What is the Electronic Cigarette
Electronic Cigarettes, or E-Cigarettes, are a new alternative to smoking that help people quit or switch away from traditional tobacco cigarettes. Using a rechargeable battery and vapor atomizer, they convert a nicotine solution into vapor to provide a realistic smoking experience without the tar, tobacco, or other chemicals and carcinogens that are linked to lung cancer and heart disease.
Because they are a water vapor instead of smoke, there is no second hand smoke, ash, or flame, and it's safe to use anywhere, even most places which have banned traditional cigarettes. E-Cigarettes are being recognized as a truely innovative and effective approach to stopping smoking.
E-Cigarettes look and feel like real cigarettes, which is why they have proven very popular as effective smoking alternatives. The water vapor someone exhales instead of second hand smoke is nearly odorless, and won't stick to clothes or people around an e-cigarette user. The nicotine solutions are available form most vendors in various strengths, allowing users of e-cigarettes to ease off the level of nictotine at their own pace if they wish to break their nicotine habit. A variety of flavors and types of e-cigarette prodcuts exist as well, and most brands also end up being significantly less expensive than tobacco cigarettes.
While the most popular style of e-cigarettes looks like a traditional cigarette, there are actually a variety of models and styles available. There are long pen-style cigarettes (that looks like a ball point pen) as well as cigars and pipes that look so realistic they could fool anyone.
Electronic cigarettes take on many shapes and forms, but generally they consist of the same three basic components; the battery, atomizer, and cartridge.
The battery is usually the largest component of an e-cigarette. Most electronic cigarettes use regchargeable lithium-ion batteries with an LED light at the tip (which are found in various colors). The LED is to singal when the e-cigarette has been activated by inhaling on it as well as to simulate the appearance of a traditional lit cigarette.
Button Activated Battery
There is also an electronic airflow sensor (built into the battery) that is usually automatically activated when you take a drag of the e-cigarette, although some e-cigarette battery models require the user to press a button to activate the unit before taking a drag.
Various electronic circuits are also used in the e-cig for features such as a cut-off switch to prevent overheating. Many e-cigarette models are too small to use a standard-size battery and instead use a proprietary battery made by the manufacturer. Battery life will vary depending on the size, type, and frequency of use.
There are different types of battery chargers used such as USB, A/C wall charger or 12volt car chargers. The USB charger combined with an A/C wall adaptor or 12v car adaptor has been the most popular as it allows the user flexibility to charge the battery at home, office, car or anywhere an outlet is available, and is usually what is offered today when purchasing a new electronic cigarette starter kit.
The atomizer is the most important component in an e-cigarette. It is powered by the battery and vaporizes the liquid nicotine solution inside the cartridge, which can be inhaled by the user giving them the sensation of smoking.
An e-cigarette atomizer is a small metal tube which has what looks like steel wool attached to one end, and threads which screw into the battery on the other end. The steel wool (it is a solid metallic heating element), when activated, is what heats the nicotine solution to create the vapor.
Some models combine the cartridge and atomizer into one disposable unit called a "cartomizer". These models are generally more expensive do to the fact that the atomizer is disposed with the cartridge after each use.
The cartridge is a small plastic tube that resembles the cigarette butt and contains the nicotine solution inside. The cartridge generally fits over the atomizer where the nicotine solution is vaporized in the cartridge chamber.
The nicotine solution consists mainly of Propylene Glycol, water, nicotine and flavoring. Propylene Glycol is the ingredient primarily responsible for creating the smoke-like vapor that you see. Propylene Glycol is on the FDA's list of substances generally recognized as safe.
Propylene Glycol is surprisingly common and has many uses. PG is used in consumables such as medicines, cosmetics, toothpaste, and mouthwash. It's also used in food products such as food coloring and orange bitters (used as mixers in cocktails). It can also be added as non-toxic antifreeze for winterizing drinking water systems.
Nicotine is a colorless, oily chemical found in tobacco that studies have shown can make some people physically dependent or addicted to smoking. It is toxic at high doses, but can be safe at lower doses, such as it's use in traditional and elecontric cigarettes. It is important to understand that the primary health risks associated with smoking are not attributed to nicotine, but the other ingredients found in traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Electronic cigarette makers usually offer different levels of nicotine such as High (18mg), Medium (16mg), Low (12mg) or Zero nicotine. Some users have taken the step-down approach starting with the High nicotine moving down to low or zero nicotine similar to methods used with the gum or patch.
Flavoring plays an important role in the e-cigarette experience. Some e-cigarettes makers even try to replicate the flavors of popular brands like Marlboro, or Camel. However, the most popular flavor is still traditional tobacco and menthol. There are also a wide variety of exotic flavors like chocolate, cherry, vanilla and apple available from some manufacturers as well.
It is important to point out that e-cigarettes are not a smoking cessation product and have not been approved by the FDA to be sold as such. Currently, the FDA is fighting for authority to regulate electronic cigarettes.