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How to choose the right e-cigarette

How to choose the right e-cigarette

John Boughey |

Last fact-checked 15 January 2021 | Report a factual error on this article

If you’ve never vaped before, how do you know which vape device is right for you?

E-cigarettes are a game-changer for those of us trying to quit tobacco. In Great Britain alone, vaping has already helped 2.2 million ex-smokers to break the habit footnote 1. But where do you start if you’re a complete novice? There are hundreds of different vaping devices out there, and if you’re new to vaping, the sheer volume of choices available to you can be baffling. 

From cig-a-likes to sub-ohm mods, we’ll give you a brief run-down of the differences between each type of vape device, and help you choose the one that’s right for you. 

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E-cigarettes and Vape Devices

Vape devices break down into four main categories: cig-a-likes, vape pens, pod systems and box mods. They all look very different, but the basic parts are always the same. 

All e-cigarettes have an atomiser powered by a battery. The e-cigarette’s atomiser heats a small reservoir of e-liquid, and converts that liquid into vapour. It’s this vapour that you draw into your mouth and/or lungs when you vape. Sometimes, the e-liquid reservoir (tank) is part of the atomiser, and sometimes it’s separate. There are lots of other parts to an e-cigarette (mouthpieces, USB charging stations, cartridges, coils, wicks, LCD screens and so on), but you don’t need to know all about them when you’re starting out. 

We’ll explain the basic properties of each type of e-cigarette below…


Cig-a-like (cigarette lookalike) devices aren’t as popular as they once were. These early vape devices were often styled to look like cigarettes, and came pre-loaded with e-liquid. Cig-a-likes gave vaping’s ‘early adopters’ enough familiarity to make the switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, but the devices were rarely built to be refilled or recharged. They also offered very little choice in terms of flavour, and tended to leak vape juice.

Refillable and rechargeable cig-a-like devices do now exist, but we don’t recommend them. The problem with these devices is that, by trying to mimic the shape and size of a cigarette, they have to compromise on important features like airflow and battery choice. If you want the familiar feel of a cigarette, we recommend looking at a small vape pen or pod device instead.


Vape Pens

Shaped roughly like a pen (hence the name), these popular devices usually come with long-lasting rechargeable batteries. They’re not disposable like a cig-a-like (although the coil in the atomiser will have to be replaced every so often), but they are usually small enough to fit in a pocket. The cylindrical shape means that they ‘feel’ like a cigarette, making them a perfect starting point for new vapers. 

E-liquid is not pre-loaded in a vape pen (you have to add your own vape juice to the atomiser tank), but on the plus side, the device itself should last for years. You can also upgrade to better batteries, mouthpieces, atomisers and so on as-and-when you’re ready.


Pod Systems

Often shaped like a small USB dongle or remote control, pod systems are a good choice for new vapers who value ease-of-use and variety over the traditional feel of a cigarette.

Each pod system sells its own proprietary ‘pods’, which are normally click-in cartridges consisting of an atomiser and e-liquid tank in one. These ‘pods’ just slot into the main (battery) part of the vape device and allow the vaper to reload their e-cigarette with minimal fuss and spillage. 

You don’t have to stick to the pre-set flavour choices of the pod brand if you don’t want to. While some brands do sell single-use cartridges pre-loaded with e-liqud, most will sell you a refillable pod with replaceable atomiser coils so that you can add our own shortfill and reduce waste.  

Pod systems are easy to use and they give you the freedom to have more than one flavour on the go at any one time (you can just swap out your ‘dessert’ pod for your ‘tobacco’ pod or your ‘menthol’ pod whenever you like). The downside of a pod system is that you’re locked into that one brand of vape device (for instance, a SMOK Nord pod won’t fit an Aspire Gusto system and vice versa), and spent pods have to be thrown in the bin — you can’t recycle them. 


Box Mods

Box mods are the most flexible and most advanced option on the market. Their shape can be offputting for new vapers, but they’re the most versatile types of vape device on the market. 

