We don't exactly endorse e-cigs and vaporisers, but they seem to be a hell of a lot better for you than fags, and hey, you have the right to choose what you suck on, within the law.
One potential use for vapes and e-cigs is as part of a process of giving up smoking entirely. However, we're starting from the assumption here that you're intending to vape because you like it.
Most smokers dread the thought of not being able to have a puff when they feel like it, especially travellers on long-haul flights. Nicotine patches quell the urge to some degree but it's not an instant solution. Vaporisers and e-Cigarettes are the best options in this respect because they fulfil the two main prerequisites of a smoker: nicotine grip in the throat, and the sight of smoke being exhaled.
The clever thing about vapes and e-cigarettes is that the smoke being exhaled isn't actually smoke; it's nicotine-infused vapour (or steam) which appears to be less harmful than carcinogen-laden tobacco smoke. What's more, it evaporates in a flash leaving no nasty smells in its wake.
What IS a vaporiser/vape, then?
A vape pen or vaporiser doesn't necessarily look anything like a cigarette and that can be a good thing since no one can mistake it for a proper cigarette when used in a public place. You can easily spot someone who is using a vaporiser – it looks like they're playing a penny whistle while the air around them turns to fog.
Most vapes use a screw-in atomizer or clearomiser that encompasses a heating element and a large transparent e-liquid chamber. Simply fill the chamber with e-liquid (there's a huge range of flavours and nicotine strengths to choose from), press the button a few times and the e-liquid is heated to a set temperature.
Vape pens produce far more vapour than e-cigarettes or even ordinary ciggies (we're talking plumes of the stuff – like an oral bonfire). They also provide a much longer and more satisfying vaping experience.
The downside is that, depending on usage, the atomiser section needs to be replaced every month or so. Vaporisers are mostly available through online outlets.
What is an e-cigarette?
A cigarette-shaped, electronic smoking device comprised of three main components: a battery, a heating element and a cartridge containing e-liquid (water, nicotine and other ingredients including glycerol). When a user sucks on the end, the e-liquid is automatically heated and turned into vapour, which delivers a decent hit of nicotine.
An average eCigarette produces almost the same amount of vapour as a cigarette does smoke. However, because the electronically-controlled cartridges they use are disposable, they can be more expensive to use in the long term than vapes.
E-cigarettes are available from most corner shops.
What is the best vape?
Easy. The V2 Series Pro. It's an easy to handle, reasonably cigarette-like vape pen that ticks all the key vaping boxes.
1. V2 Pro Series 3
The best vape pen around
The V2 Pro is the Apple Mac of vaporisers. It's superbly designed as a single unit with a refillable mouthpiece cartridge attached using magnets.
Unlike other vaporisers, the V2's cartridges don't need unscrewing and emptying in order to change to a different flavour; you simply pull one out and drop in another.
The mouthpiece's draw resistance is set just right and is pretty close to that of a real cigarette. Like all vaporisers, to turn it on you press the battery button a number of times (three times with this one, five with many others). Now hold the button in and suck. Bingo. Substantial plumes of the stuff.
Specialist baccy fans will equally fancy a punt on the optional dry herb atomizer (£17.25). It's essentially the same as the liquid-carrying cartridge only it's been adapted to take herbal remedies. Dry herbs don't produce anything like as much vapour e-liquid but we've heard the results speak (gibberish) for themselves.
In the pantheon of vaporisers, few hold a candle to this model; it's just so efficient and easy to use.
2. Philip Morris iQOS
Best vape for cigarette taste and feel
If you find that vaporisers ultimately fail to emulate both the taste and effects of real cigarettes, then consider this new tobacco-heating alternative from Marlboro producer Philip Morris.
The iQOS uses proprietary Heets (HeatSticks that resemble filtered cigarettes in all but length). These specially formulated mini Marlboros are pushed, filter up, into a small handheld battery unit that heats the tobacco to 350 degrees – real cigarettes burn at around 800 degrees.
To ‘smoke’ it, simply put filter to lips and draw. The effect is very similar to that of a traditional cigarette: it produces roughly the same amount of smoke (in this instance a quick dissolving vapour) and provides the same nicotine grip in the throat.
Similarly, taste, sensation and satisfaction levels are all much closer to that of a conventional cigarette.
However, the filter tip does get quite warm, as if a smoker with a heavy draw has offered up the last few puffs of a cigarette.
Although it’s still undergoing medical trials, research has shown that chemical residues in heat-not-burn tobacco products like this are 90% lower than with their conventional counterparts.
Heets are available in three Marlboro-like flavours (including menthol) and retail at £8 for a pack of twenty.
3. Vype Pebble
Best vape for ease of use
Philip Morris isn’t the only major tobacco player to make inroads into the alternative cigarette sector. Here comes British American Tobacco with its cute little Pebble, a conventional e-liquid vaporiser that uses pre-sealed liquid cartridges in six different flavours (from Golden Tobacco to Fresh Apple) and three nicotine strengths (6,12 and 18mg/ml).
