The electronic cigarette was invented by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, after the death of his father from smoking related illnesses. The basis of his technology and his ideas are now well established in every vaping device across the world. The electronic cigarette industry, comprising of many companies, has seen a dramatic growth over the last 10 years and has transformed the lives of many people.
The name ‘electronic cigarette’ can be a confusing term for people the first time we come across it, the first time I heard about electronic cigarettes I presumed (wrongly) that it was a way of smoking electronically. An electronic cigarette really isn’t a cigarette at all. They have very little in common with each other and most modern vaping devices bare little resemblance to a traditional tobacco cigarette.
The most important thing to know about electronic cigarettes is that they don’t produce smoke, regardless the of vaping device, from small pod systems to large cloud producing tanks nothing is being burnt and no smoke is being made by the device, it is just heating up the e-liquid in the tank or pod to create a ‘mist’ or vapour to inhale.
All vaping devices, when you strip them down to the basic functions, work in very much the same way. They are made up of a power source, a heating element and a wick. The power source is the battery, the mod and any control electronics. The heating element is a coil made of resistance wire that will heat up when a small electrical current is passed through it. It’s essentially the same technology that hair dryers and toasters use to generate heat. The wick that carries and holds the e-liquid either through or around the heating coil is usually an organic cotton material although some newer coils are starting to use different materials such as flax paper and wood pulp. When the coil heats up the liquid in the soaked cotton it turns it to vapour. Electronic cigarettes actually have much more in common with the kettle and toaster in your kitchen than they do with a traditional tobacco cigarette.
Electronic Cigarettes are filled with e-liquid, this is simply the liquid that turns to vapour when it is heated. It will contain high quality pharmaceutical grade nicotine, unless it is a nicotine free liquid, flavourings that are usually artificial like the ones found in food, sweets and drinks, although some e-liquids may contain naturally extracted flavourings too. The two main ingredients in e-liquid are two colourless and almost tasteless liquids. Propylene glycol, which is also used in food processing as an additive and vegetable glycerine, which is used in toothpaste, cough syrup and other things we consume already. It might not be a surprise to know that both can also be found in smoke machine fluids, so if you’ve ever been to a gig or nightclub that’s been filled with artificial ‘smoke’ then you will have already experienced breathing in what is essentially flavourless and nicotine free e-liquid vapour. You may have also noticed the slight sweet taste that is has which is from the vegetable glycerine.
Vaping devices are a genuine alternative to cigarettes, cigars and pipes as a nicotine delivery system and they can replicate a very similar experience both in how it feels to inhale the vapour and visually when you exhale. That is the main reason that many people switching to electronic cigarettes are successful in doing so. Using the right device and e-liquid can give you the physical sensation of smoking, the flavour of tobacco (or another flavour of your choice) the hand to mouth routine and the nicotine without the smoke.
The Royal College of Physicians studies have shown that vaping is a much less risky activity than smoking and have stated:
Although it is not possible to estimate the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes precisely, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure.
Smokers that switch to vaping can also wave goodbye to smelly ashtrays, smokey clothes and save money.
Many people who use electronic cigarettes dislike the term and will use ‘vaporizer’ ‘vaping device’ or increasingly the most used phrase by users is simply ‘a vape’. There are good reasons why vapers prefer this, especially if they have spent a long time trying to stop smoking cigarettes. If you have successfully made the switch to vaping then you aren’t smoking any more and you hopefully won’t be using cigarettes again!