What Is a Vape Drip?

By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: March 21, 2024

Understanding the High Nicotine Vaping Trend

Electronic cigarettes, or vapes, have rapidly become one of the primary nicotine sources for adults and adolescents alike. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 13.2 million people reported vaping nicotine in the last 30 days — compared to 43.6 million people reporting smoking cigarettes.

However, vaping is far more popular than traditional tobacco in teens and young adults: 7.7% of middle and high school students vaped nicotine in 2023, compared to just 1.6% who reported using cigarettes.

Vape drips, sometimes called drippers, are a common form of vape that produces high volumes of vapor, delivers a high dose of nicotine, and is often used for vape tricks. While vaping is generally regarded to be safer than combustible tobacco use, these products can still be highly addictive and lead to several harmful health effects.

How Is Vape Dripping Done?

Vape dripping requires specialized equipment and technical skills that aren’t required for more conventional styles of vaping. To understand how vape dripping is done, it’s first important to explain the elements of vaping devices and how they work together.

  • The Battery: These can be built into the unit itself and recharged via USB or could include large batteries like those you may find in a flashlight
  • The Coil: The coil is a small piece of metal that heats up when electricity is applied to it through the battery, vaporizing any liquid it is touching — without getting so hot as to cause combustion
  • The Wick: The wick is held in between the coil and is used to draw vape liquid into the source of heat
  • The Tank: A tank in a vaping device is a reservoir filled with vape liquid with an opening for the wick to be fed inside
  • The Device: The device is the component that holds all of these elements together; it is sometimes called the “mod” or “mech mod”

With disposable vapes, which are currently the most popular style of vape, the battery, coil, wick, tank, device, and vape liquid are sold as an entire package, with the user only needing to inhale on the mouthpiece or press a button to produce vapor.

Other common styles of devices include tank or pod systems. These devices integrate the coil, wick, and tank into a single component. The tank is either refilled with vape liquid when depleted or discarded for a new “pod.”

Vape dripping differs from these styles of devices for several reasons. First, there is no tank on a drip device. Instead, they have what is known as an “RDA” — a rebuildable dripping atomizer. These are typically cone or cylinder-shaped and contain the coil and wick. With no tank, the user needs to drip vape liquid onto the wick directly.

With the wick saturated with liquid, the user activates the battery by pushing a button and produces vapor. Since there is no reservoir of liquid, the person typically needs to repeatedly drip liquid onto the wick every few hits.

Equipment Used for Dripping

Vape dripping requires specialized equipment and skills, making it a more advanced form of vaping. Some of the common equipment used in vape dripping include:

  • Wire: Drip vapes require the users to build the coils themselves, so most people who drip will keep wire in stock to build coils with
  • Wicking material: The wicking material in a drip vape typically looks like cotton or a small white rope
  • RDA: The rebuildable dripping atomizer sits on top of the device and houses the coil and wick
  • Drip Tips: A drip tip is a wide mouthpiece that attaches to the RDA and allows users to drip vape liquid onto the wick
  • Mods: A “mod” is the housing for the battery that the RDA attaches to; they include a button to fire the device and may have a charging port
  • Batteries: If the mod doesn’t have an integrated battery, large 18650 batteries may be used

Most of this equipment can be purchased at local vape shops or online.

How Is Dripping Different Than Normal Vaping?

There are a few key elements that make dripping distinct from normal vaping. First, people who use vape drips have to build their coils themselves. This is a process of wrapping conductive wire around the wicking material and securing it to the RDA.

In comparison, normal vapes come with prebuilt coils that are meant to be replaced regularly.

Since the coils are built by hand, people can control the amount of electrical resistance the coil provides. In practice, people using a vape drip typically build low-resistance coils, which can draw extremely high wattage from the battery, leading to much greater vapor production than normal vaping.

The larger amount of vapor produced enhances the flavor of vape liquid and makes it easier to perform vape tricks, such as blowing O’s, french inhales, or “cloud chucking.” And since more vape liquid is vaporized, more nicotine can enter the lungs at once.

Is Vape Dripping Safe?

Vaping nicotine is highly addictive, and the increased amount of nicotine released through a vape drip makes it even more addictive than conventional vaping. Larger amounts of vapor may also lead to other physical harms, such as vaping-related pneumonia.

But vape drips themselves carry added risks over and above normal vaping. The first is the risk of combusting the wicking material — sometimes called dry hits. When the wick is unsaturated with vape liquid, it can ignite and combust when the battery is activated. This exposes people to dangerous chemicals, such as aldehydes, that are released by wicking material when combusted.

Additionally, the vape drip device itself may present an added danger: Many vape drip devices called “mech mods” are unregulated and may lead to overheating, battery venting, or even battery explosion.

Things to Avoid if You Drip

While it’s not advised that you drip, a few tips can help you avoid many of the largest consequences if you decide to do it. Some things to avoid include:

  • Using Unregulated or “Mechanical” Devices: These devices do not have built-in safety measures to prevent battery failure
  • Using Nicotine Salts: Vape drips are designed to be used with freebase nicotine, as dripping nicotine salts can expose you to exponentially higher levels of nicotine
  • Chain Vaping: Vaping repeatedly on a vape drip can lead to overheating of the battery, which can lead to catastrophic failure
  • Using Tobacco: Co-use of tobacco products and vaping devices can amplify your risk of serious health consequences, as well as make it harder to quit
  • Using Cannabis: While there are many devices for vaping cannabis liquids, these liquids should never be used in a vape drip

If you keep these tips in mind, you can mitigate negative consequences.

Reducing the Potential Harms of Dripping

Ultimately, vape dripping can be a healthier alternative to cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco, but it still carries its own set of risks and consequences. Consider whether vape dripping is helping you achieve your health goals or keeping you from reaching them.