The “electronic cigarette”….
… is a misnomer. The electronic cigarette or “e-cig” or “Personal Vaporizer” (PV for short) is not a cigarette at all but is a relatively new technology that will ultimately, in our estimation, completely replace the tobacco cigarette (or “analog cigarette” in the e-cig vernacular) industry over the next few years. They, the tobacco companies, will go “kicking and screaming” no doubt. The e-cig presently can not be marketed as, and should not be considered as, a “smoking cessation device”; rather, the e-cig is a completely separate “smoking alternative.”
The e-cig was invented by Chinese businessman Hon Lik, also a former heavy smoker, after his father succumbed to lung cancer. Mr. Lik was determined to find a safer, more realistic smoking alternative for nicotine-addicted people like he and his father and after extensive experimentation patented the basic device known, incorrectly I believe, as the electronic cigarette.
Vape! don’t smoke:
The e-cig is not a cigarette in that it is NOT a tobacco product and no combustion takes place. It is most commonly used in conjunction with a liquid nicotine-containing solution, however, making it an excellent candidate to replace the “analogs.” One does not “smoke” an e-cig, as there is only a very minute amount of non-carcinogenic suspended particulate matter (i.e., smoke) emitted by an activated e-cig and the rest of the “smoke” is actually vapor. Thus, the process is commonly and more accurately referred to as “VAPING” to futher distinguish the e-cig from analogs. Hence the name chosen for this venture: Vape! don’t smoke.
The nicotine solution or “smoke juice” is generally composed of water molecules, a usually organic aromatic to give it taste, and uses either a PG (propylene glycol) or VG (vegetable glycerin) base substance. “Atomization” is the heating process that produces the vapor that looks a good deal like “smoke”. Both PG and VG in their solid forms are considered to be safe substances by the FDA. PG is commonly used in the production of fog in disco-style fog machines and VG is a very common food additive. Most pre-packaged e-cig cartridges contain a PG solution, however many U.S. companies have begun manufacturing more VG smoke juice choices due to common throat irritations experienced by some heavy vapers using a PG-based solution.
Obviously, the most attractive attribute of the e-cig is that it does not contain any of the 3,000 or so carcinogens common to all lighted tobacco products. Note again that whatever conclusions you may make on your own, the US FDA has NOT evaluated this product to be used as a smoking cessation device and this product has not officially been evaluated for safety by any official U.S. agency. While this product exists in a “gray area” across the board in both federal and state laws (it is, after all, a new technology), because it is commonly used in conjunction with liquefied nicotine, sale of the e-cig, “smoke juice,” and any other e-cig related paraphernalia to anyone under 18 years of age is prohibited by this currently self-regulated industry!
How it works:
So, how does it work? It’s actually very simple in engineering, and though still in its technological infancy it does indeed achieve its primary function–that is, to be a much safer alternative to smoking nasty, smelly tobacco cigarettes and cigars or “dipping,” etc. Generally, the e-cig is divided into three components that are generally fully interchangeable among common model styles, though the number of new models increases frequently now as this product takes wing: the most common 3-piece model consists of the Battery, Atomizer, and Cartridge.
The Batteries are generally small, thin, rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries that are the basic “brain” of the e-cig, in that they generally have a tiny microchip tallying the number of draws you take to engage infrequent “cleaning cycles” that superheat the atomizer to burn off any nicotine fluid that may have stuck to it. For the common automatic e-cig, the battery is engaged when you draw upon the e-cig unit which then heats the atomizer and often illuminates a small LED light at the opposite end of the battery to either simulate burning real smoke (orange) or often in another color such as blue or green to avoid confusion in areas that don’t permit smoking…which is becoming pretty much everywhere.
The Atomizer is essentially a tiny heating coil that is powered by the Li-Ion battery when the e-cig is drawn upon. The atomizer (or “Atty” as it is commonly referred) heats (but does not combust or ignite) the fluid-soaked wicking material inside the attached cartridge. The atomizer is the center piece–the cartridge slips on one end and the battery is screwed onto the other end.
The Cartridge is the plastic end that connects to the atomizer and also serves as the mouthpiece that is drawn upon. It has an inner plastic cartridge filled with a wool-like wicking material soaked with your choice of “smoke juice.” This liquid comes in MANY flavors, including tobacco-like tastes, fruit, menthol, coffee, whiskey, etc. and comes in a huge selection of nicotine density…from very high, about 34 mg, to high, medium, low, and ZERO nicotine as well, with many in-between. The object is, for most, to “step down” the nicotine quantity and hopefully quit all this stuff. Vaping is healthier and preferable to smoking, but doing neither should be you goal.
There also exist two-piece models where the atty is attached to the cartridges and one-piece sets that are disposable. There are also pipe- and cigar-style versions of the e-cig.