- Dangers of Nicotine
- How Do Electronic Cigarettes Work?
- The First Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette
- Figuring Out How Electronic Cigarettes Work for Manufacturing
- Reinvention of the E Cigarette Has Success
- How Does an E Cigarette Work as a Mechanical Process?
- Temperature Needed to Produce Vapor
- E-Liquid Flavors and Nicotine
- Symptoms of Nicotine Overdose
- How E Cigarettes Work Psychologically
Electronic cigarettes (e cigarettes) are becoming increasingly popular. Many smokers who use e cigarettes to help them quit smoking wonder how do e-cigarettes work. This article discusses the topic of how do e cigarettes work and explains the history of the invention of e cigarettes, as well as giving some cautions about the dangers of e cigarettes. Let’s start with the cautions.
Dangers of Nicotine *
E cigarettes maintain an addiction to nicotine, so they are not completely safe. Tobacco smokers are already addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is a carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical). It is also a pesticide, so it is a poison.
A research paper on the harmful effects of nicotine notes many adverse affects from long term use that include:
- Cancer: Many types of cancers
- Heart problems: Increased heart rate, irregular heartbeats, negative effects on arteries leading to heart attacks
- Stroke: Negative effects on arteries leading to the brain causing a stroke
- Fertility: Male infertility and female pregnancy problems with premature birth
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
The National Cancer Institute notes that nicotine withdrawal symptoms are severe including:
- Increased appetite and overeating
The dangers of nicotine use are well known. Nevertheless, Public Health England reported in August 2015 that the use of e cigarettes is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes. This is because the “smoke” from an e cigarette is not really smoke. Instead, it is vapor. A vapor is like steam. The vapor comes from heating a liquid, not burning something to make smoke.
How Do Electronic Cigarettes Work? *
In learning how does an electronic cigarette work, it is interesting to look back at its invention. The first U.S. patent awarded for a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette,” granted patent rights from 1963. The patent award went to an American man named Herbert A. Gilbert.
The purpose of Mr. Gilbert’s invention was to replace the burning of paper and tobacco to make smoke, with a moist flavored air. Moreover, Mr. Gilbert envisioned the device would work for inhaling warm moist medication to treat a respiratory condition under the supervision of a doctor.
The First Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette *
Mr. Gilbert’s invention was the first e cigarette, even though he did not call it that. His invention was spot on. Unfortunately, he was way ahead of his time. In the 1960s, it seemed like everyone including many doctors smoked cigarettes. Smoking was possible in restaurants, on airplanes, in buses, and even in college or university classrooms. At that time, few were aware of the significant dangers of smoking. The tobacco companies advertised smoking as being “healthy.”
The culture of the 1960s made it impossible for a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette to have any commercial viability. Mr. Gilbert’s invention never became a commercial product. The idea sat on the shelves until the patent ran out, because nobody was interested.
Figuring Out How Electronic Cigarettes Work for Manufacturing *
It took forty years for another inventor to be interested. In 2003, a Chinese man, Hon Lik, wanted to find a way to quit smoking. He was a pharmacist, inventor, and a smoker. His father, who was a smoker, died of lung cancer. This was his motivation to stop smoking.
He tried many times to quit cold turkey and failed. He tried the nicotine patch, but found it unsatisfactory. It did not give the initial rush of nicotine into the system that a person experiences when smoking tobacco cigarettes. The patch also gave him nightmares when he forgot to take it off at night. He wanted to find a way to create an inhaler to deliver nicotine that mimics the smoking process.
Reinvention of the E Cigarette Has Success *
As reported by the Spectator, in 2003, Hon Lik successfully re-invented a device like the one of Mr. Gilbert, yet it was a vastly improved version. Hon Lik worked on the invention steadily until he created the first viable production unit of the e cigarette that went into manufacturing. The new e cigarette was “cigalike.” It looked like a cigarette. The vapor felt and appeared much like smoke. It also gave a person trying to stop smoking something to do with their hands that mimicked the process of smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Sales in China started first during 2004. After that, the e cigarette started to sell in Europe and finally began to sell in the United States. It quickly became difficult for the manufacturer to keep up with demand. In 2014, the estimation was that there are many million users of e cigarettes globally.
How Does an E Cigarette Work as a Mechanical Process? *
An e cigarette started out as a cigarette replacement. Its design was to simulate the look, feel, and taste of cigarette smoking. This type of e cigarettes is “cigalike,” because its appearance is so similar to a cigarette.
