What is it like to vape? This reporter gave it a try.

I first started smoking cigarettes when I was 12, stealing from my grandmother’s purse. Marlboros. It’s been a battle against Mother Nicotine ever since.

I’ve gone years without smoking cigarettes, satiating my tobacco need through cigars even chewing tobacco. Eventually, though I would be back smoking coffin nails.

Being inherently clumsy, my habit was everywhere to be found. Filled ash trays. Lighters in every nook and cranny of the house. My car seats were always had burns.

I’m lucky I haven’t perished in flames on the highway. Somehow, once I threw a cigarette out the window and it blew back into the car and smoldered on the back seat.

I tried a disposable e-cigarette on one car trip and felt it was so inorganic that it was a non-starter.

But after doing a story on the vaping industry last month I thought I thought I’d give vaping a try as an experiment.

Recently, I had moved on from my Newport cigarettes to cigarillos but was now up to three a day. And the grief – as any traditional smoker can attest – from family members about the smell was growing to a deafening din. My wife said it was her No. 1 “turn-off.” Ouch.

Now two weeks into vaping, I can tell you that I haven’t picked up a traditional tobacco product. I haven’t even wanted to smoke a cigarillo. My cigars in my humidor have gone untouched.

Still, this passion-in-the-making hasn’t been without its pitfalls. And it’s been quite a learning curve for a 50-year-old someone as clumsy as me.

First of all are the safety concerns from health officials, including our own Dr. Alina Alonso at the Health Department in Palm Beach County. She fears vaping is appealing to kids because the e-juice used to vape comes in as many flavors as there are in a candy store.

As addressed in my vaping culture story, the warnings are said to be suspicious by the vaping industry considering health officials in England has endorsed electronic cigarettes as a much better alternative to smoking traditional tobacco products.

The ingredients in “e-juice” of propylene glycol, glycerin, water and nicotine seem pretty straight-forward. Last I checked, there are 599 different additives to cigarettes. Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association says these additives have an anti-depressant effect on the smoker and that this is the real reason why they are harder to kick than heroin.

The vaping industry is not corporate – or at least not nearly as corporate – as traditional tobacco.

CLOUD CHASER. Ryna Schalk demonstrates her vape at E Vapor Squad in Wellington. (Photo: John Pacenti)

Vapinig proponents say everyone is losing money to the upstart industry: the government through taxes, tobacco companies through the sale of cigarettes, and pharmaceutical companies from the sale of cessation products such as patches or gum.

The Food and Drug Administration is set to clamp down further on the industry, possibly even driving it out of business. Which would be an interesting, because it is – like I reported previously – an amazing mom-and-pop American entrepreneurial story. So either the U.S. government is about encouraging small businesses or it is all just button-pushing rhetoric.

Then, there is that learning curve.

First off. It’s not cheap. At least, not to get started.

There is the vape, there is the e-juice, there is figuring out what kind of e-juice you like and purchase of rechargeable batteries. Then there are the replacement parts that make the vape work.  I’ve easily spent close to $300 in the last month getting this thing up and running — after some missteps — and I’m still far from perfecting it.

But if you are the obsessive-compulsive type, vaping will fit right into your lifestyle. Besides flavor choices, there are as many types of vapes and e-cigarettes as there are stars in the sky. Figuring out what apparatus to buy is daunting.

I bought an e-cigarette type device that was not to my liking. I thought it would be closest to cigarettes but didn’t fit the bill. I then settled on a vape sold by Smok, an AL85, with a tank called the “Baby Beast” for its efficiency.

Immediately, I couldn’t figure out how to make it work and had to head back to the store to find out how to set it up. My first embarrassment, but not my last.

I bought some tobacco-flavored juice and something called Mr. Brunch, which aims to taste like stuffed French toast in blueberry syrup.  I had to get familiar with e-juice terms such as the PG/VG ratio which dictates flavor, vapor production and harshness – what vapers call throat hits.

I also had to settle on my nicotine level. I found that 12 mg was too harsh. Some juice I bought was nicotine-free and was a waste of money. It was supposed to taste my black-and-mild cigarillos. Not exactly.

Now my mind was racing. What was the best juice for me? I got a pumpkin pie flavor one and another called Bacon Maple Sin, which was delicious.

I had to learn how to put the vape together properly so it didn’t leak. I lost a lot of liquid at first.

But that was only part of my education.

The liquid is heated by an atomizer, which – guess what? – comes in many different sizes and configurations for my device. The atomizer is inside a tank, which holds the liquid.

The heating element is the coil. Some coils are better for taste. Some are better for producing vapor – or clouds.

The cotton or wick surrounding the coil burns out and when that happens the sweet spot you get with your vape evaporates like – well you know what – and it tastes awful.

The coil dilemma has been the most frustrating part. I learned the hard way – actually still learning –that you had to prime your wick so as not to burn the cotton that surrounds right away.

Also, it is not unusual to get a bad coil and I got a few of them just by bad luck. Two in one pack right off the bat – not discounting operator error.

Those who really like flavor use “drippers,” atomizers where the e-juice is dripped in a little at a time. They take some work but aficionados swear by them.

So right now I’m waiting to see if the third coil from the pack does the job and delivers the flavor I was experiencing just yesterday. It is steeping.

But there is no doubt I’m obsessed. And now some millennial vapers are thinking “what a tool” but the fact is I haven’t smoked a cigarette or cigarillo in two weeks.

There is indeed a tight vaping community at the many little stores that have popped up over the nation. The local ones have been more than willing to help me and to discuss all issues vape.

And, finally, the family reaction has been positive for the most part. The wife is not happy about the money outlay to get this thing started. But there is no longer the endless criticism about “my cigar smell.”

And it is a stress reliever, an oral fixation once fulfilled by the cigarette – something I was skeptical it could replace. I’ve even entertained my youngest lately by struggling to blow vape rings.

Now, if I can just get the dang new coil to work.