electronic cigaretteAn electronic cigarette, also known as e-cigarette or e-cig, is a mechanical-electronic device meant to simulate a tobacco smoking. An electronic cigarette produces inhalable vapor with or without nicotine in different flavors (from tobacco to fruits). It may be used as an alternative to smoking tobacco, because it provides flavor and a physical sense similar to smoke from common cigarettes, although there’s no tobacco, combustion, or actual smoke — usually it uses an heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution. Most Electronic cigarettes are designed to mimic the shapes and colors of traditional smoking implements. An important detail is the presence of a light at the e-cigarette tip that lights up with each “breath” to simulate burning.

The pros and cons of electronic cigarette use are ambiguous at present. Nevertheless, it is generally believed that using e-cigs is probably safer than smoking tobacco. There is still a great deal of research needed, some of which has already begun. Several Texas-based institutions, as the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and The University of North Texas System, have already begun such studies.

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e-cigarettesParts of an electronic cigarette

An electronic cigarette’s components usually include liquid, a cartridge, an atomizer, and a power source. Many are made of streamlined replaceable parts, while disposable devices combine all components into a single part that is discarded when its liquid is out.

The cartridge serves as a liquid tank and mouthpiece. It is intended to allow the passage of liquid into the atomizer, and to function as a vapor channel  from the atomizer to the user’s mouth. The atomizer is the central component and consists of a small heating element responsible for vaporizing liquid, as well as material for capillary action. Considering that atomizers tend to lose efficacy over time due to sediment accumulation, some models employ a disposable “cartomizer” component that can also work a cartridge for the cigarette.

Most portable devices contain a rechargeable battery – usually the largest component of an electronic cigarette. There can be an electronic airflow sensor active by drawing breath through the device, or a power button to be held during operation. Some companies sell portable charging cases (PCC) shaped as a cigarette pack, which contains a bigger battery to charge e-cigarettes.

What’s e-liquid?

The liquid for producing vapor in electronic cigarettes, also named e-juice or e-liquid, is a solution of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin(VG), and/or polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG400) mixed with concentrated flavors; and optionally, a variable concentration of nicotine. E-liquid can be bought in a bottle or in disposable cartridges for the e-cigarette, and often they’re labeled with mg/ml” or “mg” symbols for designating the level of nicotine concentration.

Electronic cigarettes’ popularity

From 2008 to 2012, the sales for electronic cigarette increased $20 million to $500 million, with a projected $1 billion sales for 2013. Studies show that, in 2011, one in five American adult smokers have tried electronic cigarettes. Also, among grade 6 to 12 students in the United States, those who have ever tried e-cigs increased from 3.3% to 6.8%, from 2011 to 2012. Apparently, 10% of students who have used e-cigs have never smoked.