Or, how to piss off HamNo beyond all reason and maybe switch from cigarettes to a harm-reduction measure of getting your nicotine fix!

So, as you can guess I'm still not smoking. I had a rough patch last week and decided my old ecigs/personal vaporizer collection just wasn't doing it for me. I started vaping (ie, using an ecig as a nicotine replacement device) in 2010. I followed the advice of the veterans over at e-cigarette-forum.com and bought an eGo style kit, with some nicotine liquid that was cappuccino flavored. I eagerly tore open the box, dripped a few drops of liquid into the enclosed mouthpiece and that was it, I didn't smoke again for six months. (I was diagnosed with a weird spinal cord disorder/disease at that time and kind of freaked out and went back to smoking.) But the harm reduction factor of using an ecig is undeniable, and I'm not going to gloss over the fact that it can turn into an out of control but fun hobby in the process.

It really was that simple to drop a pack-a-day habit. I took a drag of my husband's cigarette that afternoon, took a drag of a delicious warm vapor that tasted like cappuccino, and I couldn't imagine smoking again. I've chased that initial feeling ever since.

No matter how many times I pawed through my basket of flavored liquids I just couldn't get it right. Either the juice was old and tasted like hell or the battery or atomizer/clearomizer (more on that in a minute) didn't have enough power/ flavor / vapor or the elusive "throat hit" that can make vaping as satisfying as smoking.

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An ecig is, in a nutshell, a small fog machine. Except instead of the dreadful stuff at the club, you're inhaling some combination of GRAS food flavorings, vegetable glycerin and/or propylene glycol. The glycerin and glycol produce the vapor, and of the flavorings are virtually unlimited, so much so that it can be overwhelming to sort through the cottage industry that has sprung up in the last several years of "gourmet" liquid producers. There's a reason that basket up there has twenty or so little bottles - buying "juice" is every bit as addictive as cigarettes or nicotine ever were. A battery powers an atomizer (or more commonly these days a "clearomizer" or "cartomizer"), which in turn warms the liquid to the inhalable vapor.

So if you're looking to try an ecig, where do you start? The online forums can also be overwhelming, with veterans claiming you should "mod" your own ecig, or just solder this or drill that and you'll be in great shape. I don't believe that at all. I think what most of us need is a quick and easy way to try a really good ecigarette, not just the disposable ones found at convenience stores. So, enter your local head shop or vape shop! You'll be able to sample a variety of batteries, atomizers and liquid flavors and strengths, and hopefully find a setup that works for you. But don't buy it locally unless they offer some amazing warranty! You will get a better deal online, I promise.

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I'd recommend something simpler, though, if you're up to it. I feel safe in doing this after successfully switching so many years ago, and now switching again after a week you wouldn't believe.*

If you're new to ecigarettes, you might "think" you want something that looks like a cigarette, and they do have their place, for sure. Many people have successfully switched using them, and I am not knocking them. But they get expensive as you're usually stuck using a proprietary "atomizer/cart combo," you have more limited flavor options (that are frequently just rank) and worse than that they break easily. As you can guess there is positively nothing worse than having failed equipment but a nicotine addiction that needs to be fed.

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My advice, and my current setup, is to immediately dismiss that idea that you want a cigarette look-a-like (cigalike). Part of a successful switch, imo, is embracing the novelty and alien form factor of current ecigs. Because while it looks like I'm "smoking" when I use my ecig, I'm not, I'm vaping and there's a difference.

I went with an option that cost me just under $50 out the door at a website I'd highly recommend (not affiliated in any way, just impressed with the pricing and speed, plus the quality of the liquid right out of the box, which you'll find is very important). I used coupon code ECF for a 10% discount, and standard shipping was free. I'm in Texas (as is this vendor) and I had my order in hand in three days.

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Two alternative options:

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As you may have noticed, both battery suggestions are for variable volt types. (The itaste also has variable wattage.) The advantage here is that as you fiddle with the wattage and/or voltage you are able to customize the vapor production to your liking. If you prefer a warmer vape, go up. Want the flavor to come through with a gentle throat hit? Turn it down a bit. Want that stuff to crackle like a damn Yule log? As high as you're willing to go. (You can burn out a clearomizer pretty easily - here's a handy chart for what to use, when.) The itaste also has a sweet little feature where it remembers what settings you preferred on a particular atomizer-device between changes.

Some pointers: I generally don't recommend tobacco flavors, oddly enough. It's more "fun" to switch to flavored vape. I DO recommend going with something like this chocolate mint or coffee flavors, which will have a "heavier" taste. If you're convinced you need a tobacco flavor, I highly recommend backwoodsbrew.net for any of their tobacco flavors, especially the Casablanca, which is kind of a complex pipe flavor, but "yummy" as well. Their Malty Toffee is also to die for. (Don't be discouraged if the site says they're closed right now, the owner will open it back up for ordering soon - he hates to get too swamped.)

And I know, the whole setup looks weird. But you know what? Smoking looks weird these days.

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One caveat: Avoid "butterscotch" or "custard" type flavors at any cost. There's some discussion over whether these flavor-bases, while safe for ingestion, are safe to inhale once warmed. Better safe than sorry, IMO.

In short, if you've ever thought about an ecig, DO IT. They're amazing, the initial cost is generally less than a few packs or a carton of cigarettes, but... start saving up right now, because you will want a backup. And more liquid. And even more liquid. And then newer style clearomizers or tanks or... It is still markedly less expensive than smoking, though, based on my own experience.

And go check youtube for detailed reviews of the "innokin itaste vv" - you'll be amazed at the vapor this thing produces!

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*No, seriously, this week. My husband is currently at a big box store buying construction supplies so that he can rebuild our garage (yes, UncleKim is a bamf) after my 16yo had a less-than-successful driving lesson. She hit the gas instead of the brake and plowed into the garage door, taking out the entire corner, damaging our vehicle, scarring her for life... I guess when she said "I don't know, I just don't feel comfortable really learning yet..." she really meant it.