E-Cigarette Use: The Fallacy of Puff Counts

July 9, 2014

As the world of vaping continues to evolve, some of you pro-vapers may have noticed something different about the way electronic cigarettes are compared to tobacco cigarettes—more specifically in how long they last, such as how many “puff counts”. You see, in the formative years of e-cigarette marketing, all anyone wanted to know was:

  • Does it taste like a cigarette?
  • Will it satisfy like a cigarette?
  • Will it last as long as a pack of cigarettes?

Considering most people initially turned to e-cigs as a possibly better alternative to tobacco, this is a fair line of questioning. But, in the years since, the vaping industry has grown and evolved well beyond what it was.

 

Vaping vs. Smoking: Quantifying the Differences

Today, you can find a plethora of readily available vaping devices in all shapes and sizes – and with this evolution, our vaping needs and practices have grown, as well. Because of this, it’s no longer accurate to make blanket claims of “XXX puffs per cartridge” or “Lasts the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes,” which were (and still are) some of the predominant taglines used by many e-cig companies. (Heck, similar verbiage still appears on our website, but it is now used to help beginner vapers decide which nicotine level will suit their needs.)

While early adopters of e-cigarettes may have used them in a similar fashion to tobacco, many users quickly changed their habits after realizing vaping was a notably different practice. In short, your e-cig isn’t just a replacement for a tobacco cigarette anymore. It’s an entirely new way to satisfy those cravings, while appealing to other senses, as well.

E-cigarettes Don’t Cause Commitment Issues

Generally, smokers take 8-12 puffs per lit cigarette (depending on length), each lasting roughly 2-3 seconds. They also typically let the cigarette burn idly between puffs, then extinguish the cigarette before it burns down to the filter.

Although most smokers’ habits are essentially similar, there are variations that depend on the individual. Some only take a handful of small puffs, while others inhale more frequently per session. Some smokers inhale more deeply than others, and so on.
The major difference between smokers and vapers lies in the level of commitment. Because of price, and the need to physically go outside of most venues, smokers tend to finish an entire cigarette, regardless of weather, desire or need.

With electronic cigarettes, you do not have to “commit to having a smoke,” but rather can take a puff or two and put it down until the need or desire arises again.

E-Cigs Have Different Usage Patterns

As vaping is adopted by more ex-smokers, we’re seeing a shift in e-cig use across the board. Whereas most smokers will have a cigarette, stub it out and then wait for a set period until they light up again, most vapers seem to have their e-cig close at hand at all times. Sometimes, this means more regular vaping over the course of a day. Other times, it’s used more sparingly, such as when cravings strike.

If someone works in a vape-friendly office, and puffs constantly throughout the day, going through three e-cigs before lunch, is it safe to say each lasted the same amount of time as a pack of a smokes? Not likely. Maybe the puff counts were comparable, but the usage is not, and any direct comparisons would be misleading.

Though vaping bans have diminished e-cig use indoors and in public spaces in many places across the US, the ability to use e-cigs in more places than tobacco has effectively shifted usage behaviors.

Nicotine Options Have Changed How People “Smoke”

Though most smokers know which cigarette brands have the most “kick,” tobacco is not sold based on nicotine strength. However, the e-cig industry has been fairly forthcoming in giving users a range of nicotine strength options to match their tobacco usage.

If a person smokes heavily to quell incessant nicotine cravings, an e-cig with a high nicotine level should provide a satisfying match. But this isn’t always an exact parallel, which is why new e-cig users often vape much more heavily and frequently than they smoked. They may slow down over time, but again, this skews the validity of puff counts and usage metrics claimed by e-cig companies.

While most companies tend to cap their nicotine strengths around 2.4-2.6%, White Cloud offers some of the highest nicotine levels available, which allow heavy smokers to satisfy cravings without having to use our products excessively.

E-Cig Flavors Can’t Be Ignored

If you factor out those flavored “little cigars” that have become increasingly popular among those who want to save a few bucks on cigarettes, smokers only really have two flavor options – tobacco and menthol. Sure, there are plenty of variations within these two flavor profiles, but at the end of the day, the tastes center solely on traditional or menthol tobacco.

Since cigarette smoking can diminish taste receptors, it’s safe to assume many smokers use cigarettes solely for other reasons, such as nicotine delivery or sensation. In turn, we can then assume that these smokers aren’t heading out into inclement weather for a burst of flavor, but rather the opportunity to satisfy a physical nicotine craving.

E-cigarette users tend to act differently. Yes, many users stick with the tobacco and menthol flavors they love. But, with the seemingly endless range of unique e-cig flavors available, vapers will often take a quick puff or two to satisfy a flavor craving as much as their need for nicotine.

Today, it’s not uncommon for vapers to skip dessert and grab a sweet flavored e-cig instead. Likewise, we’ve heard from a lot of customers who like to pair e-cig flavors with cocktails and other beverages. Vapers who want a puff or two to satiate a flavor craving aren’t necessarily using the product in the same manner as a traditional tobacco smoker, again altering usage patterns. Maybe this isn’t why they first switched to e-cigs, but it seems to have enhanced their enjoyment considerably.

Related: The Importance of E-Liquid Flavors

While comparisons to traditional cigarettes are inevitable, and aren’t going away, it’s no longer good practice for e-cig companies to draw direct parallels to cigarette use. Vapers are using their e-cigs in different places, for different lengths of time, and often for purposes other than nicotine cravings.

This is why we are shifting away from discussions of “puff counts” as our product line grows, and are instead moving our focus toward things we CAN accurately measure – more mLs of e-liquid in each cartridge, more airflow within our redesigned chamber, and more precise filling in our USA-based facility.