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Electronic Cigarette Categories

The vape product market can be confusing. If you do a Google search on eCigs, electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or personal vaporizers, you will be overwhelmed by the number of products available. They are confusing with some looking like strange devices out of a sci-fi movie.

Here's how the industry categories products. It will help you make sense of what you read, what you see, and guide you to make a reasonable decision for your stop smoking efforts.

Mini electronic cigarettes (CigAlikes, Look Alikes)

Mini e-cigarettes are also called look-alikes, look-a-likes, cigalikes, look-likies, stick eCigs. Regardless of how they are labeled or what they are called, the distinct characteristics is that they look like the real cigarettes you are used to. Many are available with a familiar presentation that have the same colors (a cork color "filter" and white barrel "battery"). The components are either two or three parts:

Two part systems 'A'

  1. The cartomizer. This is the top part of the e-cig that you inhale through. Analogous to the "filter" portion of a real cigarette. The most common colors for the cartomizer are cork, white, and black – although they are available in just about every possible color.
  2. The battery. This is the bottom part of the e-cig. On a regular cigarette this would be the white portion that contains the tobacco and the end would be where the burning ember is. On an e-cig, these batteries are various power ratings from 90 mAh (milliamps) up to 380 mAh. The higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last in use. The vast majority of these mini batteries are all constant power output of 3.7V (volts).

Two part systems 'B'

  1. The clearomizer. This is the top part of the device that you inhale through. Analogous to the "filter" portion of a real cigarette. These are usually translucent with the top tip removable so that you can add eLiquid. Usually it is a top burning coil and you can see a wicking material that draws up eLiquid from the bottom of the clearomizer container.
  2. The battery. This is the bottom part of the device. On a regular cigarette this would be the white portion that contains the tobacco and the end would be where the burning ember is. On a personal vaporizer, these batteries are various power ratings from 90 mAh (milliamps) up to 380 mAh. The higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last in use. The vast majority of these mini batteries are all constant power output of 3.7V (volts).

Three part system

  1. The tank.
  2. The atomizer.
    ... in a two part system, the tank and atomizer form the "cartomizer", in a three part system they are separate. The advantage of a three part system is that the tank is usually translucent where you can see the level of eLiquid.
  3. The battery. This is the bottom part of the device. On a regular cigarette this would be the white portion that contains the tobacco and the end would be where the burning ember is. On a personal vaporizer, these batteries are various power ratings from 90 mAh (milliamps) up to 380 mAh. The higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last in use. The vast majority of these mini batteries are all constant power output of 3.7V (volts).

There are two main "formats" for mini electronic cigarettes. Those are known as 510, and 808. The most popular and flexible is the 510 format.

Many convenience stores now carry mini electronic cigarettes. They are available either in disposable format (cannot be recharged, puff them until either the battery dies or no eLiquid is left and then discard). Some are also available as rechargeable kits. The variety of flavors available in convenience stores is usually limited to three or four choices with no "flavor-testing" before purchase. Prices in convenience stores is usually 2 to 10 times higher than online or dedicated eCig vendors and the nicotine content (if any) is usually quite low. These are usually also proprietary and parts/accessories available only through the same store and manufacturer. In Canada, convenience stores sell eCigs with 0% nicotine.

We no longer report, test or review electronic cigarettes. These are mainly offered by traditional tobacco merchants with the vast majority produced by tobacco companies. They also rarely contain nicotine and tend to hinder the process of finding an alternate to cigarettes.

Personal Vaporizers (Mid-Size)

These do not usually look like regular cigarettes. They use larger batteries ranging in mAh: 350, 400, 450, 650, 800, 900, 1100 and 1300 mAh (some even larger). These are usually fixed or constant voltage output of 3.7V, although there are many "variable voltage" batteries that regulate the voltage between 3.4V to 4.8V. The theory behind variable voltage is that you can achieve a larger vapor cloud and more flavor. In practice, this is not necessarily true (I have mini eCigs that are better than some of these mid-size, which I also have). Mid-size range from "stealth" type that can easily fit in your hand all the way up nearly 12-inches long with the clearomizer at the top. At the left, I am showing the Vision Crystal kit that I bought from a flea market. It has a 400 mAh battery, charger, extra "coils" and a good quality clearomizer. I really like this unit, I can be "vaping" without anyone really knowing since the entire unit fits in my hand.

