The first person to come up with the idea of electronic cigarette was Herbert A. Gilbert. In the 1960s he filled a patent for a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette“. However, due to the technology not being available back then, and due to regular smoking considered to be ordinary in the 1960s, his idea would not turn into reality.
The model as envisaged by Herbert A. Gilbert.
The inventor of the modern version of this unique product is a Chinese pharmacist known as Hon Lik. He invented this product in the year of 2000 when he discovered that by applying piezoelectric ultrasound-releasing component to evaporate a hurried jet of fluid solution, which contained nicotine in a glycol solution with chemicals, a vapor would be generated. This unique invention was the basis from which the modern E-cig would be developed.
The product was introduced in the market for the first time in 2004. The company for which Mr. Lik was working for, changed its name from Golden Dragon Holdings to Ruyan and then they started to spread this new unique product in the market from 2005-2006. Finally in the year 2007 they received international patent. Later on, they were sold to British Imperial Tobacco. Today, there are many other companies in this industry and the product is available in many countries in various models and forms.
Most models come in the form of regular tobacco cigarette, but there are also models that resemble pipes, called e-pipes for short. In addition, most of the custom-made models (mods) carry so-called tanks for storage of larger amounts of e-liquid and more powerful batteries that don´t resemble regulars .
As you will see, it is not highly complex product, and most (if not all) contain just four components: battery, atomizer, cartridge, and of course E-liquid.
This is the power source that heats the e-liquid in the atomizer to the point where it turns into vapor that is inhaled by the user. The rechargeable cylindrical battery (mostly Lithium-Ion) is also the largest component of the overall construction. Defining characteristics are the length (short or long), type (manual and automatic), color (white, black, green, pink, and many more), and power. The shorter version usually provides 150-200mAh, while the longer one double the power at 350mAh, but there are also others at different power levels.
Manual type requires that you hold a button when you inhale, while for automatic (which contains sensor for detection of the air flow) you just inhale. The LED (usually attached to the end of the battery) lightens up to show activity.
Atomizer and Cartomizer:
This is where the magic happens, where the vapor is created. This component is attached to the battery or the cartridge, or it is combined together with the cartridge to create “cartomizer” which word comes from CARTridge and atOMIZER. The actual heating element is the coil inside the atomizer that heats and vaporizes the liquid. The produced vapor volume depends much on the electrical resistance and voltage of the atomizer. Different combinations of these settings are possible and are offered by companies in order for the user to be able to choose what fits him/her. Many advanced users tweak these settings in order to produce different vapor volume.
The cartridge is the place where the e-liquid is kept.
There were only 3-piece electronic cigarettes in the beginnings, consisting of: cartridge, battery and atomizer. However, with advancement of technology, the cartridge and the atomizer were combined into cartomizer and thus the 2-piece e-cig was born. Because there are only two parts, it is much easier to just fold the cartomizer to the battery and vape, instead of folding the three parts as it was done previously. The inconvenience and risk of losing some parts was greater with the 3-piece product.
E-liquid or E-juice:
This is the liquid solution that is turned into vapor with the heating of the coil inside the atomizer that is powered by the battery. The most common combination of chemicals is the following: propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin mixed together in various proportions or alone, along with water, nicotine and flavors. Still, other chemicals might be present. Users should consult the companies from which they buy the e-liquid for specifics.
This liquid usually comes in pre-filled cartridges, however it can also be bought in bottles and used later for refilling. Refilling is cheaper than buying pre-filled cartos, but it is very technical process that is only for advanced users with years of experience, therefore I do not recommend my readers to refill their cartridges. And it is much easier to just buy the stuff instead of wasting time!
The nicotine is available in different levels which include very high, high, medium, low and zero and it is usually expressed in milligrams (mg) per millilitre(ml) or as a percentage. The companies however use different names to identify their levels. Some may use stronger, minimal and zero. The level rated high usually comes with high nicotine content. Other classifications include various levels including:
- strong 2.4%
- full 1.8%
- light 1.2%
- ultra light 6.0%
- and zero 0% levels.
Readers should know that studies have shown that even those cartridges that are with zero level of nicotine may contain traces of it. Nicotine is highly addictive and habit forming chemical!
There are different flavors that are available that will help one find the exact taste he/she wants. It is not good to be carried away by empty names that eliminate variations. The distinctive common taste associated with smoking which is tobacco can be found in different variations. Another flavor that is also available in regular cigarettes is the menthol ice. Users can also go for vanilla. As the name suggests, vanilla is the main ingredient used. This one is available on the market since couple of years ago and many manufacturers are now including it in their product line. Other tastes include coffee, cola, mint and many others.
Hundreds of flavors exist to give users different taste and match their mood and personality. For example, the coffee taste for instance is commonly used by people who crave for an early hour puff or with a coffee. Vanilla and chocolate for a hot afternoon. The mocha mist can end a busy day when the sun goes down. But, the flavors may limit the time or place for use.
Many manufacturers today incorporate chips inside the product for various purposes. The most common are: to warn the user of chain vaping or to prevent overcharging. Other functions are available too.
Accessories are very useful because they add features that could not be already incorporated into the product because it is either not feasible or too costly. There are many different accessories for different purposes and I have a separate article on this topic right here.
Manufacturers and Sellers:
Now there are many around the world, usually the batteries and the cartridge are made in China, but the e-liquid is now produced in many other countries including the USA. And, it can be ordered online these days.
As per its wide variety it also comes with a broad range of cost, depending on its model, manufacturer and the accessories accompanying it. A beginner package usually costs in the range from $20 to $150, whereas there are supposedly high-end starter kits cost above $300 (which I highly recommend you to NOT buy them).
Requirement for Maintenance:
It is reusable and rechargeable, provided that it should be used as per the instructions, like it should be properly charged and maintained according to the manual that accompanies the product.
Pending FDA regulation:
The electronic cigarettes are pending regulatory by FDA. Currently, FDA is drafting the rules that will govern the production, distribution and use of these products.
Usage in Public Places:
Usage in public should not be allowed, and pending regulations will determine this. Also, It depends on where exactly you are. You should check for smoke signs, or if you are in a bar you should ask one of their employees whether this product is allowed.
Second hand smoke:
There is not adequate research performed for the effects of second hand smoke, therefore I cannot make comments on this topic.
Benefits and health risks:
There are not enough studies to confirm the benefits and/or health risks.
Since this is an infant industry, as I said, there is not enough research done on this new device, even though various studies were conducted. Many countries are still pending regulatory. In some countries (Brazil, Australia and others) these products are banned.