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Mouth-to-Lung Vaping: Why It's Coming Back

March 08, 2020 6 min read

Since sub-ohm tanks became popular among mainstream vapers a few years ago, it increasingly began to seem as though mouth-to-lung inhaling had reached a permanent state of irrelevance among anyone with more than a few months of vaping experience. Virtually everyone seemed to follow the same progression. When you initially switched from smoking to vaping, you bought a cigalike online or from a local convenience store. If you were able to use the cigalike to quit smoking successfully, you used that device until you eventually reached the point at which you began to wonder if anything else was out there. You discovered sub-ohm tanks and bottled e-liquid, and you never looked back.

At least, that was the way things used to work. In 2015, though, the JUUL e-cigarette hit the market, and before long, every vaper in the United States wanted to know more about pod vapes and nicotine salt e-liquid.

In 2018 and 2019, the popularity of pod vaping systems really began to reach critical mass. Every major manufacturer of vaping hardware had at least one pod system available, and most of the popular e-liquid makers released nicotine salt versions of their most popular flavors.

Mouth to Lung Vaping

Pictured: Suorin Drop Pod System

The mainstream popularity of pod systems has had an interesting effect. While pod-based vaping devices are primarily marketed toward beginning vapers, experienced vapers are buying them as well. Thousands of vapers around the world have traded in their sub-ohm mods and “downgraded” to pod systems. Each time an experienced vaper switches from a sub-ohm mod to a pod system, that person is making a decision to switch from a direct-to-lung vape to a mouth-to-lung vape – and that’s the phenomenon we’re going to explore today.

So, why are so many vapers “downgrading” from their sub-ohm mods to pod systems? Why is mouth-to-lung vaping making a comeback after being overlooked by experienced vapers for so many years? Let’s learn more.

What Is a Pod Vaping System?

A typical box mod or sub-ohm vape pen stores its e-liquid in a refillable glass tank. The tank is a semi-permanent component that you can essentially refill an infinite number of times as long as you don’t break the glass. When the flavor quality begins to suffer, you replace the atomizer coil.

A pod system, on the other hand, stores its e-liquid in a plastic pod. Unlike glass vape tanks – which are always cylindrical – vape pods are usually square or rectangular. The shape – and the fact that plastic can be much thinner than glass – naturally lends itself well to the development of smaller, lighter vaping devices. Pod systems typically operate at low wattages and are extremely sleek and portable. Some pod-based vaping devices have replaceable atomizer coils. Unlike with tank-based vaping devices, though, the pod itself is also a replaceable component.

A pod system is almost always designed to be a mouth-to-lung vape. Since pod systems operate at lower wattages, they work best with higher-strength e-liquids. Most people use pod systems with nicotine salt e-liquid.

What Is Nicotine Salt E-Liquid?

Nicotine salt e-liquid is what makes it possible for a small pod vaping system to deliver a cigarette-like level of nicotine. While standard e-liquids tend to top out around 18 mg in nicotine strength, nicotine salt e-liquids usually start out at 20 mg and can range all the way up to 50 mg. With a nicotine strength that high, a nicotine salt e-liquid can give you the same rush that you’d get from smoking a cigarette.

The best part of nicotine salt e-liquid is that, even at extremely high nicotine strengths, it’s always smooth in flavor and extremely easy to inhale. That’s because nicotine salt vape juice has a more neutral pH than standard e-liquid, which is always somewhat alkaline. Standard e-liquid, on the other hand, would be extremely harsh at nicotine strengths above 20 mg.

With a standard e-liquid, you’ll never get the same kind of nicotine rush that you would get from smoking. That’s precisely why so many vapers switch to larger and more powerful vaping devices – because with a lower-strength e-liquid, those are the only devices that produce enough vapor to truly satisfy.

What Is a Mouth-to-Lung Vape?

A mouth-to-lung vape is a vaping device with a low operational wattage and somewhat restricted airflow. It’s designed to mimic the slightly restrictive airflow of a tobacco cigarette, and you use it in the same way – by drawing the vapor into your mouth before inhaling it.

