High-end mods may get most of the attention in the vaping community today, but when most of us started vaping, the humble cigalike was the device that we picked up first. If you’ve been vaping long enough, there’s even a chance that you used several cigalikes before you finally bought your first mod. For many thousands – perhaps millions – of people in the world, the cigalike is a vaping platform that’s still entirely live and well. For those people, vaping culture has no allure. They quit smoking with cigalikes, and they have no desire to try anything else.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, there’s no denying that the e-cigarette is the most important nicotine product released in any of our lifetimes. The cigalike platform may not see a lot of innovation these days, but that’s only because the United States – the world’s largest vaping market – doesn’t allow the release of new vapor products without pre-market authorization from the FDA. Maybe it’s also because the cigalike is already the most perfect product that it can be. The cigalike, however, didn’t always have the level of reliability that it does today. The first cigalikes, in fact, were pretty quirky products that sometimes seemed to be more trouble than they were worth. It took several key technological innovations to get the cigalike platform where it is now – and many of those innovations continue to influence the design of vaping products today.
Let’s take a step back into history. These are the most important innovations in the history of the cigalike.
The Resistance Wire Atomizer
Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik developed the first e-cigarette that became a successful commercial product. If you’ve spent any time reading about the history of vaping, you probably already know that. Did you know, though, that his first design used a piezoelectric element to vaporize e-liquid using nothing but ultrasound vibrations? He eventually settled on a resistance wire atomizer as a better way to vaporize e-liquid, and that idea turned out to be the first great innovation in the history of the cigalike. Other companies have since attempted to develop ultrasound vaping devices. In theory, an ultrasound vaping device would be a wonderful product; taking heat out of the vaping equation would eliminate coil gunk and dry hits. To date, though, all ultrasonic vaping devices have had performance issues that hampered their success.
The earliest cigalikes used hollow disposable plastic cartridges for e-liquid storage. The cartridge would have a wet sponge inside, and the sponge would touch the tip of an atomizer connected to the battery of the e-cigarette. The e-liquid in the sponge would travel down a steel mesh bridge at the tip of the atomizer until it reached the heating coil. That’s the theory, at least. In practice, anyone who bought one of those early cigalikes knows that the disposable cartridges were unreliable at best. At worst, heavy vaping could cause the sponge in an e-cigarette cartridge to melt and give off noxious fumes.
The cartomizer – a portmanteau of “cartridge” and “atomizer” – was a self-contained unit in which gauze was wrapped around a heating coil and air tube. The gauze was soaked with e-liquid, and the heating coil drew the e-liquid out of the gauze via capillary action. When the cartomizer made its debut around 2009-2010, it made cigalikes an order of magnitude more reliable. Today, cartomizers for cigalikes are so ubiquitous that most people simply call them “cartridges” because they’ve forgotten about the disposable hollow plastic cartridges of the past.
The Portable Battery Charging Case
If cigalikes have any real shortcoming, it’s the fact that the batteries are extremely small and die quickly. If you have a tiny e-cigarette battery with a capacity of 180 mAh or so, you’re not going to get the equivalent of a full pack of cigarettes out of a single battery charge. In actuality, you’ll get the equivalent of half a pack or less. A portable battery charging case is the perfect accessory for a cigalike because it can keep a battery topped up all day. A portable charging case can also hold a selection of spare cartridges. The best part is that, when you carry a portable charging case, it feels much like carrying a pack of cigarettes. The portable battery charging case is an innovation that makes cigalikes feel like absolutely perfect replacements for tobacco cigarettes.
The Tank-Based Cigalike
These days, cartomizers aren’t the only e-liquid attachments for e-cigarettes. Some companies have ditched the cartomizer design in favor of miniature tanks that store significantly more e-liquid. The new tank-based cigalikes – still available at V2 Cigs UK under the Vapour2 EX Series name – also have excellent airflow characteristics because they aren’t plugged with wet gauze. The tank-based cigalike provides an absolutely superb vaping experience.
The Manual Battery – And the Automatic Battery
Both types of cigalike batteries – automatic batteries and manual batteries – are important innovations because they allow a cigalike user to enjoy exactly the vaping experience that he or she wants. Do you want an e-cigarette that gives you a super-realistic smoking experience? An automatic battery generates vapor when you puff on it. Do you want bigger vapor clouds? A manual battery allows your e-cigarette to start generating vapor before you puff. Both battery types can provide a stellar vaping experience.
The Drip Tip
Back during the days in which cigalikes had disposable plastic cartridges and semi-permanent atomizers, you’d pay up to $10 for each atomizer that you purchased. You wanted to make your atomizers last, so melted sponges were an absolute no-no. The vaping community also became fed up fairly quickly over how poorly the disposable cartridges at that time performed. The solution was the drip tip. The vaping community invented dripping as a way to fix the poor performance of early cigalikes. By placing a drip tip over your e-cigarette’s atomizer, you could wet the atomizer by dripping e-liquid directly on it from a bottle. You’d then vape until the atomizer was dry – enjoying much bigger clouds in the process – before adding e-liquid again. Every time you use an RDA, you’re enjoying a form of vaping that was invented by fellow vapers almost a decade ago.