Electronic cigarettes are a fairly recent invention marketed as alternatives to smoking or quitting aids like gum or patches. Learn more.
Marketed as the latest aid to quitting smoking, e-cigarettes claim to offer all the benefits and none of the harmful side effects of smoking. So, are e-cigarettes safe?
An electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette is a small device designed to replicate the act of smoking a cigarette whilst simultaneously providing nicotine. Most e-cigarettes are designed to resemble the shape of a normal cigarette so as to best mimic the experience of smoking.
E-cigarettes are made using three components; a heating element, a power source and a reservoir of nicotine gel or liquid. The heating element is activated when the user attempts to inhale. The element vaporises some of the nicotine solution into an aerosol mist that can be inhaled into the lungs in the same way that a smoker would inhale smoke from a cigarette.
This nicotine-rich vapour enters our lungs where the nicotine is absorbed into the blood system. As E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco or paper there is no smoke produced and thus no smoke is inhaled in the process.
The nicotine liquid in the reservoir of an e-cigarette is primarily constituted from propylene glycol (PG), a non-toxic compound that has numerous applications in a wide-range of common products including edibles. Whilst content varies across different brands, most contain a combination of PG, water and nicotine.
When the e-cigarette is activated, the heating element vaporises the solution contained in the reservoir. This vapour is then inhaled into the lungs. Inhaling vapour made by e-cigarettes exposes the user to water vapour, nicotine and PG, none of which are harmful or toxic.
E-cigarettes were first conceived in the 1960s but it was not until 2003 that a Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik succeeded in producing a commercial product. His company, Ruyan, produced the first e-cigarette for the Chinese market in 2004 and has now grown to be one of the world’s largest e-cigarette manufacturers.
Who Invented the Electronic Cigarette? [online] Available at: < http://www.whoinventedit.net/who-invented-the-electronic-cigarette.html > [Accessed 18 April 2012].
Wikipedia, [online] Available at: < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_cigarette > [Accessed 18 April 2012].
Ten Little-Known Facts About E-cigarettes [online] Available at:<http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/smoking-cessation/10-facts-about-e-cigarettes.htm > [Accessed 18 April 2012].
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