Welcome to the most comprehensive guide to e-cigarettes for beginners — also known as cigalikes — that you’ll ever find. If you’ve never used an e-cigarette before — or you’re ready to upgrade an e-cigarette that you purchased at a gas station or convenience store — this is the guide for you.
Cigalikes are the perfect e-cigarettes for beginners. They’re simple and easy to use, and they give you a chance to become accustomed to vaping without spending a lot of money. Some people eventually upgrade from cigalikes to larger e-cigarettes — something we’ll address in this article — and other people never use anything but cigalikes. Whether you ultimately decide to upgrade to a more powerful e-cigarette later or not, we believe that all beginners should try cigalikes as their first e-cigarettes.
Before We Begin: The Best Cigalikes
There are a great many cigalikes available today. Of those, we recommend just three: V2 Cigs, South Beach Smoke and JUUL. If you buy one of these three cigalikes, we are certain that you’ll get the most possible enjoyment out of your vaping experience.
Price: $39.95 and upShop Now
As long as this website has existed, V2 Cigs has been the clear leader in the e-cigarette industry. Unlike the major tobacco companies — who have only really “advanced” the e-cigarette industry by creating proprietary cigalikes that don’t work with other companies’ cartridges — V2 Cigs has actually created a better e-cigarette that looks nicer, lasts longer and produces bigger, more satisfying vapor clouds while remaining about the same size as a tobacco cigarette. Not only does the V2 Cigs battery work with cartridges from many other e-cigarette companies, but V2 Cigs also sells an empty cartridge that’s easy to fill yourself. With the extensive selection available on the V2 e-liquid marketplace, there is no easier way to taste some of the very best e-liquids from around the world. The V2 Cigs EX Series is absolutely as good as a cigalike gets.
South Beach Smoke
Price: $19.99 and upShop Now
V2 Cigs might sell the most advanced cigalike on the market, but it definitely isn’t the cheapest. South Beach Smoke is ideal if you’re on a tight budget or simply don’t want to buy a more expensive kit until you’re certain you want to commit to vaping. You can get an experience that’s really close to that of V2 Cigs — with a much lower price tag — if you choose South Beach Smoke instead. Compared to the V2 Cigs EX e-cigarette, the South Beach Smoke e-cigarette generates a little less vapor and holds a little less e-liquid per cartridge. In addition to its lower cost, though, the South Beach Smoke e-cigarette is also slightly smaller and lighter than the V2 Cigs EX e-cigarette. Sign up for the South Beach Smoke Home Delivery Program, and South Beach Smoke will deliver your cartridges automatically each month. You’ll also save 20 percent — and you can cancel any time.
Price: $49.99Shop Now
Since it isn’t actually shaped like a tobacco cigarette, JUUL isn’t quite a traditional cigalike. The JUUL e-cigarette is unique in its approach, though — and uniquely designed to please current smokers. If you are still a smoker — or smoke and vape concurrently because you don’t find e-cigarettes sufficiently satisfying — the JUUL is a product that you absolutely must try. The thing that makes JUUL different from other e-cigarettes is the e-liquid formulation. Not only does JUUL e-liquid contain more nicotine by weight than other e-cigarettes, but it also uses a salt of nicotine — not the freebase nicotine used in other e-liquids. The combination allows your body to uptake the nicotine more quickly and to achieve the same type of peak in your blood-nicotine level that you’d get from a tobacco cigarette. In other words, you feel a real nicotine rush when you use the JUUL, so it mimics the experience of using a real cigarette more closely than other e-cigarettes. If you are a heavier smoker — or vaping hasn’t worked out for you because you don’t feel as though vaping produces quite the same sensation as smoking — the JUUL is the perfect e-cigarette for you.
What Are Cigalikes?
Cigalikes are e-cigarettes with approximately the same size and shape as tobacco cigarettes. The earliest e-cigarettes were all cigalikes, but the term didn’t evolve until later. Presumably, Hon Lik — the inventor of the modern e-cigarette — chose the cigarette shape because he thought that would make it easier for smokers to accept the product. He might have also chosen the shape because it was what he preferred for his personal use. As the industry matured, people began to use mods, and sub-ohm vaping grew in popularity. People started using the term “cigalike” to distinguish smaller e-cigarettes from larger mods.
Most convenience stores, supermarkets and pharmacies that sell e-cigarettes have cigalikes. Although many people who successfully switch from smoking to vaping use mods rather than cigalikes, we believe that cigalikes are better for beginners because of their simplicity and reliability. We don’t recommend the brands sold in most stores, though. We’ll explain why in a bit.
How Cigalikes Work
A cigalike consists of two parts: the battery and the cartridge. The cartridge contains a flavored liquid called e-liquid and a resistance wire called an atomizer that turns the e-liquid to vapor. The e-liquid almost always contains nicotine, but some sellers do sell cartridges with nicotine-free e-liquids for those who want an experience that’s similar to smoking but not addictive.
The battery of a cigalike — or sometimes the cartridge itself — contains an air sensor that turns the battery on when you puff on the e-cigarette. The resistance wire heats up, and the vapor begins to fill your mouth. You can use cigalikes as if they were real cigarettes, but the cartridge for a cigalike often contains as much nicotine as a full pack of tobacco cigarettes — so you’ll need to pace yourself accordingly.
