What Exactly Is an Electronic Cigarette?

Updated on June 21, 2017
My electronic cigarette is called the Inferno.
My electronic cigarette is called the Inferno. | Source

Electronic Cigarettes Defined

The electronic cigarette has become quite popular, despite attempts to ban the product (although some countries have been successful). It has become useful as a way to quit smoking instead of nicotine gum or patches. It may be easier to quit smoking with an electronic cigarette for some people because it still feels like the user is actually smoking.

Instead of smoke, however, vapor is inhaled (hence the term "vaping" instead of smoking). There is no secondhand smoke, no scent of any kind, and it can be used anywhere including inside buildings and on planes. Some electronic cigarettes even look like a cigarette, as they are the same weight and length of a traditional smoke.

Personal Experience with Electronic Cigarettes

I quit smoking traditional cigarettes well over two years ago, and I love my electronic cigarette. I can vape anywhere, including sitting at the computer writing this article, and I don't have to worry about anyone around me complaining. It's also nice to know I'm not killing myself with 4,000 toxins, just one.

Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts blood vessels. There is very little evidence that I have found proving nicotine alone causes lung cancer. It's all the other chemicals in the tobacco that make traditional cigarettes dangerous.

I'm not saying you should rush out an buy one of these, far from it. This is simply to share information on an item I have personal experience with in order to help anyone who may be thinking of purchasing this type of product. You should always consult your doctor before using anything to help you quit smoking.

Have you tried or currently use an electronic cigarette?

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How Electronic Cigarettes Work

Electronic cigarettes go by many different names; vapor cigarette, e-cig, and electric cigarette, just to name a few. But they all work the same way. E-cigs usually have 2 or 3 parts; however, all e-cigs have two pieces in common:

  • An Atomizer (or sometimes a cartomizer)
  • A Battery

There is a reason they are called vapor cigarettes. They work by heating and evaporating a liquid (called e-juice), which contains nicotine and either propylene or vegetable glycol. A heating element (known as an atomizer) powered by the battery is used to heat and evaporate the e-juice. The vapor created is inhaled and exhaled like traditional smoke; however, it has no odor and it dissipates quickly.

E-juice comes in lots of different flavors and strengths.
E-juice comes in lots of different flavors and strengths. | Source

E-juice

E-juice is the liquid that is dripped onto the atomizer and evaporated. It can be in a disposable “cartridge” that slides onto the atomizer or it can already be attached to it creating a “cartomizer.” There are also options available that allow the user to drip the e-juice straight onto the atomizer themselves. This is my preferred technique simply because I don’t have to worry about the cartridge running dry and having to change it. The e-juice comes in many different flavors. The nicotine strength, measured in milligrams, varies from 8mg up to 24mg. There is also an option for no nicotine for those who want to quit smoking all together, which brings me to the next question.

How often do you, or did you smoke traditional cigarettes?

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Quit Smoking With Electronic Cigarettes

Since the e-juice comes in different strengths, it is possible to taper the milligrams of nicotine down to zero at your own pace. What really makes this successful is its portability and access. Electronic cigarettes can be used anywhere you want.

They also offer the hand-to-mouth action that many smokers, including myself, enjoy. This makes withdrawal highly unlikely, reducing the need for antidepressant and smoking cessation medications. There is no risk of accidental overdose because each e-cig has a built in safety feature. Most e-cigs will stop producing vapor after a 5 second drag or if too many drags are taken during a set period of time, which is usually around two minutes.

An atomizer with a purple drip tip.
An atomizer with a purple drip tip. | Source

Electronic Cigarettes Are Much Safer

E-juice contains only nicotine and propylene or vegetable glycol. Traditional cigarettes contain nicotine and over 4,000 toxins including:

  • Arsenic
  • Cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ammonia
  • DDT
  • Benzene
  • Cadmium
  • Nickel

Propylene and vegetable glycol is a common preservative used in the majority of foods we eat every day. Some studies have shown propylene glycol to have some protective qualities in the lungs, although this has yet to be proven. Cosmetically, e-cigs do not yellow the teeth or fingers and since there is no secondhand smoke, there is no pungent smell on clothes.

