The first thing to know is that everyone is different.
Everyone has different reasons for smoking cigarettes.
Everyone gets different things from the smoking experience.
Everyone has different needs and wants.
And everyone has different tastes
The second thing to know is that there is no perfect electronic cigarette.
They all have pluses and minuses, depending on your needs and wants.
What one person considers a plus may be considered a minus by another.
The third thing you should know is that you will probably change your mind.
There is a very good chance you will stop caring how much it looks like a cigarette.
There is a very good chance you will stop caring if it tastes like your old brand of cigarette.
And of course, there is every chance that you may not change your mind as well.
The last thing you should know is that there is a learning curve.
This is not going to be as simple as picking up a cigarette and a lighter.
Parts will eventually die on you, so you'll need backups.
There are issues to overcome, and things to learn.
But in the end, it is well worth it to make the effort.
Prefilled cartridges versus refilling your own
Cartridges are basically made up of a mouthpiece and filler material that holds the liquid.
Using cartridges prefilled with liquid can become relatively expensive.
Also, this limits the flavors and strengths of juice you can use to what they come filled with.
Almost everyone quickly switches to refilling their own cartridges for the above reasons.
This is one reason your first order should always include at least 10ml of juice.
Cartridges can be refilled a number of times, but not indefinitely.
The filler material contained within the cartridge stops working quite as well after awhile.
Many people simply clean the filler and keep using them even longer.
Regardless, you will eventually need new filler, but can continue using the same mouthpiece.
One option is to buy your own cartridge filler, which is very inexpensive.
Another option is to buy blank cartridges that have filler but no juice.
Manual versus Automatic batteries
Manual batteries require you to push a button to activate the battery.
Pushing a button will reduce the degree of duplicating the cigarette smoking experience.
However, most people say it becomes second nature in less than a day.
Automatic batteries are activated by the act of inhaling.
Some automatic batteries are activiated by the sound of inhaling, and some by the suction.
Therefore, they may also be activated by such things as loud noise, wind, or car air conditioners.
Automatic batteries allow you to use your electronic cigarette hands free.
However, electronic cigarettes are too heavy for some people to hold comfortably in their mouth.
Automatic batteries have a cutoff which causes them to stop after a certain number of seconds.
This is the source of much frustration for most users, and detracts from their enjoyment.
It can lead to various issues such as juice in the mouth or poor vapor production.
With practice, certain techniques may be employed to help overcome these issues to some extent.
Manual batteries avoid the above issues by providing complete control over the atomizer.
The vast majority prefer the manual battery, but there are some that do prefer the automatics.
Throat Hit and Vapor Production and Flavor
Most people want a good throat hit, however some people want less throat hit.
But everyone agrees for the most part that more vapor is a good thing.
In general, throat hit and vapor production go hand in hand.
The hotter you can get the atomizer the more vapor and throat hit you should get.
But this may also cause the juice to lose some flavor as well.
And it will definitely cause you to use more juice.
Manual batteries will allow you to get the atomizer hotter for longer.
This is another important factor in the reason most people prefer manual batteries.
Also, vapor production and throat hit can be greatly influenced by the juice you use.
And at this point, vapor production and throat hit do not always go hand in hand.
Nicotine strength is often cited as having a very big effect on throat hit.
And different flavors from the same company often produce more or less throat hit and/or vapor.
Mods generally provide much longer battery life.
They use larger batteries that are more common, easier to get, and much cheaper.
For this reason they look far less like a cigarette.
Many also allow for higher voltage which will also allow you to get the atomizer hotter.
Many users eventually move to a mod for the above reasons.
Juice recommendationsThis is the place where I repeat that everyone has different tastes.
The best advice I could give is to find yourself some sampler packs, the smaller the better.
And read up in the Juice Reviews section of the ECF forum.
Nicotine StrengthThere does not seem to be a clear pattern as to what strength nicotine you might need.
Some people find they need higher strength than they thought.
Some find that they need lower strength.
The general rule of thumb is get something maybe a bit higher if unsure.
You can always get some that is lower to cut it back with.
And you can keep some around for spiking to a higher strength if a bad craving hits you.
PG versus VG juices
PG is propylene glycol and VG is vegetable glycerin.
Either of these ingredients can be purchased relatively cheaply and easily by themselves.
They can be used for making your own liquid if desired. or for cutting juice you have purchased.
As far as differences go, this is what I have gathered from reading things here and there.
1) VG is thicker (more viscous)
2) VG vaporizes at a lower temperature
3) VG produces better vapor
4) VG is somewhat sweeter
Because of the above...
1) VG does not wick quite as well
2) VG may gunk up your atomizer more quickly
3) VG produces a somewhat cooler vapor which may reduce throat hit
Dry atomizers, flooded atomizers, and wicking
Basically, you want to keep your atomizer happy with plenty of juice, but not too much as to flood it.
A good sign that it's flooded is that it gets a little harder to draw on and you get little or no vapor. Flooding it, however, won't hurt it at all, and you can just blow out the extra juice.
Letting it get too dry, on the other hand, is not good for the atomizer supposedly.
But regardless of whether it is bad for the atomizer or not, you still don't want to do it.
You can tell it is too dry when it starts to taste like crap.
A nasty sort of burnt plastic type of taste.
One reason it might get too dry is if you burn through the juice faster than it can wick up more.
That is why people experiment with different kinds of filler materials to use in their cartridges.
If you take only a drag or two every now and then, you should be fine.
But if you use these like a cigarette, the wicking process will have trouble keeping up.
There are ways to deal with this, and people have different methods that work better for them.
And of course, when the cartridge is running low on juice, it needs topping off for this reason.
Content reproduced with permission of DC2 on ECF: Buying and Using an Electronic Cigarette: A Primer