What are e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes)?
E-cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes and vaporizer cigarettes are devices that emit doses of vaporized nicotine that are inhaled. The device is battery-operated and can also emit non-nicotine vaporized solutions. Manufacturers say they are an alternative for tobacco smokers who want to avoid inhaling smoke. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals, many of which are hazardous for human health.
Manufacturers and a significant number of users say the e-cigarette provides a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke, however, there is no combustion (no smoke).
E-cigarettes are long-shaped tubes, many look like the product the user used to smoke, such as a cigarette, cigar or pipe. Some look like ballpoint pens (biros). The majority are reusable with replaceable and refillable cartridges. A small percentage of products are throw-away ones – disposable e-cigarettes.
The electronic cigarette first entered the market in China in 2004. In 2003, Hon Lik, a pharmacist from China invented the device. Golden Dragon Holdings, the company Lik worked for, started exporting into major markets in 2005-2006. Golden Dragon Holdings changed its name to Ruyan.
Most of the current models are automatic – as the user sucks on it, a sensor activates a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution held in the mouthpiece. The user can choose whether or not to have nicotine in the flavored liquid solution. In older models (manual models), there is a little button which turns the heating element on and off. An LED indicates whether the device has been activated when the user inhales.
The E-cigarette has various components
Most devices have a mouthpiece, a heating element, a battery (rechargeable), and some electronic ciruicts.
- The mouthpiece – also known as the cartridge. This is fixed to the end of the tube. A smaller plastic cup within the mouthpiece holds an absorbent material drenched in liquid solution.The solution can carry varying levels of nicotine.Manufacturers refer to the mouthpiece as the cartridge. This can either be refilled or replaced with another pre-filled one when necessary.Instead of using the cartridge, the user can also use drip tips – the absorbing material is removed and drops of liquid are placed directly into the atomizer bridge.
- The Atomizer – this is a heating element which heats up the liquid, causing it to vaporize so that it can then be breathed in (inhaled). An atomizer needs to be replaced periodically, usually about once every 3 to 6 months.
- The battery and some electronic components – in most cases there is a lithium-ion battery which is rechargeable. The battery powers the heating element. The battery life depends on how often you use it, its type, size and operating environment. It is usually the largest component of an electronic cigarette.Newer versions have a sensor which automatically activates the heating method as soon as somebody sucks on the device, while others have a button you need to press when you suck.Many have an LED (light emitting diode) which tells when the device is activated.
What are the parts of an Electronic Cigarette?
Generally, an e-cigarette will come with three parts.
- A power source (usually a battery or wire that draws power from a USB port)
- An atomizer (the part containing the heating element)
- A cartridge or tank (the part containing the liquid)
What do the cartridges contain?
The solutions are often referred to as e-liquid or e-juice. Typically, they contain hundreds of flavors. For those desiring nicotine without smoke, the solution contains nicotine dissolved in propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin – both common food additives. Experts say propylene glycol has had no serious known side effects since the 1950s when it was included in nebulizers and asthma inhalers. In fact, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), USA, includes this ingredient as one of its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substances.
The solutions come in varying levels of nicotine concentrations, ranging from zero to extra-high (24-36 mg/ml).
Some flavors, such as tobacco/menthol combinations, try to resemble traditional cigarettes. A number of them claim to mimic specific brands too.
Tobacco giant, Reynolds American Inc. says its new electronic cigarette “VUSE” will be available at retail stores in Colorado in July, 2013.
E-cigarettes are as effective as nicotine patches in helping tobacco smokers give up, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand found.
Are They Safe?
The nicotine inside the cartridges is addictive. When you stop using it, you can get withdrawal symptoms including feeling irritable, depressed, restless and anxious. It can be dangerous for people with heart problems. It may also harm your arteries over time.
So far, evidence suggests that e-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes. The biggest danger from tobacco is the smoke, and e-cigarettes don’t burn. Tests show the levels of dangerous chemicals they give off are a fraction of what you’d get from a real cigarette. But what’s in them can vary.
“E-cigarettes may be less harmful than cigarettes,” Drummond says. “But we still don’t know enough about their long-term risks or the effects of secondhand exposure.”
What is E-liquid?
The liquid used in the cartridges is referred to as e-liquid. It commonly has three major components: An agent to produce the vapor, Nicotine for obvious reasons and flavorings to add flavor. All of the components except the nicotine would be considered safe for use in food products.
There are two types of agents that can be used to create vapor.
- PG – Propylene Glycol is the most common.
- VG – Vegetable Glycerin is used, usually, by people with
allergies or sensitivity to PG.
The vast majority of e-liquid you will find will be PG based; if you are new to vaping keep your order small the first time to insure you are not stuck with a big batch of liquid that you do not like or cannot use. Propylene Glycol generally produces sweeter juices, sharper throat hit and less vapor. Vegetable Glycerin produces more vapor, and tends to be less sweet. Sometimes you will find both types mixed together, because vegetable glycerin is thicker than propylene glycol, and often times it is mixed with PG to be more soluble, or… VG is mixed into the PG to give it more consistency.
E-liquids are also available in different strength levels of nicotine ranging from zero nicotine up to levels as high as approximately 4.8% nicotine, though anything higher than 2.6% is getting increasingly more difficult to find. The nicotine level is expressed in milligrams per milliliter but can be converted to an approximate percentage by placing a decimal between the digits. 24mg strength would be roughly 2.4% nicotine.
Does it taste like a real (traditional tobacco) cigarette?
The liquid that tastes most like a real cigarette is… there is none. No liquid tastes like a real cigarette because there is no combustion. Imagine if you will, what tobacco would taste like if you made it into a tea. It is not a pleasant thought for most people. Instead, look over the flavors and choose a flavor you normally find pleasant. Keep in mind that different flavors will taste different from different suppliers so while you may not like vanilla from one company, you may like vanilla from another. Try small sizes for different liquids until you find something you like; then get larger bottles.
Is there a special way to store this liquid?
E-liquids should be stored in a cool, dry place that is not exposed to direct sunlight. Many suppliers use colored glass bottles to help reduce exposure to sunlight but it is not a bad idea to keep whatever you are not actively using stored in a closed box that eliminates any light exposure. Many e-liquids will have an expiration date and manufacture date on the bottle. It is assumed that most juices expire 1 year after date of manufacture. Be sure to keep e-liquid out of reach of children and pets.
How to Start Using E-Cigs
If you’re ready to give e-cigarettes a try, review the latest expert and user e-cig reviews to find the best e-cigarette brands on the market. If you’re not sure whether e-cigarettes will work for you, starting out with a disposable electronic cigarette (which normally cost much less than the standard starter kits) is a good option to consider.
Additional Resources About E-Cigarettes and Tobacco Cigarettes
- 15 Reasons to Switch to E-Cigarettes
- The History of Cigarettes
- Cigarettes and the Health Effects of Tobacco
- Choosing E-Cigarettes Over Tobacco Smoking
- The Importance Of Staying Smoke Free In The Car