Vaping 101: How It Works, Risks, Safest Options


Looking to kick your smoking habit and switch to vaping instead?

Simply put, vaping is the process of inhaling smoke-like vapor via a vape device or electronic cigarette. These handheld devices typically contain a flavored nicotine liquid called vape juice. But not all e-liquids contain nicotine.

Before you make the switch from traditional cigarettes, you probably have a lot of questions about vaping.

Is vaping safe for a young person and others?
How does it work?
How do you choose a device that’s perfect for you? And many more.

This comprehensive vaping 101 guide is just what you need!

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How Does a Vape Work?

A vape (aka vaporizer or electronic cigarette) works by heating an e liquid to release inhalable vapors.

Vapes have a battery source that powers a heating element (coil) that vaporizes vape juice in a small chamber (vape atomizer). From there, the user inhales the vapor by using a small mouthpiece.

The whole vaping mechanism aims to simulate how you would smoke a regular cigarette.

The main difference?
The e liquid in vape products evaporates compared to the burning of tobacco leaves in cigarettes.

While many experienced vapers shop a la carte for different vape parts, beginners are advised to stick to pre-packaged pod systems for ease of use.

Did you know? Vaping as we know it today began in 2003 when medical researcher Hon Lik patented and manufactured the first electronic cigarette. He did it to put an end to his smoking habit.

What Does Vape Juice Contain?

Vape juice or e liquid typically contains:

Besides, some low-quality and unregulated vape juices can also contain other harmful ingredients, including:

  • Diacetyl, acrolein, and diethylene glycol — chemicals known to cause lung disease
  • Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde — ingredients known to cause cancer
  • Vitamin E acetate, which is linked to acute respiratory illnesses like EVALI
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis/marijuana
  • Heavy metals, like tin, nickel, cadmium, and lead, can cause severe health effects

While it’s debatable how many of these ingredients are considered safe, nicotine is both addictive and harmful to your health.

Did you know? Diacetyl, commonly used in flavored e liquids, can cause ‘popcorn lung,’ a distinctive form of lung disease that blocks airflow.

Is Vaping Safe?

Vaping nicotine is considered much safer (90% safer, per experts) than traditional cigarette smoking.

Here’s the deal:
Cigarette smoke produced by burned tobacco contains roughly 7000 dangerous chemicals. 70 of these toxins can cause cancer. Additionally, secondhand smoke produced by regular cigarettes harms those around the smoker and remains a public health concern.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have compiled a list of haunting statistics showing how harmful smoking tobacco can be to your health. It has led to the following:

  • Over 480,000 deaths a year in the United States
  • Damage to all body organs and functions
  • Roughly 80% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-related deaths
  • 90% of lung cancer-related deaths
  • An increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke
  • An increased risk of death

But on the other hand, e cigarette aerosol has roughly 2000 chemicals - much lower than tobacco smoke.

Besides, e cigarette aerosol doesn’t include two of the most dangerous chemicals found in tobacco smoke from regular cigarettes — tar and carbon monoxide. Inhaling carbon monoxide stops your body from using oxygen effectively, potentially harming the heart, brain, and other vital organs.

Overall, vaping has a much smaller impact on your lungs and other bodily systems than cigarettes.

Having said that, vaping is only as safe as the quality of the ingredients in the vape juice.

As mentioned, low-quality vapes contain harmful ingredients and may pose health risks. To ensure a safe vaping experience, stick to a high-quality nicotine-free vaping product.

You may also be wondering…

A. What are the Health Risks of Vaping?

Below are some possible side effects of vaping nicotine and other harmful additives, like diacetyl and formaldehyde:

  • Coughing
  • Headaches & Oxygen dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Mouth and throat irritation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Impaired lung function
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Delayed healing of wounds
  • Heightened risk of developing ‘popcorn lung’
  • Increased risk of mental health issues
  • Increased risk of nicotine addiction (especially among youngsters)

B. Can Pregnant Women Vape?

Pregnant women should avoid nicotine at all costs. Doctors and medical professionals advise against nicotine use among pregnant women due to the harm it may cause the baby.

Studies show that vaping or smoking nicotine can harm fetal health.

C. Is Vaping Dangerous for Teens?

Vaping is unsafe for teens and young adults, primarily because of the high levels of nicotine that most vapes contain.

So, what does this mean for teens who vape?

The human brain continues developing until age 25, and nicotine use can impact brain development in a young person.


