Tech Magazine

What The Heck is an Electronic Cigarette?

Posted on the 21 September 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds
Electronic cigarettes appear to be the next big thing in smoking

I've always thought of smokers as givers of unwanted gifts. Because smoking is just too good for one person to enjoy, everyone around a smoker also has to partake. I personally do not respond well to cigarette smoke, which may explain why I don't smoke. I do, however, believe all smokers have the right to enjoy all the nicotine their bodies can handle, I just wish I didn't have to join them. Someone concocted the answer to my prayers about 20 years before I was born.

In 1963, a man named Herbert Gilbert acquired a patent on a "smokeless non-tobacco cigarette". He proposed that the device would "provide a safe and harmless means for and method of smoking by replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air...". Unfortunately for me, and the world, the technology of the time was insufficient to to carry out his design. Also, in the sixties, people didn't really deem tobacco to be harmful, so it wasn't imperative that this device be made. Plus, if I had to guess, I'd say the tobacco industry wasn't in a huge hurry to change the way they do business. More recently, in 2003, a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik invented the modern version of the electronic cigarette.

Okay, enough with the history lesson, how the heck do these things work? Well, they actually aren't as complex as you may think. They are comprised of a battery, an atomizer and a cartridge; and for fun they tend to have an LED light at the end. The cartridge is a small, disposable container that has openings on either end. It also acts as the conduit between your lips and the atomizer. The cartridge must allow liquid to pass to the atomizer and then allow vapor to pass from the atomizer to your mouth; all while not allowing the liquid back into your mouth. This is normally achieved with an absorbent sponge-like material. The mouthpiece part of the cartridge is designed with side channels so that the vapor can return from the atomizer and bypass the liquid chamber.

The atomizer is what produces the vapor the smoker gets to enjoy. It is a heating element typically consisting of a filament and wicking metal mesh. This mesh draws in the liquid from the cartridge. The liquid is heated, producing vapor and that is about it on this one. I told you it was simple. The filament is known to become less effective over time, and is a primary culprit of recurring expense in these products.

I've mentioned liquids a couple of times so far without having said what kinds of liquids. I think it's time to remedy that. The liquid is typically a combination of water and flavoring in a propylene glycol or glycerin base. Liquid nicotine also joins the party, because without nicotine it's just not smoking now is it? The flavor elements can vary widely from mimicking traditional cigarette taste to food and beverage flavors.

It is claimed that these cigarettes have no adverse side effects to second hand users. They don't produce smoke, only a water vapor which dissipates into the air quickly. When I've been around people using these, I've never had an issue with the byproduct and actually never seem to notice them. The jury is still out on whether these claims are legit or not; so utilize at your own risk. But I do know that in my local area, which has a ban on indoor smoking, you can enjoy these babies without persecution. So if you are a smoker and don't wish to share your smoke with the people around you anymore, you may wish to look into these. Thank you for reading.

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