A funny thing happens when you run a vaping website for nine years. One day, you look at your site and realize that you’ve spent page after page discussing cigalikes – a type of e-cigarette that almost no one seems to use anymore – and a lot of that information just isn’t as useful as it once was. Today, many of the people who aren’t using mods are using pod vaping systems – but not all. Sellers of traditional cigalikes continue to soldier on, and you can still find the classic cigarette-shaped e-cigarettes in brick-and-mortar stores and online.
So, you’re a smoker, and you’re interested in buying your first e-cigarette. You’re faced with the difficult task of comparing pod vapes vs. cigalikes. Which one do you choose? In this article, I’m going to break it down in simple terms.
Cigalikes and Pod Vaping Systems Both Give You Simplicity
Cigalikes and closed-system pod vapes are both designed from the ground up to provide the kind of simple, trouble-free vaping experience that you need when you’re first making the switch from smoking. Whichever type of device you choose, the experience of making the device work will be much the same. You’ll charge the battery via a USB charger. You’ll twist on or push in a cartridge or pod. You’ll puff on the device, and it’ll create vapor. No vapor? Charge the battery. No flavor? Replace the cartridge or pod. The devil is in the details, of course – but you can be confident that whichever type of e-cigarette you choose, you’ll get a device designed to deliver the level of simplicity that you want as a recent convert from tobacco cigarettes.
One important thing to note is that there are actually two types of pod vapes: closed-system and open-system devices. Closed-system devices use pre-filled pods that aren’t designed to be refilled. That’s the simpler type of device. Open-system devices use empty pods that you fill yourself with bottled nicotine salt e-liquid. Open-system devices give you the freedom to choose your own e-liquid flavors, but they’re a bit more complicated to use than closed-system devices.
Cigalikes Deliver a Familiar Experience for Smokers
Cigalikes give you one thing that pod systems don’t, and that’s the physical shape and size of a tobacco cigarette. You can’t hold a pod vape between two fingers or let it hang from your lips, but you can do those things with many cigalikes. Some cigalikes even include portable battery charging cases that charge your batteries and hold a few spare cartridges. A portable battery charging case looks and feels a bit like a pack of cigarettes; some even have flip-open lids. If you really need vaping to look and feel as much like smoking as possible, you’re probably going to love using a cigalike.
The drawback of cigalikes is that, while they do an excellent job of mimicking the physical act of smoking, they fall short in terms of vapor production and battery life due to their size constraints. A device that needs to be as small as a cigarette will have a tiny battery and a tiny heating coil; there’s no way of getting around those problems except by making the device bigger. That’s where pod vaping systems come in.
Pod Systems Deliver a Modern Vaping Experience
While larger than a tobacco cigarette, the typical pod vaping system is still extremely small. The standard shape of a pod system resembles that of a USB thumb drive. You can hold many of them between two fingers, but you probably won’t want to let one hang from your lips. With the small increase in size, though, comes massive increases in battery life, e-liquid capacity and vapor production. The typical cigalike has a battery capacity around 90 mAh. Pod systems, on the other hand, have battery capacities ranging from 200-1,000 mAh. The typical cigalike holds less than 1 ml of e-liquid in a cartridge. Pod systems hold up to 2 ml of e-liquid and sometimes even more. With a pod system, you can expect to vape much longer before you’ll need to change the pod or recharge the battery. In many cases, a full pod and a charged battery are sufficient to keep you vaping all day without interruptions.
What’s even more important, though, are the things going on under the hood. The basic design of the cigalike cartridge hasn’t changed since the beginning of the vaping industry. Wet cotton gauze delivers e-liquid to a tiny heating coil in the center of the cartridge. It’s impossible to use all of the e-liquid in the gauze without burning the cotton, so some of the e-liquid is always wasted. A modern pod delivers e-liquid to the heating coil much more efficiently, allowing you to use the pod until it is completely dry. You’ll get more puffs out of a pod than you will from any cigalike cartridge – and those puffs will be far more flavorful and satisfying.
The final key difference in the comparison of pod vapes vs. cigalikes is that pod vaping systems almost always use nicotine salt e-liquid, while cigalikes do not. Nicotine salt has a more neutral pH than the freebase nicotine used in most e-liquid. That makes the vapor much smoother to inhale when the e-liquid has a high nicotine strength – and you need a high nicotine strength when you’re using a small vaping device. The highest available nicotine strength for a cigalike tends to be around 18 mg. Pod vaping systems have nicotine strengths up to 50 mg. That’s around the same nicotine per puff that you would get from a tobacco cigarette.
Final Thoughts on Pod Vapes vs. Cigalikes
Between cigalikes and pod vaping systems, pod vapes are far more modern and deliver a better vaping experience in almost every way. These days, most new vapers who would have purchased cigalikes several years ago are buying pod systems instead. You shouldn’t let that fact deter you from buying a cigalike, though, if you really need a vaping device that reminds you as much of a tobacco cigarette as possible. If people weren’t able to use cigalikes to switch from smoking to vaping, the vaping industry wouldn’t still exist today. I started with a cigalike, and I’ve been smoke-free for close to 10 years. It’s important to remember, though, that using a cigalike will most likely mean you’ll have to adjust to lower overall nicotine levels while making the transition to vaping. If you use a pod system, on the other hand, your nicotine levels will most likely remain more stable.