What are electronic cigarettes?

An electronic cigarette is a small, electric-powered inhaler that simulates tobacco smoking on real cigarettes. Some people refer to it as e-cigarette, vapour cigs or e-cig.

It feigns cigarette smoking by having glycol or other glycerin based solution vaporized into an aerosol mist. This product has been marketed to help kick the habit of smoking or replacing tobacco use and have often been classified as a medical device.

It offers significant advantages over genuine cigarettes, in the sense that it provides nicotine fix minus the carcinogenic gunk and does not harm other people with harmful second hand smoke.

Their psychological effect of providing the similar sensation of lighting up a cigar makes them more effective in kicking the habit eventually compared to nicotine patches and gums.

History and development of electronic cigarettes

The electronic cigarette traces its roots in early 1960’s where it was patented by Herbert Gilbert. He created a device that heated nicotine to produce moist flavored smoke, similar to the sensation brought about by smoking, but without burning actual tobacco or paper.

A further improved version was introduced in 2000 where Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, played up the idea of having nicotine diluted in glycol solution is pressurized and eventually vaporized to get nicotine inhaled through the lungs.

The diluted nicotine is placed in a disposable cartridge which acts as the reservoir and mouthpiece. A standard nicotine cartridge lasts the same as 17 to 18 genuine cigarettes.

Parts and consumables of the vapour cigs


Hon Lik’s invention was granted international patent in 2007 and have come a long way in terms of design. In fact, recent models have a length of 100 millimetres, about the same as the standard cigarette and have become slimmer than the older models.

However, each electronic cigarette that is out in the market still contains the most basic components. The most important of all is the plastic cartridge reservoir which forms part of the mouthpiece. Then there is a miniature atomizer that heats the liquid and converts it to steam.

Finally, there is the rechargeable battery that powers the vaporizer. Some models come with an adaptor that allows you to rejuvenate the batteries of each faux cigarette.

Although some models are disposable, an important consumable for any electronic cigarette would be its e-juice or for some, the e-liquid. This is the homogenized solution of glucose based liquid where nicotine and other flavours are mixed in.

Manufacturers vary in using propylene glycol, vegetable based glycerine or polyethylene glycol 400. Flavours are extensive – though many would prefer having the taste of their tobacco blends, menthol, vanilla, coffee, cola and fruit-based flavours are emerging hits. It depends on the manufacturers how much nicotine is there in each packet of e-juice and that is indicated in the label as milligrams per millilitre.

Issues on the usage of e-cigarette

The e-juice used for any electronic cigarette have not been subjected to any standard manufacturing procedure as the chemicals used for their bases are classified as food additives, cosmetics or used in medical devices. Aside from the fact that the base solutions have not been subjected to scrutiny, the amount of nicotine in every brand also varies and is not regulated.

Advocates of the electronic cigarette have touted its ability to provide the same sensation of a good smoke without carrying the same risks as traditional tobacco. However, there have been health concerns regarding the absence of clinical studies that will prove the beneficial effects they claim.

In September 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged that studies should be conducted proving this claim and that there should be necessary regulations set in place if it were to be adapted as nicotine replacement therapy. In 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) took up the challenge and analysed different varieties of e-cigs of two major manufacturers.

Their studies showed that cancer causing impurities are present and inconsistent amounts of nicotine were detected when the device was put to use. Despite the findings, the results have been highly controversial even to scientific experts and proponents of vapour cigs. In other countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Greece, studies are in favour of these artificial cigars.

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