How Electronic Cigarettes Work
Electronic cigarettes allow you to enjoy the use of nicotine without the need for tobacco. This non-flammable solution produces vapor and provides the user with the physical sensation and flavor of a traditional cigarette without the nasty odor, tar or harmful chemicals. Here's how an ‘e-cig' works:
Most electronic cigarettes include two main pieces: the battery and cartridge.
At the core is a Li-Ion battery (disposable or rechargeable), which makes up the longest section at the end of an e-cig.
The battery is then connected to a cartridge containing the mouth piece and most of the other components. Inside, the electronic controls, heating element and vaporization chamber make up the ‘atomizer' – the component that creates the vapor.
This atomizer is surrounded by the liquid nicotine.
How the Parts Work Together
When a user inhales through the mouthpiece of most (automatic) e-cigs, a sensor picks up the air flow and sends a signal to the atomizer. The atomizer will then activate the heating element and heat up the liquid in the cartridge to convert it to vapor. As the user inhales, the nicotine is delivered to the lungs and is exhaled in a thick cloud of vapor that looks and feels just like regular cigarette smoke. To add to illusion, most electronic cigarettes have a light-emitting diode (LED) at the end of the battery that lights up when the user inhales, simulating a hot ash. Types of e-cigs →
More About E-Cig Cartridges
Cartridges come in a variety of different flavors and contain different levels of nicotine, depending on the user's preferences. Flavors range from tobacco or menthol – to apple, cherry, caramel, chocolate, coffee and more. They can be purchased in a disposable, pre-filled format or as liquids that are used to fill blank cartridges or tanks.
Besides nicotine and added flavoring, the liquid or “smoke juice” that fills the cartridge of a typical e-cigarette is made of propylene glycol (PG), the same chemical that's used in fog machines at concerts. In fact, it's used in so many consumer goods that it would be impossible to list them all. It's used as a additive in the foods we eat, cosmetics that we wear on our skin and in pharmaceutical products that we use to stay healthy. An organic compound created in laboratories, propylene glycol has been thoroughly tested and approved by the FDA.
Vegetable Glycerin (VG) is another base compound used in many electronic cigarettes. Although it's vegetable based and considered natural and safe, it's not ideal (by itself) due to it's thick properties, so most companies use a mixture of both PG and VG in their cartridges.