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How Electronic Cigarettes Work

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How Do Electronic Cigarettes Work?

Commonly referred to as e-cigs, electronic cigarettes are relatively new to the market. They simulate the art of smoking, and while the smoker does get a nicotine hit, the “smoke” released is nothing but water vapour. When they first hit the market, e-cigs were marketed as a smoking cessation device, but that is no longer the case. There are now a number of different companies that deliver electronic cigarettes, with some making them look as realistic as possible, while others go for colors and designs that definitely separate the electronic version from the real thing. 

There are 3 main components that make up the best electronic cigarette: a plastic cartridge that holds the liquid and acts as a mouthpiece, an “atomizer” that turns the liquid to vapour, and a battery.


  • Cartridge

This piece is usually a plastic, metal or glass container with openings at either end. It serves as the mouthpiece of the electronic cigarette, whilst also acting as a reservoir that carries the liquid into the atomizer. Once the liquid reaches that point, it is turned to vapour that then enters the mouth of the user, with no liquid spilled at any time.
Each model is a little different, but the vast majority use a plastic sponge to hold the liquid in place. Some also come with the option of a refillable tank for the liquid, although those usually come with a separate tunnel leading to the atomizer. The cartridges are replaceable once the liquid runs out, but some users simply skip the reservoir in order to drip liquid directly into the atomizer, which is a method that is often referred to as “dripping.”

It is not uncommon for a single cartridge to hold the equivalent of 20 regular cigarettes.


  • Atomizer

The basic design of the atomizer belies the fact that it does the majority of the work. The liquid is drawn into the atomizer via a filament and wick set-up and is then heated by a small heating coil that turns it to vapour. This piece sits in the center of the three components mentioned at the start of the piece. The cartridge is attached at one end and the batter at the other. The atomizer has something of a limited life, as sediment will lead to it becoming less efficient or burning out completely. Certain brands of electronic cigarettes combine the cartridge and atomizer into a single piece known as a cartomizer.


  • Cartomizer

The cartomizer is another term for the combination of the cartridge and atomizer into a single piece. The construction of the cartomizer includes a heating element that is surrounded by a liquid soaked poly-foam. This component is covered by Gamucci’s patent and is most commonly used in the brands that are made to look as much like real cigarettes as possible.
When the cartomizer is used up, it can be thrown out and replaced by a new one. Some users prefer this method to having to clean out or replace the atomizer, as well as having to refill the cartridge.


  • Battery

The largest part of the electronic cigarette is the battery, with a lithium-ion rechargeable unit the most commonly used. The battery is activated when the user draws a breath through the device, with an electronic airflow sensor found at the heart of the piece. Some models have a power switch that needs to be held down while the user “smokes.” An LED light, which actually looks like a lit cigarette, serves as an indication that the battery has been activated.
There are a number of different ways to charge the battery, with AC outlet, car charger and USB the most common. Some e-cig manufacturers make charging cases that very much resemble a pack of cigarettes, with space for the other components also included inside the pack.


  • Liquid

The liquid used in electronic cigarettes is often referred to as e-liquid or e-juice. Concentrated flacours are added to a solution of propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerin (VG), with liquid nicotine concentrate also added to varying degrees of strength.

While the most popular liquid choices are those that are similar to the taste of regular cigarettes, the makers also have a number of flacoured liquids that come in fruit flacours. There is also the option for nicotine-free solutions.


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