Love it or hate it, vaping has become a part of our everyday lives for over a decade. Its roots lie in the creation of the first e-cigarette by Hon Lik (a Chinese pharmacist) in 2003 and the series of compatible liquids he produced to use with the device under the Ruyan brand. Marketed as an alternative to smoking, vaping and its proponents are often the subject to more than their fair share of attention. Issues surrounding vaping have become platforms for politicians, drives for charities and the lifeblood for many dedicated small business owners. Continually recognised as a prominent growth industry throughout the world valued at close to fourteen-billion dollars, the modern vape market is awash with products and services to suit a growing consumer base.
The modern vape kit (the now preferred term) has changed dramatically since its early incarnations. The behind them philosophy hasn’t though, offering an alternative to traditional cigarettes and the health community are growingly in support of vaping as an alternative to smoking. By inhaling a vapourised liquid that contains nicotine, the vape kit acts as a replacement to the traditional cigarette. It is presented as a more viable option for consuming nicotine as these e-liquids contain none of the tar or carcinogens which have been repeatedly linked to smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema.
When we talk about advancements in the vape industry, we aren’t only talking about the leaps and bounds made in the technology that the devices utilise. Refinements have been made to the liquids that aerosolise into a breathable vapour, known as e-liquid, as well as advancements in the services that dedicated manufacturers and retailers provide to their customers, be that in relation to accessibility or safety. With so much happening in a relatively short space of time, it can be difficult to keep track. Look carefully, however, and you’ll clearly notice that there are certain milestones that mark improvement and change market-wide.
Variable Power Outputs
The operational premise behind a vape kit is surprisingly simple. A basic kit is traditionally made up of two components: a battery device and a receptacle for e-liquid known as a tank. When assembled, the battery acts as a power source, and the energy it provides is converted into heat by a specially designed coil that sits inside a vape tank. The coil serves to heat the aforementioned e-liquid to the point it turns into vapour, this vapour travels the length of the tank and is inhaled by the user via the tank’s mouthpiece.
Vape kits may have changed dramatically, but their basic function remains the same. It was noticed though that fixed power output wasn’t suitable for everyone, some considered the power level of a vape kit chosen by the manufacturer to be too high or too low, it was rarely just right. This was all set to change in 2010 when vape manufacturers Evolve LLC introduced the first-ever variable wattage vape device to the market. The rationale was simple; by offering a controllable power output, customers were more likely to keep using the device as it could be configured to suit their individual preferences. They could keep using it throughout their ‘vaping journey’.
Evolve’s development in vape technology opened the door for manufacturers across the world, particularly the Shenzhen region of China, to begin investing time and money into the customizability of their devices. This proved to be the jumping-off point for a period of advancement we’re still experiencing the effects of today. The modern vape kit allows the user to control power output, the maximum temperature of their coils, monitor the number of puffs they’ve taken and even programme kits to deliver their perfect inhale based on a combination of power, temperature and firing time. This trend of customisation and enhanced usability remains one of the most important USPs of vaping.
While existing vapers got to grips with new technology and learnt as they went along, manufacturers began to notice that a key section of the market was no longer being catered for. Advanced users had their shiny complex devices, but all the beginners and first-time switchers had to choose from were a series of devices that began to look increasingly outdated. Even the simplest vape kit would require some element of maintenance and upkeep, and the problem was that a cigarette was simpler and of course, familiar. If manufacturers were going to divert customers away from combustible tobacco, they’d need to change tact and release devices that would sit parallel to their more advanced offerings. One such example was the pod vape kit.
Small, stylish and most importantly simple, the modern pod vape kit still relies on coils and batteries, but it is much more user-friendly. The tank with the removable coils was replaced with a sealed plastic unit called a pod, the only thing that vapers would have to worry about is charging the battery and with refillable models keep them topped up with e-liquid. Popular pod kits include the JUUL, MyBlu and most recently the QYS. These kits had a sleek, refined look and offered a stripped back experience that looked futuristic but was incredibly simple to operate. This ease of use made them an instant hit, and it wasn’t long until almost every manufacturer was putting their spin on the design. The result was a burgeoning sub-market of pod kits that bridged the gap between smoking and vaping. None of these kits relied on tobacco, but they work in such a way they feel as natural to use as smoking a cigarette.
The pod kit itself has undergone a number of transformations over the relatively short period they’ve been available and now sit firmly in two camps, refillable and prefilled. The prefilled models already contain e-liquid, when empty they have to be replaced with another pre-filled pod. This is the simpler option and has seen a rise in the number of people partaking in vaping when previously it was assumed to be too complex. The refillable pod vape kit offers the chance for people to pair their simplified kit with the e-liquid of their choice, thus removing limitations on flavour and nicotine strength. The result is a more cost-effective, eco-friendly and personal experience. Both refillable and prefilled pod kits are incredibly popular, and for a good reason, they are some of the most design-driven and modern kits available.