The Pebble is easily the smallest, most pocketable vaporising unit on the market right now. Its flattish pebble shape is perfect for stashing in even the tightest of slim jeans pockets and it couldn’t be easier to use. Simply push in a disposable e-liquid cartridge (£5.99 for two), charge it up via the Mini USB port, press the titchy button and puff.
The Pebble’s draw strength is set just right and it produces a very decent volume of vapour, too. However, the jury’s out on the flavours of some of its proprietary e-liquids.
4. Apollo OHM GO Vaping Kit
Best vape for 'cloud chasers'
Apollo is a major player in vapeland and its e-liquids are among the very best. This highly engineered beast is the largest and most highly-specced model on the page, being 16cm in length.
So if you want to go head-to-head against the city’s most ardent cloud chasers then this is the model to turn up with. It produces spectacular levels of smooth strato-cumulus-like vapour that just keeps on coming. Very impressive.
It’s easy to use, too, and comes with a draw-resistance dial and an extra coil that allows users to engage in two methods of vaping: mouth-to-lung (rather like a cigarette) and direct lung inhale (like a shisha pipe). Expect a full day of vaping on a single charge.
Slick two-in-one vape pen for connoisseurs
The current trend among herbal smokers is towards loose-leaf vaporisers such as this elegant and discreet, tech-filled model from PAX.
The PAX3 is about four inches tall and less than an inch in width, making it arguably the smallest herbal vaporiser on the market.
Rather uniquely, the PAX3 accommodates both dry herb and concentrate (usually in the form of a wax) so discerning vape aficionados get the best of both worlds.
The onboard technology here is impressive, too. The main heating coil automatically activates as soon as you draw and offers four different heat levels that can be adjusted with the press of a button or, better still, using the accompanying iPhone/Android app.
Loose-leaf products like this don’t produce much vapour but aficionados love them because they produce the desired taste without the whiffy fumes.
6. V2 EX Series Shisha Sampler Kit
Best button-free vape pen
This elegant new shisha-style vape pen is just the ticket for anyone who wishes to experience vaping without the need for any button pressing.
Unlike most vaporisers which require you to hold in a coil-heating button, with this, one you just suck and the coil automatically fires up.
The V2 EX doesn’t produce as much vapour as its larger Pro series stablemate, but it’s perfectly adequate for the former smoker wishing to move over to something considered a lot safer.
The EX is about the width of a standard cigarette but twice as long. Filling it with e-liquid is a bit fiddly but in the main this is an easy system to get a handle on. The Sampler Kit reviewed here comes with two batteries, a USB charger, three refillable e-liquid cartridges and a variety six-pack from V2’s excellent e-liquid range.
7. Blu Go
This is more like what you've probably spotted in your newsagent. No set up, no battery, no charging… Just rip it out of the package and you're away.
Available in Tobacco or Menthol, one of these disposable electronic cigarettes (they're sold individually) provides the same amount of smoking that you'd get in two packs of traditional snouts.
They're not as fancy as others in this roundup, but they do produce excellent vapour and don't require the same level of commitment. They’re also readily available at corner shops up and down the country.
However, sticking to a disposable system like this will be more expensive in the long term.
8. Volcano Inferno Starter Kit
Best vape for style. Admittedly not a big claim
If you hanker after something that looks a little more elegant and less like a rocket, try this excellent model from Volcano.
The lady-like Inferno isn't much longer than the V2 Pro so it's quite discreet. It's also available in eight electric colours. The look and build quality of this vaporiser suggests it was designed from the ground up which is a good thing since so many others look like they've been fashioned from old torch housings –which, amazingly, is sometimes because they actually have.
It also comes with two batteries (one long, the other short) which is very handy for heavy users on a long night out.
The draw resistance isn't as well dialled as the V2 and it also bubbles a bit when drawing; a common anomaly with many vaporisers. But if you're in the market for something a little more stylish, give the Inferno a whirl.
9. Liberty Flights Taste Kit
Best vape for variety of flavours
The Taste Kit uses dual coil technology and is one of the shortest vaporisers on test, though it’s still weighty and robust.
Drawn to this one by Liberty Flight’s huge range of XO flavours (sweet and sour, berryish, a little sickly but overall quite pleasant), you go from complete vape newbie to puffing away in no time – as with all on test, you learn after the first throat-smashing pull that gentle inhaling is best.
The Taste Kit is easy to operate but fiddly to fill; as is the case with most intermediate vaporisers of this nature. But battery life is excellent – I got a whole week of puffing out of one charge.
Vape strength could have been more consistent, mind.
10. Innokin Cool Fire 2 Kit
Best 'advanced' vape
A grenade-shaped vape kit of middling complexity – not for beginners, but not too super-technical either.
The Cool Fire contains a dial that allows you to adjust the wattage between 7.0 and 12.5 in 0.5W increments. This comes into its own when you start to get a feel for which flavours work best with a bit more or a bit less power behind them, which also affects whether you get wetter or dryer throat hits.
Features for this one include a traffic light-esque full/medium/low power indicator, short circuit protection and a 10 second cut-off to prevent overheating. It's not bad at all.