Is the electronic cigarette a cleaner and healthier choice for smokers?
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or e-cigs, are an alternative method of consuming nicotine, the addictive chemical in tobacco. Manufacturers are designing electronic cigarette in various designs, but they do not contain tobacco and require a match or flame.
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that turns the liquid nicotine in the e-liquid into a mist or vapor that the user inhales. There is no fire, no ash, and very little vapor smell. E-cigarettes do not contain all the harmful chemicals associated with cigarette smoking, such as carbon monoxide and tar. Manufacturers and satisfied customers say e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, which cause thousands of deaths each year.
The electronic cigarette was invented by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, who patented the device in 2003 and introduced it to the Chinese market the following year. Recently, many companies now sell electronic cigarettes to customers around the world. But as e-cigarettes have grown in popularity, some are concerned about their safety, including the possibility that the vapor created by the devices may contain dangerous chemicals.
Is the electronic cigarette a cleaner and healthier choice for smokers? Or is it a dangerous device with hidden risks? All very important questions, but first, let's find out how an e-cigarettes works and why it has become so popular?
Use of an electronic cigarette
Lighting a traditional cigarette burns the tobacco, releasing a cloud of smoke that contains nicotine. The user inhales the smoke to deliver the nicotine to the lungs.
An e-cigarette does not rely on this burning process. Instead, it heats an e-liquid that may contain nicotine and turns that liquid into a vapor, or mist, that the user inhales. Depending on the model, the user can simply inhale from the cartridge to begin the vaping process, although some devices have a manual switch that activates the vaporizer inside.
An e-cigarette consists of three main parts:
- a rechargeable lithium battery
- a vaporization chamber called an atomizer
- a tank containing the e-liquid
The lithium battery powers the electronic cigarette and can be charged using a charger similar to those used for mobile phone batteries. The charged battery is connected to the vaping chamber, a hollow tube containing electronic components and an atomizer (the component that creates the vapor).
E-cigarette users (vapers) inhale as they would with a regular cigarette. This inhalation activates the atomizer to heat the e-liquid in the cartridge and convert the e-liquid into vapor. Inhaling this vapor through the mouthpiece releases nicotine into the lungs, and the vaper exhales a vapor that looks like a cloud of cigarette smoke.
Vapers say they experience many of the same sensations as tobacco smokers: they hold the device in their hands, inhale and exhale. Many e-cigarettes have a light-emitting diode on the end that lights up when the user inhales, simulating a flame.
E-liquid generally contains the following ingredients:
- Propylene Glycol (PG)
- Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
- Alcohol and water.
Electronic cigarette manufacturers sell their products in retail stores, but increasingly also online. A wide range of models and brands are available. Some mimic the appearance of traditional cigarettes, while others resemble cigars, pipes and even pens. But even if they are affordable and fun to use, are e-cigarettes safe?
Some health experts are concerned that marketers are promoting them as a healthier alternative to smoking. Before you trade in your pack of cigarettes for the electronic version, learn about the potential health risks of e-cigarettes.
Health risks of electronic cigarettes
Quality control is one of the main problems that health experts face with e-cigarettes. They say that manufacturers cannot disclose all the chemical ingredients used in their products. This means that it can be impossible for vapers to exactly know what they are consuming. Nor is much known about the long-term health effects of exposure to nicotine vapor.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a small study to analyze a sample of e-liquids containing nicotine from two manufacturers. The results showed that the amount of nicotine delivered did not always match the amount stated on the label.
The study also found that some cartridges labeled nicotine-free actually contained nicotine. Also, some carcinogenic compounds found in tobacco were found in some e-cigarette cartridges, along with other toxins.
Electronic cigarette manufacturers claim that their products can be a much healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes despite these findings. But many health experts say e-cigarette manufacturers have not conducted the necessary research to back up their claims, especially on long-term effects.
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