The most purchased item in relation to vaping is undoubtedly e-liquid, a consumable product available in a variety of different flavours, nicotine strengths and thickness. The result is almost endless opportunities for vapers to find their ideal combination of all three. The topic of flavours is greatly debated around the world, and everyone has their individual preference. Luckily dedicated manufacturers make it their mission to produce flavours to suit different tastes, and there’s everything from traditional tobacco blends all the way to exotic fruit blends and unique dessert fusions. The different thicknesses exist to support different types of vape kit, more powerful models will require a thicker e-liquid that contains more Vegetable Glycerine (VG) to create denser amounts of vapour, whereas smaller options such as the pod kits work best with a thinner blend that contains more Propylene Glycol (PG).
Arguably the most important factor in choosing the correct e-liquid is finding the perfect nicotine. A higher nicotine strength leads to an increased throat sensation, also known as ‘throat hit’ which some liken to that of a cigarette. This sensation is the result of the higher alkalinity of a traditional e-liquid. While always within perfectly safe levels, higher nicotine strength e-liquids have higher alkalinity and create a stronger throat hit. This can feel uncomfortable for some, leading them to choose an e-liquid with a lower strength that may not satisfy cravings. In 2015, PAX Labs patented their formula for salt nicotine, a new compound that is similar to the nicotine found in tobacco leaves. Boasting a lower alkalinity level than traditional freebase nicotine, vapers discovered they could try a higher nicotine level without any of the throat hit they’d experienced before.
The resulting boom in e-liquid mixology has led to an increased number of salt nicotine e-liquids crafted by the biggest brands in the industry. Previously certain e-liquid flavours were only made available in lower nicotine levels. This is because higher amounts of freebase nicotine can have an adverse effect on e-liquid flavour. Salt nicotine has less impact on flavour, and by using it, manufacturers could better preserve the flavour of their blends even at higher nicotine strengths. This meant that e-liquids which were previously inaccessible to vapers became part of their everyday selection. It’s safe to say that salt nicotine e-liquids are one of the most important advancements in vaping and has allowed for an improved consumer experience and for manufacturers to access a larger portion of the market.
Improved Online Shopping Platforms
As an emerging technology, there was and is a lot to learn about vaping. Looking for information and specialist assistance, many customers were drawn to the growing number of dedicated vape stores which were being opened across the world. These stores gave consumers access to products which previously they were unable to obtain and were almost entirely run by vaping experts.
With the mission of making vaping accessible to all adults, informed online retailers such as Vape Club made a move to base their company around these well-versed experts and created an online store that caters to a worldwide customer base. Founded by vapers, for vapers, they offer one of the largest selections of e-liquids and kits, backing this up with a dedicated customer service team. What set them apart was their reliance on customer-written reviews on products, they treated these reviews as the driving force in relation to which products they would offer. By doing so, they only sell products that are favoured by their internal team of aficionados as well as the average vaper.
Online stores such as this allowed those who traditionally felt intimidated by the prospect of entering a vape shop to browse at their leisure, making purchases outside the normal shopping hours that traditional stores are forced to adhere to. Not just satisfied with offering products, companies like Vape Club also produce their own guides and video content aimed at educating vapers of all experience levels about the benefits of making the switch, as well as how to pick their first kit, finding out which e-liquid is right for them and how to better maintain their purchased products.
If there’s one thing that’s clear about vaping, it’s that it’s an industry built on innovation and change, the majority of which is consumer-led. This, of course, makes perfect sense, manufacturers and retailers know that their cross-market competitors are always ready to take their market share. By supplying or making products that leak, break or in some cases just don’t look the part, this industry at large is essentially funnelling money to their competitors.
By changing the way people think about vaping, it can truly become an effective alternative to smoking. It should no longer be considered a flash in the pan, but rather a dedicated field of its own – which it has been for a number of years. While the technology of vaping transforms, it has become interesting trying to estimate the next avenue of development. The rising popularity of apps involving geo-fencing and remote locking was unfortunately quashed when tech giants like Apple removed all vaping-related apps from their stores. So perhaps these limitations will inspire manufacturers to improve on the in-built safety mechanisms and software that already exist. Either way, there are opportunities for improvement everywhere.
At its heart, the vaping industry is like any other technology market, and it strives to be better, faster and equipped with the logistics that render it more accessible for a greater number of people. This is why well-stocked online stores and reliable brands have become such a safe bet and continue to do good business.