If vaping is becoming a hobby for you, then chances are you’ll want an adjustable box mod. The best box mod devices allow you to set your own temperature, wattage and  coil resistance, and often have an LCD screen that helps you track your settings and achieve the perfect vape. 

Box mods rarely come with an atomiser — instead, they have a standard ‘510 connection’ at one end, which will allow you to add the atomiser and/or tank of your choice. 

There are two types of box mods: regulated box mods (built to UK legal standards), and unregulated mechanical mods (effectively empty boxes that require you to add your own circuits, batteries and other electrical components). Our advice is to steer clear of mechanical mods. These unregulated devices don’t need to meet any safety standards whatsoever — you can’t be sure what the boxes are made out of or whether they’ve been tested for fire safety.

What type of e-cigarette should I buy?

Still unsure about which device type will suit you best? The table below explains some of the unique features of each type of e-cigarette:

Cig-A-Likes Vape Pens Pod Devices Box Mods
Difficulty of use? Beginner Beginner to Intermediate Beginner to Intermediate Intermediate to Advanced
Flavour choices? Limited Unlimited Unlimited * Unlimited
Can I add my own e-liquid? No Yes Yes * Yes
Sub Ohm? Rarely Sometimes Sometimes Often
Replacement parts needed? N/A - normally single-use disposable devices Some parts (coils etc) will need to be replaced regularly Pods and/or pod coils may need to be refilled or replaced Some parts (coils etc) will need to be replaced regularly
Battery life? Poor Decent Decent Best
Typical Device Size? Small Medium Small Large
Vaping method? Usually draw-activated Draw-activated and push button available Draw-activated and push button available Push button activated
RDA tanks available? No No Sometimes Yes

* Some pod device brands only sell pre-loaded single-use disposable pods. Always check the product description, and see if you can buy refillable pods, before making your purchase. We sell refillable pods for the most popular pod systems in our Replacement Pods Department.

Picking a Device That Suits Your Personal Vaping Style

Before committing to one type of vape device, it pays to think about how you’ll probably use the device. Ask yourself a few questions…

Are you trying to quit tobacco?
Quitters and hobbyists have very different needs. Cigarette quitters should really start off with small, easy-to-use devices that pack a nicotine hit (typically vape pens and pod systems), whereas hobbyists are going to want more control over the temperature, wattage and voltage settings (pens and box mods). If you think you might fall into both categories, a vape pen is probably your best bet to begin with. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good battery when you’re quitting cigarettes. If you’re hit with a sudden nicotine craving, your e-cigarette needs to be ready to go! Learn more about quitting cigarettes with e-cigarettes

Is this going to be your only device?
If you want to rotate flavours throughout the day (menthol, fruits, tobacco, desserts etc), then you’ll need multiple atomisers. You can either buy two or more vape pens or you can get a pod system with a lot of cartridges, and do it that way. See our full selection of pod kits

Are you a heavy smoker?
If you’re currently a heavy smoker, then you’ll probably be a heavy vaper for a little while after you quit tobacco. Strong build quality and high-grade materials are going to be important. You’ll need a device that makes it easy to access and replace the coil, too. Some pod systems have really user-friendly “plug n’ play” coil systems, allowing you to just pull a spent coil out of an empty pod and push another coil in. These will be a great choice for you, as will vape pens and box mods.

Where will you be vaping most of the time?
A lot of this comes down to device weight and battery life. If you’re planning to vape during work breaks, then a lightweight device with a long-lasting battery is essential. If you’re only going to be vaping at home, then you will be closer to your charging station and you won’t  have to worry about battery life too much.

Are you going to want to upgrade components?
Box mods are usually the best choice for someone who’s going to want to upgrade various parts of their e-cigarette at a later date. Just make sure you pick one with 510 connectors (this is the closest thing the vaping industry has to a ‘universal’ connector).