When you inhale nicotine, it disrupts the formation of brain cell connections. This can lead to long-lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, affecting learning, attention performance, impulse control, and more.

Another study found that young adults who vape nicotine, or THC (through cannabis), or both, were more likely to experience mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, than those who don’t.

Additionally, using nicotine during adolescence may also increase the risk of future addiction to traditional cigarettes and other drugs.

Despite such risks, teen vaping has increased over the years.

As per the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students use vaping devices.

Further findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey show that 3.7% (1 million) of all middle and high school students reported using some form of combustible tobacco product.

The most common tobacco product used?
Electronic cigarettes, with nearly 85% of users opting for flavored e cigarettes.

Most teens who vape use disposable devices that are compact, cheap, and come in various flavors. These tempting flavors and easy access to low-quality sneaky devices are the primary reasons for the surge in teen vaping.

And that’s not all.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), 99% of vape products sold in the United States contain nicotine.

The worst part?

Some vape liquids are marketed as nicotine-free despite containing nicotine.

What’s the Minimum Age to Vape Legally in the USA?

The federal minimum age to purchase and use tobacco and electronic cigarette products in the United States is 21.

The underlying law, often called Tobacco 21, came into effect in December 2019 as a response to the vaping epidemic, raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 years.

The new federal minimum sale age applies to all retail establishments and persons with no exceptions. Non-compliance could result in penalties and legal repercussions.

Learn more about the Tobacco 21 law and its implications here.

Did you know? Vaping nicotine among American youth doubled between 2017 to 2019, making it the largest increase in adolescent substance use ever recorded. The US Surgeon General declared a national vaping epidemic in 2018.

What Are the Benefits of Vaping?

Yes, vaping does have its plus points.

  • Vaping can help long-term smokers kick the habit: Vape juice offers varying nicotine strengths, which allows you to ingest only as much nicotine as you need to manage cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

  • Vaping is less damaging to your body than smoking: Vaping doesn’t expose you to carbon monoxide and tar —two of the main health risk culprits of cigarettes.

  • E cigarette aerosol is less harmful to bystanders: With about 2000 chemicals in e cigarette aerosols compared to 7000 in cigarette smoke. It’s no wonder that secondhand vape aerosols are safer!

What are the Different Types of Vaping Devices Available in the Market?

Since its conception, vapes or electronic cigarettes have evolved quite a bit.

Here are the six most common types of vape devices in the market:

  • Mod vapes (aka box mod or vape mod): A powerful and customizable vaping device with a large vape juice tank, high power output (which requires battery safety knowledge), and a high-powered vape atomizer to produce large vapor clouds.

  • Pod mod vapes (aka E-cigarettes): One of the most popular devices, the pod vape is available as both disposable and reusable. If reusable, they come with detachable and refillable e liquid pods.

  • Vape pens: These pen-shaped devices are slightly bigger than regular e-cigarettes. These sleek devices allow you to vape more discreetly.

  • Cig-alike vapes: This was the original design of the modern electronic cigarette as we know it today. They look and feel like a regular cigarette but aren’t as common now.

  • Dry herb vaporizers: These devices heat dry herbs and plant matter directly instead of vape juice. Tobacco leaves and cannabis flowers are two commonly used herbs for dry vaping.

  • Nicotine-free vapes: Nicotine-free vapes provide all the functionalities of the popular “pod mod” devices with one added benefit — they are nicotine-free! These devices allow you to enjoy vaping without risking addiction and exposure to harmful chemicals.

Can You Recharge a Disposable Vape?

Not all disposable vaping devices are rechargeable.

If your device is rechargeable, it will have a USB port and ship with a charging cable.

A non-rechargeable vape pen won’t have battery overcharge protection, and trying to recharge it could be risky. The battery could overheat and explode, causing serious injury.

This is why a thorough understanding of battery safety is required when choosing between different vape devices.

For more information on recharging a vape, read our detailed post on How to Recharge A Disposable Vape.

What Is the Correct Way to Vape?

Vaping for the first time is all about how you inhale the vapor. Inhaling incorrectly could lead to excessive coughing or a head-spinning nicotine rush.

Here’s what you need to do:
Keep it simple, and choose a vaping device that isn’t overly complicated and user-friendly.

For many beginners, a vaping starter kit is an ideal way to start their vaping journey as it comes equipped with the device, flavor pods, and a charger (if it’s rechargeable.)

There are two main inhalation techniques — mouth-to-lung (MTL) and direct-to-lung (DTL) — and every vape device will have either mechanism.