Mid-size electronic cigarettes are not typically held like regular cigarettes. They are usually "palmed", that is the entire battery is held in the palm of your hand and you move them to your mouth with the clearomizer tip at the top. Your thumb or forefinger then press the activation switch to toggle the battery on, then you inhale.

Mid-size electronic cigarettes are available in starter kit form. They are quite flexible and all components can be enhanced or upgraded with add-ons. These do not have the familiar presentation of regular cigarettes and are usually quite long. The batteries alone are longer than the entire regular cigarette. Add the top "cartomizer or clearomizer" and you can easily double or triple the length of a regular cigarette. At the right, I am showing an 1100 mAh EGO-C Twist with an EVOD clearomizer. The setup is almost 7 inches tall – doesn't matter what you do, you can only "palm" a portion of the battery, the rest sticks out.

Why consider mid-size electronic cigarettes, then? One of the first obvious reasons is to have a higher volume of eLiquid. Minis are usually 1 ml or less of eLiquid while mid-size are usually 1.5 ml up to 3.5 ml. Battery capacity is also a major consideration. For example, a 900 mAh battery can often last at least the better part of a day without recharge (for a one-pack a day smoker).

Advanced Personal Vaporizers

Mods covers the larger devices that include electronic circuitry. That means increased battery sizes, amps, and voltage enhancements. There really is no limit to battery size, although the most "common" in the large battery size formats is the 18650 battery. The 18650 battery is 68.4 mm tall and 18.33 mm in diameter. Compare this to the average mini electronic cigarette outer dimensions of 8.35 mm x 103.4 mm. There is a growing segment of even larger APV's using 26650 batteries. These are 26 mm in diameter (one inch) and the same length as an 18650.

Most of these tend to be large devices that attract what I call "competitive vapers", those that chase huge vapor clouds.

APVs are also considerably heavier. A mini e-cig, for example, can weigh mere ounces. An APV can easily come in 8 to 10 times heavier. At the right, I am showing a Vamo V5 I recently acquired. This is just the battery holder, a clearomizer needs to be added to the top (another 70-80mm). This unit can use either one 18650 battery, one 18350 battery, or two 18350 battires. It features the ability to adjust voltage and adjust wattage. It's also quite large. The diameter is 22mm. The length with one 18350 battery is 108mm, with two 18350 batteries is 139mm and with one 18650 battery is 141mm. Add another 70+mm for the clearomizer and you have a unit nearly  210mm (8 1/4 inches tall). Weight is 121g without the battery.

Mechanical.

Mechanical "mods" are devices designed to hold a battery and fire that battery without benefit of electronic circuitry. I need to point out that there are a small number of mechanical devices that have a "button" ... that is a small electronic insert that helps protect against overheating and burn out. Arguably, mechanical "mods" were the first on the scene of the vaping industry and were nothing more than flashlights converted over to ignite vaping liquid. Since then, mechanical mods have become a segment of the industry defined by a top, a tube, and sliding switch of some type. These can be works of artistry with extensive laser etching and decorations.

Recommendations

It doesn't matter what products you buy. Compared to regular cigarettes, you will still end up saving quite a bit of money and prevent any further tobacco related harm to your body. By switching from regular cigarettes to vaping you will be eliminating over 4000 nasty chemicals. I personally started with the Joyetech eRoll kit. The cost was about $60 and, with some eLiquid, provided me everything I needed to switch over. I have not regretted it. I have been experimenting with other vaping products. I also have a Vision Crystal Kit and separately bought a 1300 "twist" style battery (for adjustable voltage). And, I actually prefer the smaller 400 mAh battery included in the Vision Crystal Kit. I also bought different cartomizers and clearomizers to test out. My overall favorite is a cheap one I bought. So, you do not have to spend a fortune. If you sit down and calculate what you pay for regular cigarettes you will find your payback from your vaping "investment" is less than two weeks. My calculations show that I will save well over $3000 per year by switching to vaping ... and that's only if I continue "vaping". If I quit, as I plan to, my savings are substantially higher.

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