A Beginner’s Progression by Dan Hagar

Part One: “What the Hell is Vaping?”

My introduction to the world of vaping may be the same as yours. If you've struggled, or are struggling, with quitting smoking, I'm sure my story is very similar to yours.

In 2014 I was smoking cigarettes, about a half a pack a day. While not as bad as a two-packs-a-day smoker, the habit was gravely impacting my health. Clogged lungs, poor energy, stained fingers and teeth – you know the effects. I knew I had to quit, but every strategy in the past I'd tried had failed. Cold turkey? Sure, gave it a shot many times and failed in all attempts. Nicotine patches? Nope, still had the craving to have a cigarette in my mouth, oral fixation and all that (please, no jokes). Gum? Hated the taste and the juice upset my stomach. Praying to an uncaring God? No luck there.

I tried everything I could think of in desperation to stop smoking. My health continued to decline because I'd had the tobacco monkey on my back for nearly two decades. I'd been able to handle the bad health effects of smoking in my 20's back in the day, but now I was in my 40's and my body just didn't have the same constitution. It sure as hell didn't help that I weighed over 300 lbs and suffered from Crohn's Disease.

I had no energy, hacked up brown goo all the time (sorry you had to read that), and was all-around miserable. Tobacco is bad mojo for quality of life, indeed.

Then one glorious day on a whim I typed “smoking cessation” in the Google search bar, and one of the alternatives it offered in its drop-down menu was the word “e-cigarettes”. (Actually, when I first typed “smoking”, Google predicted my search as “smoking hot sorority babes” because I keep forgetting to clear my search history. I'm a very lonely man.)

What the hell are e-cigarettes, I thought to myself after clearing my search history. Looked promising. So I chose Google's eerily sentient search offering and started to read about all the various vaping products available.

And, to be honest, I was a bit confused. No surprise there, I slip into a state of confusion quicker than Jason Alexander slips into the character of “George Costanza” no matter what crappy TV show he's in. For years I was confused about “Deer Crossing” signs I saw alongside the road – I thought deer looked at those signs and thought, “Oh, cross the road here? Okay.”. The overwhelming majority of the buttons on my TV remote control should be labeled “I Don't Know What The Hell This Button Does” for greater accuracy.

Suffice it to say, I'm easily confused. And there's a hell of a lot of different vaping mods out there as we all know – mechanical mods, regulated mods, coils, tanks, batteries, all that good stuff. I didn't know where to start – and that was very frustrating. Trying to figure out what nicotine level I needed in e-liquid seemed impossible as well – there didn't seem to be any such information I could find on the 'Net.

Well, I figured, probably a good tactic would be to search for an e-cigarette store in my area. And I was in luck – only a short walk away from my home was a brick-and-mortar store selling just such equipment. Well, maybe not so lucky that going there involved walking – I'm lazy at heart; even my overweight sloth-like cat Larry stares at me and says, “Man, you're lazy.” And this is an animal who drags himself to his food dish while laying on the kitchen linoleum floor.

Looking back on it, visiting that particular store probably wasn't the best introduction to vaping for me. I think it was a shop set up solely to take advantage of the growing surge of interest in e-cigarettes. The guy who ran the store wasn't a vaping enthusiast – it seemed to me now he just wanted to push as many products out the door and make as much sweet, sweet profit while he could. Hey, I can't fault anyone wanting to make money, we all do – but I wish I had first met someone with a real interest in vaping, possessing the enthusiasm and heart so many of us in the community share.

But it is what it is. I bought an e-cigarette model that just didn't suit me, although I didn't know it at the time. I've been wracking my brain trying to remember the specific brand but I can't because I didn't use the damn thing very long. It was a thin pen model, a cheap device that could only hold a tiny amount of e-liquid in its wee little tank. I had to refill it all the time and worst yet, the vaping draw on it was weak and unsatisfying. I apologize for my spotty memory, I tend to forget a lot of things if they don't involve bacon, pretty bright flashing lights, or collectible crystal unicorn figurines.

But that cheap little vape pen did seem to help a little in my quest to forsake the damn'd tobacco. I was able to taper off the accursed analogs by a small degree. I had randomly picked some e-juice with 6 mg/ml nicotine levels and that amount helped my cravings to cease a little bit. As I read more and more about the various vaping products available, I realized I needed an e-cigarette with better capabilities. I wasn't too excited to go back to that crappy little e-cig shop, it was a pretty depressing experience just having products shoved in my face with no explanation on how they worked. But at least I could pick up some more unicorn figurines while I was out shopping.

Fortunately the brick-and-mortar store I had visited in the past had shut down. I learned later on word got around in my city's growing vaping community that the store had shady customer business practices. Sales dropped, complaints rose, and the manager decided to close the whole thing down. An object lesson, really: if your heart isn't in something, it probably ain't gonna fly. Like sometimes I think I should try being a famous rapper like “50 Cent”. I'm Canadian though, so due to money conversion rates, my name would be “37 Cent”. But my heart's just into pursuing that particular career.