Some batteries for cigalikes have activation buttons rather than puff sensors. A battery with a button is called a manual battery, and a battery with a puff sensor is an automatic battery. Some people prefer manual batteries because the ability to activate the battery before you begin to puff means that you’ll get slightly more vapor.
The primary reason why we recommend cigalikes to beginners is that with a cigalike, there’s no tinkering and troubleshooting necessary, nothing to refill and no parts to replace except the cartridges. When the battery dies, you’ll charge it with a USB charger. When the cartridge runs out of e-liquid, you’ll snap or twist a new cartridge on — and that’s all you’ll ever need to do. Cigalikes are just as easy as smoking, which is exactly what you need if you’re looking for something that can be a viable alternative to tobacco.
How Cigalikes Have Changed
Cigalikes haven’t always had the simple two-part design that they have today. Cigalikes originally had three parts, and they didn’t work nearly as well in those days as they do now. In a three-part cigalike, the atomizer and cartridge are separate components. Unlike the design of a two-part e-cigarette — in which every cartridge includes a new atomizer — the atomizer is a semi-permanent component in a three-part e-cigarette. You replace it only periodically. Each cartridge contains a wet sponge that’s saturated with e-liquid. When you push the cartridge over the atomizer, a mesh bridge on the top of the atomizer draws the e-liquid toward the heating coil.
Today, we know of no e-cigarette company that still sells three-part e-cigarettes. People overwhelmingly prefer two-part e-cigarettes because they’re better in every way. We mention three-part e-cigarettes in this article only for the sake of completeness. If you see a cigalike that looks like the one above, don’t buy it. It’s old technology, it won’t give you a good experience, and you’ll have great difficulty finding cartridges and replacement parts.
Why Shouldn’t I Buy a Cigalike at the Gas Station?
E-cigarettes have three primary retail channels: online, specialized vape shops and traditional retail stores such as gas stations, supermarkets and pharmacies. We are staunch supporters of vape shops, even going so far as to offer vape shop marketing services to those who need it. When you shop for cigalikes at traditional retail stores, though, you’re only going to find the e-cigarettes with the widest distribution. In other words, you’re going to find e-cigarettes under tobacco company ownership:
- Vuse (Reynolds American)
- Blu (Imperial Tobacco)
- MarkTen (Altria)
There are a few independent brands that have fairly wide distribution. For the most part, though, the e-cigarettes that you see in major stores are backed by Big Tobacco. If you want to see what vaping is like and don’t want to wait for shipping, you can definitely give one of the tobacco companies’ e-cigarettes a try. It is our opinion, though, that you’ll get a far better experience with one of the three cigalikes listed at the top of this article.
What About Disposable Cigalikes?
Disposable e-cigarettes are less common than they once were, but you can still find a few disposable e-cigarettes on the shelves in many convenience stores and gas stations. Disposable e-cigarettes typically have the lowest cost of entry among all e-cigarettes — they’re usually under $10 each — so a disposable e-cigarette is a pretty good way to try vaping for the first time as long as you understand that the disposable e-cigarettes in most stores aren’t particularly well regarded for their flavors. Nevertheless, disposable e-cigarettes work much like all other e-cigarettes, so buying one is an easy way to find out what it’s like to inhale vapor rather than smoke.
The one problem with disposable e-cigarettes is that they aren’t at all cost effective as full-time replacements for cigarettes. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes in a day, you’ll find it easy to use all of the e-liquid in a disposable e-cigarette in less than a day. Using disposable e-cigarettes could therefore potentially cost more than smoking. Disposable e-cigarettes can be great if you’re a social smoker or if you only want to buy one to see what vaping is like. Don’t continue buying disposable e-cigarettes, though, or you’ll miss out on one of the biggest benefits of vaping: all of the extra money in your pocket!
If you want to try disposable e-cigarettes anyway, we recommend the one from Vapor4Life. In our opinion, it’s the best disposable e-cigarette available.
Do People Buy Cigalikes and Upgrade to Larger E-Cigarettes Later?
Absolutely. In fact, some people skip cigalikes entirely and start out with larger vape pens or mods instead. If that sounds interesting to you, read our ultimate guide to all of the best e-cigarettes to find out what that would entail. When the members of our staff switched to vaping, cigalikes were the only e-cigarettes on the market. There weren’t any other choices. We upgraded to larger, more powerful e-cigarettes as they became available. That said, we believe that the simplicity of the cigalike design helps to make the transition from smoking to vaping easier.
Although regulation threatens to wipe out the freedom that e-cigarette users in some nations enjoy, most people have the opportunity to choose their own paths when it comes to vaping. You might try a cigalike and decide that it’s all you’ll ever need. You might eventually decide that you’d like better battery life and bigger vapor clouds, though. If you do, it’s time to think about getting a vape pen or mod. You may even end up becoming a serious hobbyist who owns many different devices. While we believe that buying a cigalike is still the best way to get started with vaping, only you can decide if you agree with that point of view.