E-Cigarettes: Everything is going Digital

E-Cigarettes: Everything is going Digital

How it works

Typically, e-cigarettes consist of two components: a battery and an atomizer. The battery is usually the long stem of the e-cig that mimics where the tobacco would be in a normal cigarette. The “filter” of the e-cig holds the actual nicotine and turns it into nicotine-filled water vapor when you suck on it.

The atomizer—also called a “cartomizer” when the atomizer and liquid nicotine cartridge are housed in the same unit—consists of a heating coil that vaporizes the liquid nicotine and other flavored chemicals. When a person inhales, the atomizer turns the liquid to vapor that can strongly resemble smoke when exhaled.

Plenty of variations exist. Some types of e-cigarettes use liquid containers that are fed into the atomizer. Some people use these liquid chambers to hold THC, the primary chemical in marijuana, instead of nicotine. Disposable e-cigarettes consist of a battery unit and cartomizer that are designed to be thrown out after use.

Similarly, some e-cigarette batteries use electronic airflow sensors to activate the atomizer during inhalation. Others require the user to press a button, giving the, uh, “smoker” manual control over the production of vapor.

Depending on the brand, a nicotine cartridge can hold the equivalent of 20 to 30 cigarettes. When “smoking” them, you get a tickle in the back of your throat and the taste of unfiltered nicotine (if you have ever used a nicotine patch, lozenge or gum, you know what this tastes like) and often some type of flavor. Green Smoke has several different kinds of flavored cartomizers meant to mimic the taste of tobacco.

Starter kits likewise vary. Usually they include one or two batteries and cartomizers equivalent to five or 10 packs—between a half and a full carton—of cigarettes. Typically, starter kits range between $70 to $100. Individual disposable e-cigarettes range between $7 and $10. (USD$)

Is it Healthy?

Plugging my cigarette into … the wall?

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA)has not approved e-cigarettes as safe alternatives to regular cigarettes, citing lack of research. The FDA doesn’t know if they’re safe for their intended use, how much nicotine or harmful chemicals are inhaled during use or if there are any benefits associated with the use of e-cigarettes.

What we do know about e-cigarettes is that they sidestep some of the risks associated with burning and smoking actual tobacco. They don’t produce tar or other harmful combustion products, they’re free from pesticides that can contaminate tobacco leaves used in cigarettes and they don’t contain the fiberglass and ammonia found in normal cigarette filters. The makers of e-cigarettes claim there’s no danger of “second-hand vapor” analogous to second hand smoke because their products emit only harmless water vapor.

Concerns over e-cigarettes center over whether or not certain chemicals found within the atomizers are harmful, such as propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. These chemicals can often be found in food and items such as tooth paste, although people don’t usually inhale them. Experts remain concerned about the health effects of inhaling nicotine vapor and, more broadly, whether social acceptance of e-smoking might encourage more people to smoke actual tobacco.

If this alternative turns out to be safer, it may save generations of lives.

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