. Amperage is the flow of energy along a circuit. Batteries that have a higher amperage (continuous discharge rating) are recommended for use with Atomisers with lower resistance (Ohms) and/or for higher power vaping.
  • Atomiser (“atty”) - This the part of the vaporiser that heats the e-liquid to produce the vapour. It typically consists of a wire coil and a wick made from cotton.
  • Auto Cut-Off - A safety feature in some devices designed to prevent overheating of the battery. For example if you leave your vaporiser in your pocket and it happens to push on the fire button, the device will automatically cut off in a certain time (usually 10 seconds)
  • Box Mod - Simply refers to the shape of the device i.e. box shaped (compare tube mod).
  • Direct to lung (DTL) - the practice of inhaling the vapour directly into the lungs rather than inhaling into the mouth first (MTL). Usually preferred by vapers seeking to produce bigger clouds of vapour.
  • Drip Tip - The mouthpiece of the atomizer or tank that is interchangeable allowing you change the size of the hole where you place your mouth. Drip tips are available in many styles, colours and materials.
  • Dry Hit - A very unpleasant experience that occurs when there is insufficient e-liquid in the tank or atomizer to prevent the wicking material (usually cotton) from burning. May also occur if power setting is too high or if airflow is insufficient.
  • E-cigarette - A term used in scientific studies and in the popular press to refer to a personal vaporiser. NB most vapers, having switched from smoking cigarettes to vaping, tend to dislike the term e-cigarette’, preferring terms such as personal vaporiser, advanced personal vaporiser (APV) or vaping device.
  • E-Liquid - Type of liquid designed for vaping and the substance that is vaporised to create vapour. The main ingredients in E-Liquid are Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin.
  • Fire Button - Is the button that activates the coil to start heating and creating the vapour. The fire button should only be pushed as you inhale and then released when you stop inhaling.
  • Flooding - This is when the atomiser/coil is overfilled which creates a gurgling sound, spitting of liquid in the mouth and reduced vapour.
  • LED - (Light Emitting Diode) The flashing light you will see when you turn on and off the device or adjust any of the settings.
  • mAh - (Milliampere-hour) This term refers to the battery’s capacity to store energy. The higher the mAh, the longer that battery life..NB batteries with higher mAh ratings tend to have lower CDR (continuous discharge rating) and may be unsuitable for high-powered devices.
  • Mod - (Short for Modifications) Originally meant the practice of modifying a flashlight or a battery to be used in vaping. The term is now used to refer to any vaping device that is not a pen-type or cigalike. The two main types of mods are box mods and tube mods, both of which may be regulated (containing a circuit board and safety features) or unregulated (fully mechanical).
  • Mouthpiece - see drip tip.
  • Mouth-to-Lung (MTL] - A very similar inhalation experience to a cigarette, the act of first inhaling into the mouth then inhaling down to the lungs. Usually requires a reduced (tighter) airflow and is often preferred by new vapers when first switching from smoking.
  • Ohm - Is a unit of measurement used for electrical resistance. Vaping with coils with a resistance of less than 1 ohm is referred to as sub-ohm vaping, which usually requires more power and produces more vapour than higher resistance coils.
  • Pen Style - A style of vaporiser that is shaped like a pen, these usually come as starter kits.
  • PG (Proplyene Glycol) - An ingredient in most E-Liquids. This ingredient is also known to be in Ice-creams, Food colouring, Salad dressings and boxed cake mix.
  • Priming - Before installing or using a new atomizer/coil, a few drops of E-Liquid are placed down the centre of the coil to let the liquid soak into the cotton so you don’t get a dry hit. This action is only done once when the coil is new and does not need to be done when filling the tank on a regular basis.
  • Rebuildables - A tank or atomiser where users can build their own coils and wick/cotton. This technique is commonly used by advanced vapours or users looking for something less expensive, better flavour, more vapour or even to turn it into a hobby.
  • Resistance (of the coil) - This is measured in ohms, the resistance depends on the material (common materials are Kanthal, Nickel and stainless steel) and thickness of the wire, circumference and number of wraps, and the number of coils.
  • RBA - An abbreviation for “Rebuildable Atomiser”
  • RDA - (Rebuildable Dripping Atomiser) also known as a ‘dripper”
  • RDTA - An abbreviation for “Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomiser”
  • RTA - An abbreviation for “Rebuildable Tank Atomiser”
  • Squonker - A type of device that feeds eliquid from the bottom through a hole in the bottom of the atomiser rather than dripping or feeding eliquid from the top
  • Starter Kit - A package that usually includes everything a vaper needs to get started. Usually included pieces - Tank, Mod, spare atomisers/coils, charging cable, instruction manual, warranty card. Note that (confusingly) ‘starter kits’ are not necessarily designed for beginning vapers. “Starter” simply means that the kit contains everything you need to get started vaping that particular device. Many vendors sell “starter kits” that have very high power and are designed for experienced vapers.
  • Throat Hit - The sensation you will get after the vapour hits the throat. Some users prefer a harsh throat hit similar to a cigarette and some prefer a softer hit. The sensation can depend on the flavour of E-Liquid and if the liquid has nicotine, the higher nicotine level strength the stronger throat hit you will get.
  • Vapour - Also referred to as “clouds” this is the substance diffused in the air when exhaling.
  • VG (Vegetable Glycerin) - An ingredient in most E-Liquids, this is the thicker ingredient when compared to PG, VG will create larger vapour, and has a sweet taste. Vegetable Glycerin in commonly found in Dairy and Protein foods, Grains, baked goods, sauces, condiments and alcoholic beverages.
  • VV (Variable Voltage) - A device that allows users to adjust the Voltage output.
  • VW (Variable Wattage) - A device that allows users to adjust the Wattage output. Higher wattage will create more vapour and lower wattage will create minimal vapour.
  • Wire - Is one of the materials used in the Atomiser/Coil. Popular wire types used for vaping include Kanthal, Nichrome and stainless steel.

Who is it for?

woman with cigarette

Vaping is  for adult smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking or nicotine with the currently available treatments. It can be especially useful for smokers who miss the hand-to-mouth ritual of smoking and a ‘smoking-like experience’.

Some former smokers continue to vape long-term to avoid relapsing to smoking. Others use vaping devices briefly as a quitting aid, switching to vaping for a time, then ceasing vaping altogether.

Other common reasons for vaping are to reduce cigarette intake, to avoid harm to others from second hand smoke and to save money.

ATHRA strongly discourages the use of vaporisers by non-smokers. Although much less harmful than smoking they are not risk-free. The vapour contains some chemicals which could cause unwanted health effects.

Vaping should also not be used under the age of 18 years or in pregnancy. However, in all situations, it is likely to be much safer than smoking.

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