Author – Jessica Dsouza
Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes or e-cigs have steadily risen in popularity since they first appeared on the global market in 2004. Chinese entrepreneurs first introduced these e-cigarettes in 2004, which are in fact battery-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine to users in a vapor form along with flavorings. Using an e-cig is known as “vaping”, since a thick vapor is exhaled that is much cleaner than the conventional cigarette smoke and also odorless.
E-cigarettes are viewed as a less toxic alternative for people looking to break their habit of smoking tobacco cigarettes, which contain 90 odd toxic chemicals. In comparison, only traces of 2-3 carcinogenic chemicals are found in e-cigarettes. Some may have a label stating “no nicotine”, but they do contain nicotine. These electronic gadgets are manufactured to mimic the original cigarettes, tobacco pipes, though the newer devices, those with fillable tanks, look different.
How do these e-cigarettes work? A container within the e-cig holds a liquid that when heated produces vapor that is inhaled. ‘E-liquid’ is the name of the solution containing nicotine that gets converted into an aerosol upon heating. Some of the e-liquid’s common ingredients are:
- Nicotine – the most essential ingredient that stimulates the nervous system.
- Flavorings – added for enhancing taste could be cherry, cheesecake, cinnamon, and tobacco. It is completely safe to consume these flavors since they are used to flavor food.
- Propylene glycol – a lab-made liquid that is used to create artificial smoke or fog for rock concerts and other performances. It is very harmful for people with lung diseases like asthma and emphysema.
- Glycerin – It has a slightly sweet taste and is used in food items, but the effects of inhaling it is unknown.
Many believe e-cigarettes represent the best hope for a disruptive technology that can bring an end to traditional smoking, thereby saving millions of lives. Having said that, a lot many e-cig users suffer from severe coughing, indicating that they are not the ultimate problem solver. On heating up, carcinogenic chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein are released in increasing amounts as the temperature of the e-liquid rises. Smokers are tempted to reach higher temperatures to get better kick.
Typically, e-cigarettes come in many forms, mainly depending on user’s intake and overall consumption. They can begin with disposable e-cigs that last for a day and after trying them out, users can switch to a rechargeable compact systems, which have e-liquid cartridges and rechargeable batteries to be used over and over again. Smokers are more comfortable using disposables and compact e-cig systems as they closely resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes in physical size.
The next progression is to slightly more advanced systems coined as ‘tank systems’. The mechanism basically involves pouring e liquid into a tank, to ultimately be ’vaped’ by the smoker. Tank systems are known to be a more efficient as they feature more battery power.
The functioning is quite simple and e-cigs are easily repairable by changing the atomizer or cartridge, which is a heating component of an e-cigarette that comes in many different shapes and sizes. Atomizers are designed to be smaller to be more efficient and to give an e-cig its sleek and compact looks. Another device is a ‘Cartomizer’ (a portmanteau by combining – cartridge and atomizer), which is actually a cartridge that contains e-liquid and an atomizer to create vapor when charged.
There are noticeable advantages such as the ability to vape in locations where smoking is prohibited. Smokers are more comfortable vaping in their car or home or even the sense of smell and sense of taste of smokers improves drastically when switching from smoking tobacco to e-cigs. Vaping is far less expensive also provides the option of adjusting nicotine levels. Further, even the most careful smokers can do damage with a lit cigarette if they’re not careful. A momentary distraction could leave you with a cigarette hole in your clothing.
E-cigarettes are no doubt a controversial product and may have some harmful effect after prolonged use, but they could help us reduce toxic waste in the environment. Cigarettes are rolled in paper, while their filters are made of cellulose acetate, paper and rayon. Cigarette butts and packs are littered and have created enormous waste problem in cities. When burnt cigarette butts enter into storm drains and reach rivers, they release harmful chemicals and affect the underwater fauna and flora.
The trend of vaping has now reached India, and even though we cannot guarantee e-cigs are better to our health, these are slightly more eco-friendly products that benefit the environment.