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College 101: Sealing the Deal

I need help making realistic price comparisons for my friend who just gave up smoking cigarettes for his new e-cigarette. His dad sent it to him as a gift and a ploy to help with abandoning actual cigarettes. So far, so good. Now the issue is finding new accessories and replacement cartridges.

Unfortunately, his dad only got him the starter kit, and I doubt anyone expected him to blow through his first two liquid cartridges in only about three weeks. We’ve only found a couple local stores that sell vaping products, and both have a limited selection. The other issue is that neither of us has been to any other retailers, so we’re totally in the dark about reasonable pricing.

We need help finding online options and some help understanding how to evaluate product quality.

While no chemical inhalation is ideal, it’s definitely much better to have a friend vaping instead of smoking. Writer Aggie Mika at The Scientist explains how addicts stand to gain from making the switch to vaping despite having its own associated risks. This is all to say that you should avoid indulging in unnecessary purchases that implicitly reward ongoing usage. Your friend’s dad probably expects his son to eventually abandon even the e-cigarette in favor of complete abstinence. Spending inordinate money on the activity can quickly become inadvertently detrimental to that goal, because it creates a situation of sunk costs and self-rationalization.

That being said, as consumers, you also want to avoid spending more money than necessary to accomplish the same objective. Limited consumer options in the local marketplace will almost always translate into higher prices for the product and/or service. Fortunately, the internet brings countless opportunities to overcome that local barrier. The downside is having to spend time making your own comparisons, which aren’t necessarily going to be accurate, due to imperfect knowledge and judgment.

One important thing to note while doing your own background research is that vapes aren’t necessarily the same as e-cigs. You can head over to Vaping Daily to see the difference between the best e-cigarettes and the best vapes. In many cases, the difference is a matter of degree rather than kind. Unfortunately, the widespread popularity of vaping has also meant a proliferation of products that range from inferior to economical to premium. As you might imagine, many tend to go for premium, but that inherently promotes the sunk cost and self-rationalization dilemma.

The best strategy might be to explore the most cost-effective or economical options to achieve an appropriate balance. Eliquid at a reasonable price is easily found online but you’ll have to again negotiate between a vast collection of different products. Relying on customer reviews could be a more useful place to begin if you find it too difficult to make meaningful comparisons. Another idea is bringing a handful of product comparisons to your local stores for an immediate second opinion. You’ll need to be mindful of their inherent bias but it’s still possible to glean some insights unavailable to the typical online user.

The only other option, which tends to be the best, is purchasing and simply testing a few different products to come to your own conclusion. But, of course, buyer beware.

“You have to do the research. If you don’t know about something, then you ask the right people who do.” -- Spke Lee

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