Costs of Vaping

The Costs of Vaping: Is it really cheaper to vape than smoke?

Back in the beginning of the vaping boom, people weren’t talking about cloud production and coil life. They wanted to know about two things: quitting cigarettes, and saving money. The original batch of e-cigs were squarely focused on making the switch to a better alternative. A huge part of the attraction for smokers was the huge cost savings of vaping versus smoking. Nearly a decade later, vape devices have become infinitely more complex, and the startup costs can be more prohibitive. But in the long run – even with massive cloud-producing tanks – vaping is still a viable way to satisfy your cravings at a lower cost than smoking.

Dollars and sense

Let’s be blunt. The upfront costs of some vape setups aren’t cheap. Whether you’re buying a traditional e-cig or vape pen rig, or a high-powered mod and tank, it’s going to hit you in the wallet. But these initial expenses pay for themselves in relatively short order. Let’s break it down, keeping in mind that these proposed numbers are broad estimates, not direct price quotes:

1. The traditional e-cigarette

A pack of tobacco cigarettes can cost you anywhere between $5 and $16, depending on what part of the country you call home. This means, for a pack-a-day smoker, you can expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $480 per month, just to smoke. Disposable cigalikes aren’t a much better deal. They tend to cost about the same as the low-end cost of a pack of smokes. And though many claim that they contain as many drags as two packs of cigarettes, most users put the number at about one pack. Comparatively, a rechargeable cigalike or vape pen starter kit – like those purchased at drug stores and gas stations – can range between $20 and $80 (though we don’t recommend ever paying that much for a small e-cig kit). These kits also usually come with a spare battery, a charger, and a few cartridges, which are purported to last up to a day, depending on frequency and intensity of use.

A replacement set of cartridges ranges between $8 and $20. If you vape at the same frequency as you smoked, you’re probably going to have to buy a new set 1-2 times per week. Plus, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to add another charger, a few extra batteries, and some other accessories, but the heavy damage is over and done with. Taking the worst-case cost scenario, your first month of vaping might actually turn out to be more expensive than smoking. But once all the vape hardware is purchased, it will be a while before you need to replace or upgrade these parts again, meaning all of that expense is done. Now, the only money you’ll lay out is for cartridges, or bottles of e-liquid to refill them. Either way, in one month, your costs have already come down.

2. More advanced vaping devices

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re already past the gas station e-cig phase. If so, congratulations! There are worlds of options and experiences much more tailored for your needs. Of course, with technology comes costs. Thankfully, in just the last few years, the price of advanced vaping equipment has dropped dramatically. Whereas a 20-watt box mod could exceed $100 just a couple years ago, now you can find mods with 10 times the capability for a fraction of that cost. And most of them are really solid performers, even on the lower end of the price range. When buying an advanced vape mod kit, you usually receive the device, a tank, a few spare coils, and additional hardware. Basically, all you need to vape, with the exception of e-liquid. If the kit you purchase costs $60, you’re already well ahead of the cost curve when compared to smoking – even if you buy a bottle of premium juice.

But, there are other expenses to consider. Depending on the mod you purchase, you’ll need at least one pair of fresh external batteries (unless it has built-in internal batteries), a quality charger, extra coils, or wick and wire to build your own. More importantly, these higher-powered devices are designed for greater vapor production, and usually go through e-liquid at a much faster rate than vape pens or e-cigarettes. There are plenty of discount e-liquid vendors out there – some of which make excellent juice for the money – but consumables are consumables, and these costs still add up, though they pale in comparison to packs of tobacco cigarettes. So yes, top-tier vaping will cost some bucks upfront. But, as it was with the vape pens, most of the initial expenses are one-time purchases, and only need to be done again once your hardware begins to age and break down.

3. The collector mentality (a personal account)

THIS is where vaping can become an expensive practice. With vape companies releasing new products at dizzying speed – and at ever-lower prices – it’s near impossible to just have one mod or tank. Before long, vapers fall into a gray area of “need vs. want” that can become both expensive and habitual. When I started vaping advanced devices, I purchased a mod, two 18650 batteries, a tank and five coils. My bill for the day was just north of $110 – a LOT of cigarettes, especially then. It was great, and I enjoyed it, even if my juice consumption was head and shoulders above what I had been using prior. But that wasn’t the issue...

The following week, Innokin released a newer version of its venerable Cool Fire box mod – for the relative bargain price of $90, with a tank! Yes, I had to have it -- and the folks at Mastercard didn’t argue. Three years later, I now have 12 mods, 21 tanks and RTAs, drawers full of coils, wire, cotton, flush cutters and a million other proprietary tools. My e-liquid collection now includes 40+ bottles of varying capacities. My arsenal of batteries is approaching 20 pairs. And I’m hardly alone. Vaping as a habit doesn’t need to be more expensive than smoking. Vaping as a hobby can exceed those numbers, at least until thee credit card statements come in, and you temper your spending over time. If you can stave off the desire to have every bigger and better device that hits the market, you’ll save plenty by vaping. But it can be a lot of fun to get those awesome boxes of vape mail!

4. The intangibles

This is where vaping can save you much more than a few bucks. It can change your entire approach to the day. For example, at work. If you work in a position in which you need to clock out for your breaks, smoking can be costly. By the time you punch the clock, head outside, smoke an entire butt – whether or not you need that level of nicotine – and return, you’re looking at 10-15 minutes, at a minimum. Even an occasional smoker could theoretically lose 30-45 minutes of paid work each day. If you’re not dependent on a clock, you still need to consider the loss of productivity that comes with frequent smoke breaks. Even if you don’t consider it, your boss might -- especially if you’re a smoker in a largely non-smoking environment. If your boss continues to see an empty chair in front of your desk, it might be more difficult to demonstrate your value over that of a fellow coworker.

Come year-end bonuses or promotion time, who’s going to get the call – the person who’s always at their desk, or the empty chair that needs regular smoke breaks? Now, we know that more and more buildings are banning vaping from the premises, simply because of the stigma of vaping as a dangerous practice. But, fallacies aside, if you work in a place that allows vaping on site, you could satisfy those cravings, without the odor and negative societal effects that come with cigarettes, in as little as a minute or less. These are the costs that hit home the most, and are most easily recouped by making the switch to vaping. That alone could be worth the cost of entry.

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