E-Cigs – An Introduction

You may have heard something about the use of e-cigarettes in the news lately. There is much controversy behind these products and debate about whether or not they are healthier than regular cigarettes. But what exactly is an e-cigarette? How does it work? What is inside it? Read on to find out.

What is It?

An electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, is nothing more than a vaporizer which gives you a dose of vaporized nicotine. That nicotine is then inhaled and absorbed in your body, as it would be with regular cigarettes. Non-nicotine cigarettes can also be found, and these devices are a good alternative for smokers who do not want to inhale tobacco smoke.

First marketed in China in 2004, they were invented by Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist. The company that employed Lik, named Golden Dragon, began exporting the product to other markets beginning in 2005 and the product gained more popularity around the world.


Some electronic cigarettes look like actual cigarettes, while others can look like ballpoint pens. Many are reusable and have cartridges for the nicotine solution which can be refilled or replaced. Most current e-cigarettes are also automatic. When you suck on it, a sensor will activate a heating element to vaporize a liquid, giving you the vapor.


Electronic cigarettes are made of the following parts:

  • Mouthpiece – Also called a cartridge, it is on the end of the tube. A small container in the mouthpiece carries the liquid solution, which can contain various levels of nicotine. Some are refillable or replaceable, and the solution can also be flavored.
  • Atomizer – The atomizer is a heating element. It heats the liquid solution, which causes it to vaporize. Once in vapor form, the solution can then be inhaled. Atomizers should be replaced after between 3 and 6 months of use.
  • Battery & Electronics – Most e-cigarettes have a lithium-ion battery which can be recharged. The battery is used to power the heating element and the life span of the battery depends on the amount of use it gets. E-cigarettes have sensors to automatically turn on the atomizer when you suck on the device, while others have buttons which need to be pressed. Many electronic cigarettes also have a small LED light to tell you when it is active. The light can also simulate the glowing tip of a regular cigarette.


Solutions inside the cartridge can be any one of hundreds of flavors. The solution, also known as e-juice, can contain no nicotine at all, or up to 36mg/ml. The other ingredients include things like propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin which the FDA recognizes as safe.

Flavors can range from chocolate, vanilla and strawberry to ones which try to emulate specific brands. There are flavors of electronic cigarettes for everyone, meaning you’re sure to find something that you like.

Despite what you think about e-cigarettes, they are a growing phenomenon, and knowing a little about the products will help you make the decision of whether or not you choose to use them.