Electronic Cigarette Facts

The popularity of electronic cigarettes is picking up steam. The ban of public smoking in the U.S. prompted the introduction of the electronic cigarette in 2007. This smoking alternative offers the nicotine-addicted an alternative to smoking tobacco. Also known as “e-cigarettes,” these devices look similar to regular cigarettes, but instead of tobacco there's a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine and propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin into a vapor that’s inhaled and exhaled. There are a variety of e-cig flavors to choose from: chocolate, caramel, strawberry and bubble gum.

E-cigarettes are a relatively new technology that aren't subject to U.S. tobacco laws because there is no tobacco, and are not FDA regulated. The FDA is attempting to label electronic cigarettes as a drug-delivery device so they can be regulated [source: FDA]. Manufacturers say the e-cigarette is simply recreational, and should not be subject to FDA regulation.

Celebrities like Katherine Heigl believe that electronic cigarettes are a healthier option. Heigl shared one with David Letterman during a guest appearance on his show, even explaining to the audience how it works [source: Hunter].

The e-cigarette is reusable. While it requires a bit of maintenance, it saves smokers money compared to tobacco smoking.

How Electronic Cigarettes Work
Electronic cigarettes are designed to look like regular cigarettes, but you won’t need a match or lighter. Inside, there is a rechargeable battery, a vaporization chamber and a flavored cartridge filled with liquid nicotine. The battery heats the cartridge to produce a full-flavored vapor. To use, you simply twist the cartridge and battery together and inhale. An element inside the cartridge heats the liquid which changes it to a nicotine-filled vapor that you inhale to deliver the nicotine. There's no smell since nothing is burning. You can hold and puff on the device like a regular cigarette.

An electronic cigarette can contain as much nicotine as a tobacco cigarette, or more. You can choose cartridges in a range of liquid-nicotine strengths.

There are also flavored cartridges that contain liquid without nicotine. These cartridges are ideal for the tobacco smoker who wants to quit nicotine, but still enjoys the act of smoking. There are hundreds of flavors to be enjoyed, many with appealing names such as Mocha Madness, Cotton Candy, Bourbon and Cuban Supreme.

E-Cig Manufacturers
Electronic cigarettes were invented by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik, who patented his product in 2003. E-cigs were sold in China by a company called Ruyan, but are now being made by several U.S. companies. Many e-cig manufacturers sell the device, required cartridges, batteries and other accessories internationally online.

The Cost of Electronic Cigarettes
The cost of an electronic cigarette depends on the manufacturer, model and style. A typical starter kit, which contains the e-cigarette device, a battery and several cartridges, can cost $60 to $150. A pack of cartridges retails for about $10. The value depends on the manufacturer of the cartridges - each cartridge is equal to about a pack of cigarettes, except for certain manufacturers who offer cartomizers equivalent to 30 cigarettes. It also depends on your smoking habit. You can reduce cost by purchasing the liquid in bulk and refilling the cartridges yourself.

E-Cig Maintenance
Though battery-powered and reusable, users must charge the electronic cigarette battery regularly. The frequency in which this has to be done depends on the quality of the device and battery purchased. Cartridges also need to be replenished with liquid regularly, either by inserting a new cartridge or refilling an empty one. Nicotine liquid is sold in bulk for smokers who prefer this greener and less costly option.

Public Smoking
Whether or not electronic cigarette use is acceptable where tobacco smoking is not is debated and weighs greatly on opinion. The product is relatively new. Most public places, like restaurants, do not allow any form of cigarette smoking.

The debate lies heavily on whether e-cigarette vapor is harmful. The device doesn’t produce secondhand smoke, but they produce secondhand vapor. The resulting water vapor is harmless, according to manufacturers, but government regulators want e-cigarettes adequately tested before legislating where and how people can use them.

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