The Best e-Liquid for Quitters

Don’t try to find an e-liquid that matches your favourite brand of cigarette — that’s our advice. You’ll miss out on a whole world of new flavours if you do that, and you’ll never get it ‘just right’. There are hundreds of unique premium tobacco-flavoured e-liquids on the UK market, and you’ll enjoy sampling a few different options. The flavours are all unique, and the throat hit of each juice is different, too (it all depends on the nicotine strength and the VG/PG Ratio of the e-liquid). Please get in touch if you’re struggling to pick the right flavour. We know our product lines really well and we’ll be happy to give you a steer. 

Another option for new vapers is to buy an e-liquid mystery box. With our mystery boxes, we send you a broad selection of flavours, strengths and bottle sizes, and you get to try a lot of different options that you probably wouldn’t try otherwise. The e-liquid in our mystery boxes is past its expiry date, which is why it’s cheaper per-millilitre, but it’s still perfectly safe to vape. Our mystery boxes only contain high-grade premium e-liquid that has been stored in warehouse conditions, so discolouration and separation is very rare. 

Starter Kits

For first-time vapers, a vaping starter kit is a great choice. Starter kits include all of the basics you need to start vaping in one box, but still give you the freedom to develop your vaping hobby, exploring new flavours and new hardware options as the weeks progress.

Starter kits come in a variety of formats (vape pens, pod devices or box mods) and there’s a starter kit to suit everyone. If you browse our Starter Kits Department you’ll be able to read reviews from real people who have bought starter kits through our site. If you want expert guidance, just give us a call or send us an email. We sell a wide range of the UK’s most popular vape starter kits and can help you pick the best one for you.

Are all types of e-cigarette safe?

Just one final note on the safety of all these devices: while we can’t say for certain that vaping is risk-free, we can tell you that the UK has some of the highest e-cigarette standards in the world

In the United Kingdom, our e-cigarette laws are in alignment with the Tobacco Products Directive, or TPD, (a legal framework that covers the UK and all EU member states), and we also have additional domestic laws that make vaping even safer in the UK footnote 2.

E-cigarettes and e-liquids sold in the UK are regulated by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which is the same government agency that covers medicines and pharmaceutical devices. The MHRA control everything from nicotine strength to atomiser tank capacity, and they maintain a public register of both e-liquid and e-cigarette sellers in the UK footnote 3. What’s more, if anyone in the UK has a safety concern about an e-cigarette (or experiences an ‘adverse reaction’ while vaping), they can report it directly to the MHRA through the Yellow Card Reporting System footnote 4

I hope this guide has given you a better idea of which vape device could be a good choice for you. Please take a look at our starter kits page, and if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch. 

Stay safe and happy vaping!

 - John Boughey

Links & Citations

Footnote 1:

“A higher proportion of ex-smokers who have tried vaping no longer vape (13.3%) than currently vape (11.7%). This means there are 2.2 million ex-smokers who have tried vaping but no longer vape, compared to just under 2 million ex-smokers (1.95 million) who are current vapers.” - quote taken from a September 2019 statement released by Action on Smoking and Health, a UK-based charity and certified member of the Information Standard. Please see their full statement below:

Footnote 2:

The British Medical Association’s position paper, titled “E-cigarettes: Balancing risks and opportunities”, gives a good overview of the UK’s e-cigarette regulations, both under the Tobacco Products Directive and at a national/regional level. Please see page 3 of the link below:

Footnote 3:

Most UK e-cigarettes will have a 1.8ml or 2ml capacity (by law, the maximum tank size on an e-cigarette is 2ml. You can learn more about the regulations governing e-cigarettes in the UK, and download the current list of e-cigarette products that have been submitted to the MHRA, at the link below:

Footnote 4:

“From the 20th of May 2016, the MHRA is also collecting reports of safety concerns associated with e-cigarette products through the Yellow Card Scheme.” - you can find out more about the Yellow Card scheme at the link below:

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