If you're looking to give up smoking, and the usual nicotine replacement therapies just aren't cutting it, electric cigarettes could be the answer you're looking for. E-cigarettes generate a nicotine-enriched vapour that isn't covered by the smoking act, which is why they've been spotted more and more frequently in the wild -- in bars, bookshops, cafes and even causing a stir on a Megabus.
While the option is available to pick up an e-cig that looks like a traditional cigarette, would-be e-smokers can also opt for a range of different models that look more like an electrical device. We wanted to test the full range, and the only caveat was that all devices, no matter how advanced, could be bought as a full kit and not as confusing, individual modifications.
You refill these devices in one of two ways: using cartridges bought from the supplier, or buying liquid and refilling the cartridges yourself. Refillable models will need parts changing when they reach the end of their life, but overall they're cheaper and offer e-smokers a chance to shop around for price and flavours.
Note: While these devices provide an alternative to smoking, they still contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. E-cigarettes cannot be called a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the UK as they're not approved by the Medicine and Health products Regulatory Agency.
We tested these cigarettes with three main subjects -- a regular smoker, a social smoker, and someone who switched from smoking to vaping several months ago. We were looking to see if vaping could replace smoking in the first two, and which of the devices appealed most to a relatively seasoned vaper. Factors to consider were throat hit (that scratchy/heavy feeling you get at the back of your throat when inhaling smoke), form, battery life and ease of use.
E-cigarette smokers and some manufacturers are insistent that e-smoking be referred to as 'vaping', and e-cigarette smokers are in fact 'vapers'. Serious vapers are a proud people, and the industry has shot up some interesting communities, festivals and forums like UKVapers who run Vapefest.
E-lites are most probably the brand you've seen at your local off licence or convenience store -- and their spread and availability on the high street is growing.
These look like cigarettes. They're cigarette-shaped, cigarette-coloured and they even come in a cigarette box styled case. Unlike a cigarette, however, the box actually acts as a charger for your battery as well as somewhere to keep spare cartridges.
Each cartridge apparently holds 40 cigarettes' worth of puffs and easily screws on to the battery with no fuss at all. We found in testing that all cartridges didn't appear equal -- some seemingly lasting a lot longer than others. Refills can be bought directly from E-Lites or from one of their retailers across the UK.
The throat hit was the most muted of the bunch, even with the stronger cartridges attached, which made for a somewhat frustrating vape. The real benefit of these is their discreet design and foolproof ease of use.
• Basic starter pack price: £36.99
• Refill price: £7.99 for 2 E-Tips (approx 80 cigarettes worth)
• Gizrank: 3.0
This device was surprisingly good. Throat hit was as good as most, and it produced nice clean tastes -- no unpleasant burning plastic flavour. Not much wider than a traditional cigarette, The Totally Wicked Ego-C form factor was nice and a lot slimmer than the bigger liquid refill models we tested. This makes it discreet and extremely portable, and to its credit it takes a single AAA battery (starter pack comes with 2 rechargeable batteries and USB charger).
The downside of its slender size is the liquid capacity and battery life. We felt this suffered particularly when leaving the house (read: going out for a pint) when you'd anxiously have to bring a spare battery and liquid bottle with you. This, of course, depends on usage and it was interestingly favoured by our social smoker.
• Basic starter pack price: £44.99
• Refill price: £16.99 for 30ml
• Gizrank: 3.5
When you buy a Liberty Flights Vision Ego V2 kit, you're essentially buying two sets of the same device. The starter kit includes two batteries, two cleartomisers, a charger, and a selected liquid. The advantage of this is that you can use one while the other is charging, or carry a spare one with you if you're planning on an extended trip.
Throat hit was good and battery life lasted around a day of regular use. As far as refilling goes, you simply twist off the mouthpiece, fill up, and go. The 'cleartomiser' head holds 1.6ml of liquid which is more than enough for an evening of heavy vaping or a day of regular use with our testers. At £44.99, this represents great value for money and even comes with a (bulky) carrying case.
• Basic starter pack price: £44.99
• Refill price: £14.49 for 30ml
• Gizrank: 3.5
This is one beautifully-designed beast. The design is a result of Totally Wicked's work with UCLAN to and produce something unique in the market. It's aimed at the experienced vaper, but it has to be said that if all the devices had as much design thought assigned to them they'd surely lure more away from smoking the usual fags.
Design aside, the Odyssey is the heaviest of the bunch, though that's par for the course, considering it's a piece of tooled metal. Vaping with this produced a very strong throat hit and about as much flavour as you'd expect from a device that takes liquid. It took a little longer to put together than the rest, though the instructions were clear and it's a small learning curve you'd only have to experience once.
Battery life was very good, among the best, and like the Totally Wicked Ego Slim it takes separate batteries (AA) and comes with a rechargeable set. With the activating button at the bottom of the device, it fits neatly under your pinky and gives a reassuring click when it's locked. Unfortunately, the smaller-handed members of the test group had a little trouble pushing it in enough without a little discomfort.
At £89.99, this is the most expensive of the bunch, but for something of this build quality you won't feel shafted. However, if you're looking to vape incognito, this isn't the device for you.
• Basic starter pack price: £89.99
• Refill price: £16.99 for 30ml
• Gizrank: 4.0
The Innokin iTaste VV has the portability of the Ego style devices with some interesting extra features. The VV portion of the name stands for 'variable voltage', which you can change up and down with buttons at the bottom of the device. A handy LCD screen shows your voltage setting and a puff counter displays how many drags you've taken. Varying the voltage changes the amount of taste, strength and vapour you get with your liquid -- allowing users to find a sweet spot that suits them.
Design-wise, it's quite an attractive product; the device has squared edges and comes in a pleasing black metal finish. This kit couples the Innokin VV with a cleartomiser head which most of our testers agreed was the best set up on offer. Though you only get one battery, it lasted almost a full two days of relatively heavy vaping and comes with a nifty USB charger that doesn't demand you unscrew the cleartomiser.
In terms of throat hit, it produced the strongest (after some tinkering with the voltage) and the tastes were clear and defined. Though it was the longest of the bunch, it wasn't the heaviest, and overall testers agreed that this was the best price to design and function device at just £36.99.
• Refill price: £9.99 for 30ml
• Gizrank: 4.5
The MVP was an impressive device -- identical to the Innokin VV but with a behemoth 2600mAh battery which can also be used as a portable charger for your smartphone. A good choice at just £49.99, but its size made it irritating to carry.
Totally Wicked Tornado Tank
Similar to the Ego-C slim, the Tornado Tank packs a larger form factory, battery and a slightly different set-up. Unfortunately, the device didn't prove as user-friendly as the cleartomiser options, though it's competitively priced at £34.99.