The components of a cigalike e cigarette listed on Wikipedia include:
- Mouthpiece – This part looks like the filter of a tobacco cigarette.
- Cartridge – This tank holds the nicotine-laced liquid (e-liquid). The ingredients of e-liquid include water, glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine, and flavors.
- Atomizer – This heating element creates the vapors when the e-liquid is heated. It is similar to a vaporizer that makes steam, which one uses when they have a cold. The difference is the atomizer is smaller and makes a much more concentrated steam. The glycerin and propylene glycol in the e-liquid make the water vapor have the appearance of smoke.
- Wicking Material – This simply draws the e-liquid from the cartridge to the coil of the heating element.
- LED light – This is at the end. The red color of the LED simulates what a burning tobacco cigarette looks like when a person puffs on it. This light comes on for a puff from an e cigarette and then goes off when the person stops puffing.
- Microprocessor – This tiny computer chip connects to a pressure sensor. When a person takes a puff with an e cigarette in the mouth, the microprocessor reacts to a signal from the pressure sensor and then turns on the atomizer and the LED light.
- Battery – This tiny battery is like a watch battery. It provides the power for both the microprocessor and the LED light.
There are many other types of e cigarettes, some do not even look like a cigarette and use a push button for operation. Some look like pens or USB sticks for discrete use anywhere. Others look like cigars. The more modern designs add functionally, such as being able to adjust the heat.
Temperature Needed to Produce Vapor *
To become a vapor, the e-liquid needs heating between 212°F to 482°F (100°C to 250°C). The 212°F (100°C) temperature is the boiling point of water. This is the temperature where water turns to steam.
There is some concern from health authorities that higher temperatures cause chemical reactions that create formaldehyde, a toxic substance also used in embalming fluid. Other concerns are impurities in the e-liquid and the possibility of heavy metals getting into the vapors that come from the metals used to make the e cigarettes and cartridges.
E-Liquid Flavors and Nicotine *
There are approximately 4,000 flavors available for the e-liquid. Both flavorless and nicotine-free e-liquids are available. Nevertheless, the most popular e-liquid brands contain nicotine and flavorings. There is some concern about the strength of the nicotine in the e-liquid because of the various strengths available.
It is possible to overdose on nicotine. A person cannot overdose on nicotine by smoking tobacco cigarettes, simply because they cannot smoke enough cigarettes fast enough to overdose. Nevertheless, by using highly concentrated e-liquid containing a high dosage of nicotine, it is possible to ingest nicotine very quickly.
Some people get into trouble with too much nicotine in their system, when using e cigarettes, while they wear a nicotine patch. It is not a good idea to use more than one nicotine replacement method at the same time.
Symptoms of Nicotine Overdose *
Medline Plus lists the symptoms of nicotine overdose as the following:
- A Burning sensation in the mouth
- Chest pain
- Excessive nervousness
- Excessive salivation (drooling)
- Heart problems – rapid or irregular heartbeats
- Nausea or vomiting
- Over excitement
- Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, or breathing stops
- Stomach cramps
- Twitching muscles
If a person experiences any of these symptoms, stop using the e cigarette and immediately seek professional medical attention.
How E Cigarettes Work Psychologically *
The subconscious mind believes that an e cigarette is so similar to a tobacco cigarette that nothing is missing when a person tries to quit using tobacco cigarettes and substitutes e cigarettes. With an e cigarette, the experiences are so similar that the mind adjusts to the new item held in the fingers as being the same as before.
Besides not having to go through withdrawal from nicotine when quitting smoking tobacco, using an e cigarette provides the same oral and tactile sensations of a tobacco cigarette. This is why most prefer to use e cigarettes as a stop smoking aide.
However, the addiction to nicotine still exists. In order to become healthy again, the person needs to get off nicotine as well. One way to do this is to use e-liquids with a lower dosage of nicotine to help taper down, and then switch to flavored e-liquids that do not contain nicotine. If necessary, change tanks to decrease the dosage of nicotine slowly.
In learning how do e cigarettes work, we discovered that the “smoke” of e cigarettes is water vapor. This is why using e cigarettes is called “vaping.” We also learned that e cigarettes are not totally safe and the risks associated with nicotine. Nevertheless, one of the main advantages of e-cigarettes is harm reduction. It is very beneficial if a person stops smoking tobacco cigarettes completely and then slowly tapers down the addiction to nicotine, using e cigarettes to make a more manageable transition and then stops using nicotine.