Some tanks for vape pens and mods are also designed for mouth-to-lung vaping. You can tell a tank’s intended inhaling style by looking at the mouthpiece. If the mouthpiece is around the same time as a cigarette tip, it’s a mouth-to-lung tank. If the mouthpiece is wide, it’s a tank for direct lung hits.

What Are the Benefits of Mouth-to-Lung Vaping?

For those who are new to vaping, the primary benefit of the mouth-to-lung inhaling style is that it’s what feels most like smoking. If you’re inhaling from the mouth to the lungs, you’re using a low-temperature vaping device that doesn’t generate enormous clouds. When you use a device with low vapor output, you’ll generally want to pair that device with a higher-nicotine e-liquid to ensure that you absorb enough nicotine to fully satisfy your cravings.

When you inhale a high-nicotine vapor from the mouth to the lungs, the nicotine creates a slightly scratchy sensation in your throat. People call that sensation throat hit, and it’s very similar to the sensation you feel when you inhale cigarette smoke. Many of the people who initially switch to vaping want an experience that feels as much like smoking as possible, so having a mouth-to-lung vape that delivers an assertive throat hit is important to those people.

An additional benefit of a mouth-to-lung vape is that MTL devices tend to be simpler than direct-to-lung devices. A mouth-to-lung vape will often have an automatic airflow sensor, so you can use it just by puffing on it. Other MTL devices generate vapor with the touch of a single button and never require any adjustments or tinkering. Just keep it charged and full of e-liquid, replacing the pod or atomizer coil as necessary, and you’re all set.

Why Are People Switching From Sub-Ohm Devices to Mouth-to-Lung Devices?

So, it’s obvious why mouth-to-lung vapes appeal to beginners; it’s because those devices are easy to use and produce an authentic cigarette-like throat hit. The direct-to-lung devices that most experienced vapers use, however, aren’t like that at all. They generate huge clouds, so they work best with low-nicotine e-liquids that deliver almost no throat hit – and that brings us to the heart of this article.

Why are experienced vapers switching from larger mods to mouth-to-lung devices? It’s because those people were never completely happy with the direct-to-lung vaping experience. Before nicotine salt e-liquid existed, using a direct-to-lung vape was the only way to get a satisfying amount of nicotine. When sub-ohm tanks and vaping devices began to appear on the market, people started using those devices out of necessity because the devices they were using didn’t satisfy them. With the advent of pod vaping systems and nicotine salt e-liquid, everything has changed.

So, are you an experienced vaper thinking about switching to a mouth-to-lung vape? Here are some signs that a pod system is probably right for you.

  • You’re unhappy about the amount of e-liquid that you use. Do you go through a 100 ml bottle of e-liquid every few days? If you do, you’re spending a lot of money on vape juice.
  • You’re unhappy about the amount of money that you spend on replacement coils. Many of the mainstream e-liquids that come in big bottles are heavily sweetened with sucralose, and sucralose creates a residue called coil gunk that robs a coil of its flavor quality and vapor production. Some people who use high-output vaping devices find that they need to replace their coils every day, and that can become extremely expensive. A mouth-to-lung vape uses significantly less e-liquid. Even if you use sweetened e-liquid with a pod system, your coils will last longer because you aren’t vaping nearly as much sucralose.
  • You worry that the enormous clouds produced by your current device annoy other people. A high-end vaping device produces far more vapor than a cigarette produces smoke. Some people do find the whole “vape life” thing a bit obnoxious.
  • You’re unhappy about the heavy weight and poor portability of your current vaping device. A dual-battery mod is enormous and feels like a brick in your pocket. A pod system, in comparison, is light, sleek and extremely portable – and with nicotine salt e-liquid, you can reduce the size of your vaping device without compromising the satisfaction you currently enjoy.
  • You don’t like the responsibility of managing powerful lithium-ion batteries. When you have a vaping device with removable batteries, you need to store and transport those batteries extremely carefully to prevent the batteries’ terminals from touching other metal objects, which can cause a short circuit. Pod systems, on the other hand, do not have removable batteries. When you use a pod system, battery management isn’t really something that you need to worry about at all.

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