Mouth-To-Lung or Direct-Lung: What’s The Difference?

Last fact-checked 6 November 2020 | Report a factual error on this article

Confused when you hear phrases like mouth to lung and direct lung vaping? Don’t fret — most new vapers are! 

In this article, we’ll pick apart these two vaping styles, explain the benefits of each technique and help you figure out whether you’re a mouth to lung (MTL) or a direct lung (DL) vaper. 

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What is Mouth To Lung and Direct Lung?

Mouth to Lung and Direct Lung are vaping techniques. These phrases refer to the two ways you can take e-cigarette vapour into your lungs:

  1. You can draw the vapour into your mouth, hold it there for a few seconds, then inhale. This is called Mouth-to-Lung, or MTL. Mouth to lung is the vaping style that most closely resembles the act of smoking. 
  2. You can inhale directly from your vape device, without holding the vapour in your mouth first. This method is called Direct Lung (DL) or Direct-to-Lung (DTL). The direct-lung vaping technique is similar to the sensation of using a scuba snorkel.

These two terms are worth learning, because most e-cigarette and e-liquid manufacturers make products that suit either mouth-to-lung or direct-lung vapers. Whether you consider yourself an MTL or DL vaper, you’ll probably want to buy kit and vape juice mixes that match your preferred style of vaping.

The Differences Between MTL and DL: A Handy Table

You can vape mouth-to-lung or direct-lung from any vape device with any e-liquid, but it can feel a little uncomfortable if your setup doesn’t match your style. 

The table below summarises the main differences between the mechanics of MTL and DL vaping. We’ll explain each vaping style in more detail - this is just a quick summary...

Mouth to Lung (MTL) Direct Lung (DL or DTL)
How To Do It Hold vapour in your mouth for a moment, then inhale it Inhale vapour straight from your vape device
Best Suited To... Quitters & Beginners Drippers & Cloud Chasers
Mouthpiece Size Narrow (Tight Airflow) Large (Open Airflow)
Vapour Temperature Warm - Hot Cool - Warm
Coil Resistance 1 Ohm or Higher Less than 1 Ohm (sub-ohm)
Best VG/PG Ratio Any PG/VG ratio will work Higher VG is better
Battery Consumption Batteries deplete at a normal pace Batteries tend to run out faster

 

How Mouth To Lung Vaping Works

Mouth-to-lung vaping is the simplest and ‘most natural’ vaping style for most e-cigarette users. It’s the best choice for quitters, beginner vapers and anyone still using nicotine. 

The mouthpiece on an MTL device tends to be the size of a drinking straw or pen lid, and the atomiser tends to have very few air holes. This design restricts the airflow in your atomiser so that you feel as if you have to suck the vapour into your mouth, just like you would with a lit cigarette. 

Because there is less air moving through the atomiser on a mouth-to-lung vape device, the vapour tends to feel hotter (the evaporated e-liquid hasn’t mingled with as much room temperature air as it would in a direct-lung device). 

How Direct Lung Vaping Works

Direct-lung vaping is the perfect vaping style for cloud chasers and vapers who no longer use nicotine. 

The mouthpiece on a direct-lung device is very wide, and tends to have a lot of airflow holes around the base. This is so that you can comfortably ‘breathe in’ your e-liquid vapour without the tight sensation you would have from an MTL atomiser head. 

A direct-lung atomiser will usually evaporate more e-liquid (especially on a sub-ohm coil), and produce a bigger cloud than a mouth-to-lung atomiser. This bigger cloud has a lot more room-temperature air in it than an MTL cloud would, however, so direct-lung vaping often feels cooler on the inhale.

Watch out for throat hit on a DL setup. If you prefer a high-PG e-liquid (or if you’re still adding nicotine to your shortfill), you might find direct-lung vaping uncomfortable on your throat. This is because the vapour comes straight off the coils and into your lungs — it doesn’t have a moment to ‘mellow’ in your mouth first. Read our VG/PG beginner’s guide or our guide to adding nicotine to shortfill to learn more about how to manage the ratios in your e-liquid.

Which Vaping Style Is Best For Quitters?

If you’re planning to vape as part of a quitting strategy, then you should stick with mouth-to-lung (MTL). There are a few reasons for this…

  • Mouth-to-lung vaping is familiar. Mouth-to-lung is technically the method you’ve been using as a smoker, and the equipment you get and the mouthpieces you use on an MTL device will ‘feel more like a cigarette’ to you. 
  • MTL vaping with nicotine is more comfortable. If you direct-lung vape a high-nicotine-strength e-liquid, you’ll get a punchy throat hit. That throat hit might feel fine for your first few puffs, but it will get unpleasant after a while. If you dread using your vape device you’ll make it much harder to quit (when you’re quitting tobacco it’s vital that you can keep your nicotine levels up. Learn more on our guide to quitting with a vape device).
  • Mouth-to-lung is cheaper. Direct-lung devices tend to use low-resistance coils, which gobble up batteries much faster than the normal coils used on a mouth-to-lung device. It’s not just batteries: direct-lung vapers tend to buy more e-liquid, coils and wicking material, too. 

If you’re a quitter reading this, you might still want to go for direct-lung vaping. As an ex-smoker, speaking from my own personal experience, my advice is to pick your battles. Focus on quitting with a mouth-to-lung style first, then explore direct-lung vaping. 

When you’re trying to quit smoking, you are battling the habit of a lifetime and a strong chemical addiction at the same time. That’s a lot to contend with. To quit successfully, you’ve got to make the transition from ‘smoker’ to ‘non-smoker’ as easy and straightforward as possible. Take a look at the NHS Stop Smoking service, too. It’s by far the best thing you can do to increase your chances of quitting successfully. Find out more about what the NHS have to say about quitting cigarettes with e-cigs.

What’s The Best MTL and DL Vaping kit?

If you’re looking to invest in either a mouth-to-lung or direct-lung vaping setup, you just need to remember the basic differences and shop around. If you want a good mouth-to-lung setup, you should look for a narrow mouthpiece with limited airflow, and a coil with a resistance of 1 Ohm or higher. Direct-lung kits take sub-ohm coils and have broad mouthpieces with lots of airflow. 

Try to do your own research, and look for real customer reviews rather than retailer endorsements. At Gourmet E-Liquid, we list real customer reviews beside all of our products, but we don’t endorse one single brand of vaping device. What we can tell you is that we only sell high-quality kits we have tested and used ourselves.

You can see our full range of MTL and DL kits below:

What other vaping styles are there?

With mouth-to-lung and direct-lung vaping, it’s more of a sliding scale than an either/or situation. In reality, most of us vape a little MTL and a little DL. 

Whatever you do, the overall method is still the same — you fire your e-cigarette and inhale the vapour. It’s really just a matter of how long you hold the vapour in your mouth, and how big the cloud is. 

Some people like to vape cigar-style (i.e. drawing the vapour into their mouth, tasting it then letting it go without inhaling). If that’s how you want to vape, then the narrow mouthpiece of an MTL setup is going to be the best one for you.


We suggest you try to consciously vape either Mouth-to-Lung or Direct Lung style for a few days and see which one feels right to you. Remember that there’s no wrong way to do it — you’ve just got to find the vaping style that gives you the most pleasure! 

Stay safe and happy vaping!

 - John Boughey

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