I began to search for another brick-and-mortar e-cigarette store. In the meantime, on a whim, I bought an eGo vape pen starter kit at a gas station. Yeah, I know, I know... not the best place to purchase one's vaping equipment! But I liked buying my regular cigarettes at that gas station, they had a comfy bench beside the pumps to sit on while I lit up.

And y'know... that eGo pen wasn't that bad, really. It had a much better draw on it than my previous e-cigarette and the batteries lasted for a decent time. I learned how to change and prep the coils and other basics. And the biggest step up for me was laying off the tobacco more and more as I became accustomed to vaping. A big part of it was enjoying the e-liquid flavor a lot more than burning icky tobacco. Having the option to choose from a wide variety of flavors was a lot better than the one and only taste a tobacco cigarette offers: “Burning Plant Matter”. Oh, I'm sorry, there's menthol too, which I call “Burning Plant Matter That Tastes Like Vicks VapoRub Ointment.”

The big problem with the eGo pen model I owned was its plastic tank. More than once the plastic thread on it shattered while in my pants pocket. The tank couldn't take any undue pressure... if I leaned on a wall or sat on the pen, it invariably broke. It was an unfortunate collision between weak plastic and my inherent clumsiness. I won't bore you relating the various times I've nearly removed myself from this planet in accidents involving power tools, cooking food, or even just walking down the street. I'm so clumsy I once slipped on a banana peel – which doesn't sound like much, but please know that the peel was still on the banana and I was holding it while sitting on a chair.

I knew I needed a better vape set-up. Fortunately on my next walking (ugh) excursion, I found a new brick-and-mortar store with a staff of vaping enthusiasts. They took the time to figure out what I needed, at the price I could afford. I got a good deal on a Joyetech E-Vic VTX Mini mod with a Cubis Pro tank. It suited my needs perfectly.

The enthusiasm of the people at that store was infectious, too, and really lifted my spirits and determination in my quest to quit smoking cigarettes. These people took their time to learn and explain all the details about the equipment they sold. And – wonder of wonders – they had an e-juice tasting vape bar! This was impressive to me. Now I could loiter around the store all day trying new e-juices instead of staying at home and getting into arguments with my cat Larry over who ate all the HotPockets.
I used that E-Vic more and more, and tobacco cigarettes less and less. A big part of it was the store's staff turning me onto quality e-juice, not the crappy single-flavor ones I had purchased from gas stations and that crappy B&M in the past. Now I really enjoyed the whole vaping experience; the Cubis Pro may not be a fancy Clapton coil rig, but it does deliver quite decent flavor. And having good e-juice in the first place is the name of the game.

Finally I was able to make it through one day without lighting up a coffin nail. Then, two days. Three days. Four. And then, one glorious day, I had no urge whatsoever to smoke a gross, foul-smelling cigarette. The compulsion just wasn't there. I wanted to stick to vaping, so I did.

I had finally quit cigarettes. Finally! Thank you, vaping! And thank you, George Takei, just for who you are. Even though those scenes in the original Star Trek episode “Amok Time” where you were shirtless, sweaty, and waving a fencing foil around sexually confused me as an adolescent, I still think you're one hell of an actor.

Stopping the tobacco habit had a dramatic effect on my health. I had more energy. Horror of horrors, I actually began to enjoy walking! Good Lord. This phenomenon confused me. The only movement I had enjoyed in the past was moving my massive bulk from the comfy chair to the fridge, because I knew there was a reward at the end of my journey in the form of delicious pudding. Now I loved going outside and vaping, wandering the streets with my thoughts which mostly involved staring up at building rooftops and wishing I was Batman.

As my health improved, I became more dedicated to making my life better. I began to jog – for short distances at first. Very short distances. Like, half a block. At the end of which I'd be gasping and sweating while small children pointed and asked their parents, “Is that man going to die, Mommy?”

But I got better. And I began to lose weight. My spirit improved because I knew I wasn't ever going back to tobacco cigarettes – the urge just wasn't there. In fact, the idea of putting burning plant matter in my mouth again was gross and repellent. You know the feeling. It's a good feeling.

With hard work, determination, staying off the tobacco and sticking to a healthy diet, over the months I lost one hundred pounds. Getting down to two hundred pounds in weight was a struggle, but a wonderful reward. My quality of life improved; I was happier, and some women were actually looking at me and not screaming in terror. Even Larry wasn't insulting me (as much).
So that's how I got into vaping. Maybe our stories are similar; if so, I hope vaping assists you as much as it continues to help me improve my life. Hell, to a certain degree vaping has saved my life... I was certainly shortening my time on this planet by constantly smoking tobacco. Well, besides the times I nearly shortened my life considerably by seeing if those “Warning: Choking Hazard” labels on plastic shipping bags are true or not.

I hope you enjoyed this cry for he – er, personal story o' mine. Next up, I'll get into how I've learned more about vaping, becoming a regular at that excellent brick-and-mortar store I found, and the best deals on Amazon for crystal unicorn figurines. Also stay tuned to read about my adventures getting into the whole DIY e-mixing scene and when I spilled a half a liter of propylene glycol on my nether regions. It's fun, wacky, and involves a lot of profanity. All my best & happy vaping!

Written by

Daniel "SlackerDan" Hagar


Daniel is a contributor and writer for DIYorDIE