What is an e-cigarette?

What exactly is an e-cigarette?

E-cigs are, quite simply, electronic devices created to simulate the act and sensation of smoking. For some people, they do more than just simulate, they actually have replaced cigarettes as their “smoking device” of choice.

The primary benefit to e-cigs is, of course, obvious. There is no smoke, which means the smoker doesn’t inhale carbon dioxide, tar or any of the carcinogenic substances found in cigarettes. The substance inhaled is either pure water vapor mixed with harmless flavoring agents (which have been tested to make sure they don’t contain any toxins), and commonly mixed with nicotine to provide the same “feeling” as one would get smoking a cigarette. And that means the exhalation isn’t smoke, it’s just water vapor. So there’s no second hand smoke, no odor – nothing that violates anti-smoking laws or ordinances – in fact, nothing that any reasonable person could possibly object to. Nothing burns, so there’s no ash and no fire danger, either.

How does it work? Most e-cigarettes have either two or three components: the battery (usually contained in what we would think of as the “cigarette” part; the atomizer (which is what creates the vapor, and is called by different names by different manufacturers); and the cartridge, which contains the flavor and nicotine. In “better” e-cigs, the atomizer and cartridge are combined into one component, making it easier to handle the e-cig when it’s time to recharge or switch to a “new pack.” (The atomizers/cartridges, and the batteries, can last for the equivalent of one to three “packs of cigarettes” depending on manufacturer.) You normally purchase “kits” when you start with e-cigs, which will include the equipment needed to recharge your battery – either by plugging into a wall outlet or a computer.

The flexibility provided by e-cigarettes cartridges means that there are a wide variety of flavors and nicotine strengths available from various e-cig companies. We’ve seen cartridges as strong as 24mg of nicotine (the strength of an unfiltered cigarette), and as low as zero nicotine for those who are looking to replicate aspects of smoking other than the “oomph” of the inhale. There are the traditional “tobacco” and menthol flavor cartridges, as well as ones which simulate the taste of cigars and ones that provide “novelty” flavors such as chocolate, vanilla and cherry.

Prices for e-cigarettes vary widely; you can get a “trial e-cig” for around 10 or 15 bucks; trial kits for as low as 25 or 30 dollars; and extensive kits for well over one hundred dollars. The value, of course, is in the larger kits – but the point is, there’s plenty of flexibility in price, as well as taste and flavor.