MTL vapes (usually a pod vape or other low-powered devices) offer a draw similar to a traditional cigarette, making them popular among new vapers looking for a cigarette-like experience.

They have smaller batteries, restricted airflow, and produce less vapor, allowing manufacturers to use vape juice with higher nicotine levels.

On the other hand, DTL vapes have large external batteries, unrestricted airflow, and produce large amounts of vapour — prompting manufacturers to use lower nicotine levels in the vape juice to account for these increases.

Want to vape like a pro? Check out this comprehensive article on How To Vape.

How Do You Choose the Right Nicotine Strength for Your Vape?

This vaping 101 guide should help you understand the difference between the two main types of nicotine.

Before we get into the details, here’s a quick rundown of freebase and salt nicotine used in vaping e-liquids:

Manufacturing Process Nicotine Strength Used with Ideal for
Nicotine Salts
(Salt Nicotine)
Made by mixing nicotine alkaloids found in tobacco plant leaves with benzoic acid. Up to 60mg Low-powered, easy-to-use, Mouth-to-lung (MTL) vaping devices. New vapers and people who need a medium to high nicotine intake and a smooth throat hit.
Freebase Nicotine Made by changing nicotine from its naturally occurring “salt state” into a pure nicotine concentration. 0mg to 18mg High-powered, Direct-to-lung vaping (DTL) devices. A heavy or chain smoker looking for a stronger throat hit.

Nicotine Levels in Nicotine Salts

Here are the standard nicotine levels in nicotine salt e-liquids.

  • 20-25mg: The 20-25mg nicotine range provides a smooth throat hit and is a perfect starting point for new vapers.

    When you first begin using nicotine salt vape juice, stick to this lower range for a while. It’ll lower the risk of head rushes or nicotine poisoning and help you build a tolerance for higher levels.

  • 30-40mg: If you’re an average smoker, the 30-40mg range is for you! Higher nicotine levels mean you’ll vape less while satisfying your nicotine craving.

  • 50mg: Excellent for a heavy smoker, the 50mg range offers a high amount of nicotine to manage your cravings when you quit smoking. Moreover, it’ll quickly satisfy nicotine cravings.

    First-time vapers must be wary of using the 50mg e-liquid strength. It may cause unwanted side effects or even nicotine poisoning.

    You may also find a nic salt e juice with 0% nicotine concentration. However, 0% nicotine concentration is more common in freebase e juice.

Nicotine Levels in Freebase Nicotine

Here are the standard e liquid nicotine levels in freebase nicotine vape juice:

  • 0mg: This nicotine-free vape juice is an excellent choice for first-timers or those who don’t want to inhale nicotine while vaping. This e liquid is a great way to enjoy vaping without risking nicotine addiction and other health risks.

    It’s also ideal for seasoned vapers looking to cut down their daily nicotine intake and manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

  • 3-6mg: This is the sweet spot for an average day-to-day light smoker or vaper who doesn't enjoy too much nicotine. The 3mg nicotine range allows you to get a medium dose of nicotine that’s not too harsh on the throat.

  • 12-18mg: The 12-18mg range is not for the faint-hearted. These high levels have a potent throat kick and can give you strong head rushes — making them suitable only for a veteran vaper or smoker.

What are the Benefits of Vaping Without Nicotine?

Vaping without nicotine prevents dependence, addiction, and other side effects associated with nicotine.

Additionally, a nicotine-free vaping product with flavored e liquids can help satisfy your sweet tooth without the guilt. It also provides a far smoother throat hit than vapes with nicotine.

What Is the Safest, High-Quality Vape I Can Try?

Opt for a high-quality nicotine-free vape to avoid exposing yourself to the health risks associated with nicotine.

The golden rule?
Always choose a trusted vape brand, like Cyclone Pods.

Cyclone Pods is a California-based brand that offers vaping products that are free from the following:

  • Nicotine
  • Diacetyl
  • Tar
  • Vitamin E acetate
  • Formaldehyde

Try the Thunder Device Starter Kit, featuring a rechargeable vape device, a charging cable, and a flavor pod of your choice. Choose from delicious flavor options like mango, menthol, strawberry, and more!

Looking for a disposable option?

The Gust Super is a disposable vape pen that offers up to 5000 puffs. The cherry on top - you can choose from 11 sensational flavour options, including watermelon, bold tobacco, and pineapple mango.

Why wait? Go over to CyclonePods and explore your options right away.

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