Gone are the days when having a cigarette needs to cause a plume of what some consider a stinky, objectionable cloud of smoke. In fact, even those who in the past smoked traditional, light ‘em up cigarettes are turning to e-cigs to get a nicotine boost without having to venture outdoors or to one of the dwindling number of acceptable smoking areas that are set aside these days.
So what exactly are e-cigs? Let us explain.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are a metal tube that is typically filled with a liquid containing nicotine. In many cases, they are made to look similar to regular cigarettes, but also are frequently designed with a look similar to a ballpoint pen. When the user “puffs” on the device, a small battery heats the liquid and emits a vapor mist that the user inhales. The experience is much like inhaling from a traditional cigarette, but without the smoke from burning tobacco.
A design for smokeless cigarettes without tobacco was first patented in 1965. Back then, interest was low and it took nearly 40 years for the idea to gain market success. The current wave of e-cigs became popular after a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, in 2004 released an updated version. Now there are disposable versions and ones that can be refilled for repeated use.
Instead of using tobacco – which is a harmful carcinogen – e-cigarettes typically have three main ingredients. These are nicotine, a flavoring of some kind and propylene glycol. The latter is a syrupy synthetic liquid. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), propylene glycol – which is also found in salad dressings, soda, shampoos and more – is “generally recognized as safe” and has been for more than 20 years.
Most e-cigarettes have a mouthpiece, a heating element and a rechargeable battery attached to wired circuits within the device.
The mouthpiece also is referred to as the cartridge because it holds the liquid solution that will ultimately be converted into a vapor. The liquid solution in e-cigs also is referred to as e-liquid or e-juice. When buying e-liquid, you will find there are hundreds of flavors and different levels of nicotine available. Some e-cig cartridges contain no nicotine at all and instead offer a fruit or other flavor for the user’s enjoyment.
In addition to the mouthpiece, e-cigarettes have a heating element, which is also called an atomizer. Within seconds, the atomizer vaporizes the liquid in the mouthpiece so it can be inhaled.
Finally, there’s the battery, which is usually a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged. The battery powers the heating element and in some cases also a LED light on the e-cig. The light lets users know when the device is working and also simulates the experience of traditional cigarette smoking, during which the burning end of the cigarette emits light.
E-cigarettes are mostly automatic nowadays. This means when a user places the device in their mouth and inhales as they would from a regular tobacco cigarette, a sensor heats the liquid inside and immediately sends a mist of vapor down the tube for the user to inhale. The liquid solution usually contains nicotine but users can select nicotine-free options, too.
In addition to the automatic e-cigs, there also are manual ones that require the user to press a small button on the device to activate the heating element.
According to a June 2015 study released by the news agency Reuters and market researcher Ipsos, the use of e-cigs is on the rise. Currently, about 10 percent of U.S. adults now use e-cigarettes. Nearly 70 percent of these users started using them in the past year, according to the survey. About 75 percent of those who use e-cigs still smoke traditional cigarettes on occasion, too.
According to the Reuters/Ipsos survey, many smokers said they switched from traditional cigarettes to e-cigs to help them quit using tobacco. They also cited lower costs and the ability to use e-cigs indoors where traditional smoking is not permitted or leaves an unwanted odor. In response to this demand, shops selling e-cigs are showing up in many communities. Estimates from industry officials report that about 15,000 e-cig shops have opened in the U.S. in the past few years.
Many smokers also said they switched to e-cigs because they believe them to be safer than smoking tobacco. Debate about the safety of e-cigs continues. On one hand, most still contain nicotine, which has been found to be an addictive stimulant. On the other, e-cigs spare the user from inhaling a cloud of carcinogenic tobacco smoke. At this point, researchers continue to look at the benefits and dangers of e-cigarettes.
Special note: SmokeTip products are intended for use by persons of legal smoking age, not by nonsmokers or by children, women who are pregnant or breast feeding, or persons with or at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or taking medicine for depression or asthma. Consult a physician if you experience nicotine misuse symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, weakness and rapid heartbeat. If you smoke tobacco products, you are encouraged to stop. Keep electronic cigarette products out of the reach of children and pets; ingestion of certain pieces can present a choking hazard and ingestion of the non-vaporized concentrated ingredients in the cartridges can be poisonous. The statements made within have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and these statements and SmokeTip products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.