Have you ever noticed how vaping some flavors will you make cough? Or that the same exact e-juice on another setup just feels different?
What you’re experiencing is different types throat hit.
Like the “bouquet” of a good wine, a balanced throat hit is fundamental to a pleasant vaping experience. A strong, full, and satisfying hit is expected from a good-quality e-juice, and it’s part of the reason that so many people enjoy vaping.
But don’t be so quick to lump all throat-hit sensations under just one category, because there are actually at least six distinct sources of throat-hit that you can experience.
Each source of throat hit carries a different sensation, and what can be extremely enjoyable for one vaper might be downright unpleasant to another.
But that’s part of what makes vaping so fun: trying out different style of vaping until you find what works for YOU.
So to help you fine-tune your vaping experience, we present the 6 sources of throat hit you may not know about:
1. Nicotine Throat Hit
This is the easiest throat hit to recognize, and one that every vaper should be familiar with.
As you should already know, this hit can be quite different depending on the level of nicotine in your e-juice: the more nicotine, the stronger and heavier the throat hit. Nicotine is responsible for the largest portion of your throat hit.
What Should I Feel?
Heavy, thick, and just a little bit painful, the nicotine throat hit may remind you of conventional smoking.
Pure, high-quality nicotine will give a satisfying full-bodied hit. It can be described as a “thump” in your lower throat/upper chest.
Cheaper nicotine can feel quite unpleasant, replacing the pleasant burning sensation with a prickly, “peppery” burn, which can leave your throat raw.
2. PG (Propylene Glycol) Throat Hit
Most e-juices contain some ratio of propylene glycol (PG), either as a component of the mix or a base for concentrated flavors. Because it is a fantastic flavor carrier, some brands of e-juice may contain up to 50% PG.
What Should I Feel?
High-quality PG feels like a thinner and lighter variation of a nicotine throat hit. Whereas nicotine hits in a slower burn all across your throat, PG is punchy and sharp, hitting mainly the back of your throat. In addition to this, PG can also feel like mild tickle in your upper throat.
Some people have a mild sensitivity to PG, which is made worse when the PG is low quality. These vapers feel a scratchy, itchy sensation in the back of their throat, often making them cough. While this will usually go away after a few days, it can be completely avoided by switching to a max VG blend.
3. Flavor Throat Hit
This is where things get interesting.
Depending on the flavor of your e-juice, the throat hit can be mild or explosive. It can kick instantly, or leave a lingering aftereffect. And sometimes, it can even give you more sensation than a low dose of nicotine.
But trying to figure out the distinct sensations of individual flavors can get very complicated. Let me explain.
Flavor concentrates are diluted in “bases” like PG, alcohol, or water. Each of these bases has their own distinct hit (or lack thereof).
Most e-juices also use a combination of different flavors, mixing a variety of throat-hit sensations together.
What Should I Feel?
Menthol flavors are excellent for those vapers looking to boost their throat hit without increasing nicotine. A menthol vape will coat your mouth and throat with a pleasant cooling sensation on the inhale, adding a mild, full-bodied hit to your exhale.
Sweet flavors (including fruits, creams, bakery, etc.) tend to feel completely smooth on the inhale, only making their presence known with they tiniest of kicks on the exhale.
Sour flavors (like tangy fruits) are the opposite. They will give you a distinct (sometimes itchy) hit on the inhale, coming out smoothly on the exhale.
Citrus flavors are known for mimicking a very low-level nicotine throat hit, and are sometimes added by mixologists to supplement a juice’s hit.
Dark flavors like coffee and tobacco seem to carry very little throat hit of their own. This is especially true for artificial varieties of these flavors.
Natural extracts have the highest potential for introducing throat hit to your vape. While there are many exceptions to this rule, natural flavors tend to have more complex chemical profiles than isolated artificial ones.
4. Wick Throat Hit
Anyone who’s had a dry hit can attest: wicking material has a very distinct hit of its own. Most of the unpleasant burn is just that—your wick burning. But in the initial moments of a dry hit, you can distinctly make out the sensations caused by your wick.
What should I feel?
Silica wick packs a distinct chemical punch that you can feel on the inhale and the exhale, lingering for a few moments after you finish your draw. You can feel it mostly in your mouth and upper throat, but may also notice it as a slightly uncomfortable burn in your chest.
Cotton wick has a much less noticeable presence. It is almost completely clean on the inhale, only revealing itself briefly as a paper-thin burn on the exhale. This sensation is usually limited to the upper throat.
Hemp twine wick is the harshest of the group. 0.3% nicotine juice can easily feel like 0.6% on a hemp wick. It is a deep, full-bodied kick that hits your entire throat while inhaling and exhaling. Not for the faint of heart.
Keep in mind: all of these materials can become unbearably harsh if the wick is burning.
5. Power Throat Hit
If you’re used to standard resistance atomizers (1.0 Ω+) and low power settings (5-15 watts), your throat hit is mostly coming from the sources we listed above.
But if you’re sub-ohming, you know first-hand just how much effect the extra wattage can have on your throat hit.
What should I feel?
If you’re vaping with a standard setup, you won’t experience any additional throat hit.
Once you start vaping in the sub-ohm range (15 watts+), you’ll notice that incremental increases in your wattage translate to a warmer vape.
As a general rule of thumb, the hotter the vape, the more you feel the individual throat hit sensations. Power acts as a multiplier of the already existing sensations.
Once you get into the extreme sub-ohm range (vaping at 90+ watts), entirely new sensations are introduced.
The full-bodied sensation of nicotine will transform into a sharp (yet still pleasant) burn in your throat.
The previously mild tickle of PG will no longer be mild, and can easily trigger your cough reflex at higher concentrations.
The overall heat of the inhaled vapor will also make it difficult to sustain long draws.
While these sensations may sound unpleasant, don’t write off high-power vaping. Certain e-juices actually thrive above 90-watt range, producing incredibly rich flavors and immensely satisfying hits. Look for 30/70 or max VG mixes for a fantastic vape in this range.
Note: These changes in sensation are also related to coil resistance, build type, and temperature. We chose wattage as a metric to simplify the explanation and make it applicable to non TC devices.
6. Airflow Throat Hit
Very closely tied to the output power of your device, airflow has just as big of an impact on your throat hit.
Because higher power ranges heat your coil quicker, more airflow is required to cool your coil and displace the vapor in your tank. This is why sub-ohm tanks have much more airflow than standard resistance tanks.
More open airflow also requires you to vape differently, using a straight-to-lung draw style instead of mouth-to-lung. And this creates a completely different throat sensation.
What should I feel?
Mouth-to-lung airflow is the closest to mimicking a cigarette throat hit. As you draw the vapor into your mouth, a slight tingle will hit your tongue. Pulling the vapor into your lungs combines the nicotine, PG, and flavor hits into a deep, punchy sensation in the back of your throat that remains until you exhale.
Straight-to-lung airflow will result in a much smoother inhale, replacing the sharp kick with a consistent and pleasant burning sensation that extends down to your lungs. But don’t be fooled—the kick is still coming. As you begin to exhale, you will feel the combined force of nicotine, PG, and flavoring hit the back of your throat.
Given all of the above, there are few general rules of thumb you can follow.
If you want more of a hit, make sure to go for juices with higher concentrations of nicotine and PG. Go for sweet or citrus flavors, and increase your wattage.
If you’re looking for a smooth vape, cut out the nicotine and opt for a high VG blend. Also consider switching to a straight-to-lung tank like the Aspire Cleito or Uwell Crown.
But ultimately, it all comes down to experimentation.
Stop by your local B&M and take your time to try out different flavors and devices until you find something that suits YOU!