Availability of the Electronic Cigarette and Pricing Information

There are several brands out there on the market, and I’ve seen e-cigs range from $12 to over $100 on the web. I started out with blucigs, a company based out of North Carolina, which is one of the more popular brands. They now sell their starter kits, cartomizers and disposable e-cigs at many retail stores including Walgreens. The kits start at $69. I was happy with them until they switched from propylene glycol to vegetable glycol and the flavors changed dramatically, not to mention their customer service is subpar.

That's when I made the switch to Volcano, which I have found to be a far superior product. Volcano e-cigs range from $13 for disposables to $75 for the top of the line model starter kits. Volcano also has an e-cig forum where you can chat with other vapers for more information. Their e-juice tastes amazing, and their customer service is excellent.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Melissa Flagg OSC

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      • Daughter Of Maat profile imageAUTHOR

        Melissa Flagg OSC 

        5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

        @Savva, I know what you mean, I was afraid to drip as well, but once you get used to it, it's actually quite nice. When you first start you need to be careful not to flood the battery (which is why I have an inferno - it's a sealed battery) but you learn quickly! Volcano does have a UK site in case you ever want to try them. :D Happy vaping!

      • Savva Pelou profile image

        Savva Pelou 

        5 years ago from London

        i have been buying from www.skycigrefills.co.uk for some time now and i am really happy with their product. however, I can't help but wonder if there is anything better out there. The thought of having to "fill up" with ejuice makes me feel very edgy! Good hub

      • Daughter Of Maat profile imageAUTHOR

        Melissa Flagg OSC 

        5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

        Why thank you tillsontitan! I don't mind at all, in fact I hadn't got to it yet, but I was going to add a link to yours as well. The main problem I had with blucigs was the cartridges (when I started they hadn't gone to cartomizers yet). It seemed after a few drags the taste was lost. My husband had the problem with the battery. He was always charging his and the charging pack. When we switched to the Volcano inferno, both our problems were solved. The inferno battery lasts me up to two weeks without a charge, but I'm not a real heavy vaper. However, my husband is, and his lasts two days without a charge. The taste is always perfect because I can drip straight onto the atomizer, and they have quite a few more flavors than blucigs. Plus they have a wide selection of options from cartomizers to drip tips so there's something for everyone. Their customer support is also far superior.

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        5 years ago from New York

        I'm glad you pointed me to this hub (when you were reading my hub about ecigs). I'm not overly thrilled with blucigs...they don't seem to hold a charge for very long...seems like we are always charging them. I've never tried a different brand but may have to try the Volcano.

        I'm also linking this hub to mine...hope you don't mind.

      • Daughter Of Maat profile imageAUTHOR

        Melissa Flagg OSC 

        5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

        Essentially that's what ecigs are. Propylene glycol isn't harmful, it's in almost everything we eat and is derived from glycerin. Propylene glycol is converted into pyruvic acid by the body, and is organic in nature having the chemical compound C3H8O2. In fact, the only really harmful chemical in ecigs is the nicotine added to the propylene glycol and you can get ejuices without the nicotine. Vegetable glycol is also available.

        Hope that answered your question. Water alone can't be used as a carrier for nicotine. Water carries bacteria which would affect the nicotine and flavoring, not to mention it would eventually "go bad."

      • profile image

        Audi0artist 

        5 years ago

        Does anyone know if there are ecigs out there with no harmful chemicals, like only water vapor?

      • Daughter Of Maat profile imageAUTHOR

        Melissa Flagg OSC 

        6 years ago from Rural Central Florida

        You may want to try one of the online ones, it took me a couple of models before I found my current one. Once I tried the ecigs I threw out my analog smokes because they tasted horrible compared to the esmoke. But my hubby had more of a problem, he smoked for about a month after we got the ecigs, but he finally switched over. I think it does take come getting used to.

      • lucybell21 profile image

        Bonny OBrien 

        6 years ago from Troy, N.Y.

        Yes I have one of these, and tried to quit.. I kinda like it. It has it's good and bad points, but no I have not quit yet. I am going to try again. Perhaps the one I bought was not the best, though it cost me enough down at the store. And I do want to quit. I have done it in the past cold turkey, but somehow the older I get I lose will power. Nice hub!

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