The Science Behind the E-Cigarette Revolution

The use of e-cigs is becoming more and more popular. People are actively seeking these electronic cigarettes as a form of cessation from tobacco cigarettes and as a way to take in nicotine without the side effects that come with smoking tobacco cigarettes. These smokeless alternatives are said to be a healthier option when compared to smoking traditional cigarettes and use of them do not violate any anti-smoking laws in place, although some cities (like Chicago) have begun to restrict their use.

For many, the question remains on how they work, though. Since the “smoke” from e-cigarettes isn’t actually smoke but vapor, the cloud dissipates rather quickly and with very little smell.

Here is the basic construction of the the electronic cigarette.

LED Indicator

At the end of most electronic cigarettes there is an indicator to let the user know when vapor is being drawn. This simple LED light will activate when the charge of the internal battery is being used. When the battery is low, this LED will then flash a few times to indicate a low charge.

Voltage Control

The premise of the the electronic cigarette is that it receives its heat from an internal lithium battery. Located towards the end of the cigarette, this is where the voltage is stored and where the connection for a charger is placed. This electrical source is then connected to the atomizer which is where the electric charge occurs and the vaporizing process begins. The user inhales, drawing in the air a tiny hole in the side and through the atomizer which creates an electrical charge that generates the heat.

Vaporizing Chamber

Once the atomizer creates a miniature electrical storm inside the atomizer, that energy is then converted to the heating coil. The heating coil works like a tiny toaster where the coils displace an incredible amount of heat. This heat is then transferred to the vaporization chamber. It is here that nicotine liquid is literally boiled into vapor and sent through a little hole at the end of the electronic cigarette and into the user’s mouth.

Smoke Juice

The liquid, or smoke juice contains certain amounts of nicotine combined with propylene glycol. This is a commonly used liquid for additional food flavoring and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Although industrial grades of propylene glycol are also used in antifreeze, the type used for smoke juice is different compound. The liquid comes in a variety of flavors that some connoisseurs will gladly share their opinion on which is best. For disposable types, they usually come in either menthol or tobacco flavor. These flavors are the most common for those trying to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.


Since the use of e-cigarettes is fairly new, there has been little in regulation of them. Since they contain nicotine and can be habit forming, purchase of electronic cigarettes is restricted to those 18 years of age or older in the United States. The disposable types resemble traditional cigarettes and are normally priced between $5 and $10 (US). These can usually be purchased at any convenience store and a single cigarette can render around 600 inhales of the vapor. These types are not refillable nor reusable.

The electronic smoking devices resemble small hookah pipes and can be found online and at specialty shops for anywhere between $40 – $100 (US). These have larger chambers and purchasing the flavor of liquid is separate. Larger chambers will render roughly 1200 inhales (although this is variable, so be sure to do some research) and are normally rechargeable.

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