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The first thing to determine is your draw preference.
Now I used to smoke unfiltered and filtered as well as cigars and pipe. There is a huge difference in the draw between an unfiltered Camel and a Light 100. But most smokers are a Mouth To Lung (MTL) smoker. So you will probably want a MTL vape experience to begin with. Then later on you may find your "tastes" have changed to a Direct To Lung (DTL). MTL is a more restricted vape while DTL is wide open requiring very little inhale force. A DTL atomizer that has an Air Flow control can be dialed down to a MTL vape experience. But a MTL atomizer can only be converted to DTL with drilling or milling.
The second thing to determine is the amount of vapor you want.
More power equates to more vaporized eLiquid all things being equal. I consider 30-40W in vapor to be nearly equivalent to the amount of smoke you would get from an unfiltered analog cigarette. 20-30W being close to a filtered. And 10-20W being close to a Light 100. I like to vape in the 20-30W range.
Then determine your eLiquid.
These include sore throat and nasal irritation.
This is primarily a thick or heavy chest feeling.
Note on sensitivities. It is common to cough after transitioning from smoking to vaping. This is because your lungs are clearing up. You will find you stop coughing in a few weeks. It could be due to sensitivities with either PG and VG but the former masks this. Most usually it is because your lungs are clearing and in a few weeks your smokers cough will be gone. Mine has been gone for four years, I feel better, and my lungs don't feel heavy with 100VG. PG on the other hand does cause throat irritation for me though minor compared to analog cigarettes.
They say 18mg/ml is analog cigarette equivalent. If you were smoking unfiltered or chewing you will laugh at 18. I started with 36mg/ml (not common) and am now down to the 18-20 level. Try different strengths and find the one appropriate for you.
These are subjective. It's typical for smokers transitioning to vaping to seek tobacco flavors. I strongly suggest forgetting about that as soon as possible and try some flavors you like, for example apple pie or cotton candy. Whatever it takes to keep you from smoking.
Finally look for the features you want. Armed with the knowledge below, look around at your local vape shop or talk with friends or family and try them out for yourself.
Open vaping is a big deal to me so I have dedicated a page to the topic. I truly hope closed systems will not be the norm after the Vaporpocalypse.
Some people like wide bore some like small. A longer drip tip helps to cool the vapor passing your lips.
On open vaping tank attys there is always a way to refill with eLiquid this will either be top or bottom fill. I don't mind either but with a top fill I do prefer to have a Juice Flow Control (JFC) so I can close off the juice flow when filling. If not, try closing the AFC. Also after filling if you experience gurgling or leaking invert the atty and mod over a tissue and wait for 1 to 2 minutes to let the juice run out.
Dripper, Tank or Dripping Tank
I hate to drip all day long but if this is what you like then there is no problem with it. If you want to fill once a day look for a tank atomizer that holds 4ml or more.
Air Flow Control (AFC)
On an unrestricted draw DTL atty you can always dial down the AFC for a MTL experience. On a MTL atty you are locked in without modifications to the atty. Closing the AFC when filling top fill attys can help but doesn't eliminate leaking when filling.
Some atomizers allow you to rebuild them with wire coils and wicks, others allow you to use cartridges that have the coils and wicks premade and are disposable. Some atomizers accommodate both and come with a Rebuildable or RBA section in place of the cartridge. Others the RBA section is available seperately.
Juice Flow Control (JFC)
A must on coil cup design rebuildable atomizers and I think top fill atomizers whether rebuildable or not. The JFC closes the juice channels.
Remove build without emptying tank
This is a great feature on rebuildables or glassomizers that use coil cartridges. Simply invert and unscrew the base. Typically found on bottom fill attys but also found on some top fill attys.
Acidic or base eLiquids can react with plastic. Also plastic doesn't dissipate heat well. Though glass doesn't have these issues it is fragile. I like attys that are glass, stainless steel and ceramic insulators where the juice touches.
Replacement glass for rebuildables and glassomizers is a must. Also if you use an eLiquid that reacts with plastic, not a good idea, you will need to replace the plastic at some point. Other parts include screws, 510 center pins and etc.
User replaceable Battery
Some mods allow you to replace the 18650, 18460, 26650 Li-Ion battery or Lipo, some don't. As they all have a lifespan as to how many charge cycles they survive, this has to be traded with cost of the mod. If it is cheap enough then throw it away and buy a new one. Given they last for hundreds of cycles the chances are good there will be a new one out by then anyways. But more expensive mods you definitely want a user replaceable battery.
This is not always the case but most of the time the larger the mod the heavier it is and the bigger the battery is and the longer it will supply power. Some like the small pen like devices which last a short time and provide little vapor because they use little power but they are easier to carry.
Some like tubes some like boxes. But how they feel in the hand with rounded versus sharp ends and corners, tactile feedback on the buttons, button and screen placement are all issues to consider. And every hand is different.
I can only recommend Temperature Control (TC) devices. They are just too cheap nowadays not to go straight for it and they all support non-TC Variable Wattage modes. If you want a pen size like the eGo then that will be either Single Voltage or Variable Voltage. There simply are no pen size TC devices.
You can put a lot of different atomizers on a mod with a 510 connector. So put more money in the mod on your first purchase.
Also look for USB ports for SW upgrades on the mod. Some are charge only so ask before buying.
This is a tough one. Solid plastic cases will look better longer than painted finish or metal cased mods. Definitely look for a stainless steel 510 connector on the mod. Some are plated brass and they wear out faster than you think. The center pin can be brass or as soft as copper, that doesn't matter, look at the threaded ring. If you can't tell, then ask.
Some manufacturers make rock solid drop from a ladder and laugh tough mods some are fragile. The industry has come a long way in the last 18 months. My experience has been look to authentics for better reliability. And in general but not always the case, the cheap under $30 dollar mods aren't as tough as some of the more expensive ones. There really isn't one manufacturer that is worse than the others nowadays. Some argue ProVari is best but they don't have TC.
Be sure to check out recommendations for beginners.
All the information contained in these pages are only the opinions of the author and the author is not an expert at anything.