At their most basic level, electronic cigarettes are an alternative nicotine delivery system. According to the CDC, smoking tobacco is responsible for one out of every five deaths in the US. The unfortunate irony of the situation is that the ingredients which cause smoking-related illnesses aren't the important component in a cigarette. Smokers inhale tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, formaldehyde and bucketloads of carcinogens all in the name of getting access to nicotine. That’s why e-cigarettes exist, because you don’t need to put yourself at risk to get access to nicotine.
What is an Electronic Cigarette (Smokeless Cigarette)?
Instead of combusting tobacco leaves to produce the thick, pungent smoke of cigarettes, e-cigarettes (also know as e-cigs or electronic cigarettes) use pure pharmaceutical-grade nicotine which is heated to produce a vapor. This isn't the same as smoke for the same reason that you don’t get “smoke” rising from a boiling pan of water. Nothing is burning, it’s just heating. The electronic cigarette does the same thing with a nicotine-infused liquid, and because the liquid’s ingredients can be controlled, the number of chemicals smokers consume is drastically reduced.
E-cigarettes are designed to look a lot like cigarettes, but most of them are actually a little thicker. On most models you’ll find, the “butt” end screws onto the long part of the faux-cigarette for a realistic appearance. Some manufacturers put speckled effects on the ends to make them look more like the tobacco variety, and the tips light up when you inhale just like the ember on the end of a cigarette.
How do E-Cigarettes Work?
There are three core components to an e-cigarette. The battery is ordinarily lithium ion, and is the longer portion of the e-cigarette. There are two pieces in the screw-on cartridge, the “atomizer” and the e-liquid. An atomizer is a complicated-sounding word that essentially means a miniscule heater, which functions to turn the nicotine-containing liquid into a vapor. The process is relatively simple; the concentrated heat supplies the energy to the liquid which allows the atoms to bond and turn into a smoke-like vapor. The battery drives the atomizer, and it ordinarily activated when the user inhales on the mouthpiece of the e-cig.
The liquid is a mixture of a handful of ingredients. First, there is nicotine (which the Royal College of Physicians in London referred to as a “very safe drug”), then propylene glycol (which is used in asthma inhalers and theatrical smoke machines), water and some FDA-approved food flavorings. In short, things people consume all the time.
Benefits of E-Cigarettes
From the user’s perspective, they simply screw the cartridge into the battery and inhale on the end just like a real cigarette. The only difference is that there is no smoke – which means no smell – no burning – which means no ash and no butts – and nothing other than the nicotine you want and some flavorings to make it taste nice. The carcinogens, tar, disease and infirmity are no longer a necessary evil when you consume nicotine.
The e-cigarette is designed to reduce the harm caused by cigarettes. With the staggering associated death-rate, tobacco should really be avoided at all costs. Preliminary research looks extremely promising, but even if there could be some minor risk from e-cigarettes, they are undoubtedly much safer than cigarettes. Smokers switching to “vaping” still get the nicotine they crave and the sensation, but without all of the risks. Read more about the benefits of e-cigarettes here.
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