What is the Electronic Cigarette, and how is it different from a regular cigarette?
Developed in 2003 to help smokers quit and/or offer them an alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes, the electronic cigarette (aka E-cig, aka personal vaporizer) is a very young(and stunningly simple) technology. Originally designed to evoke a similar sensation(and affection) from smokers, minus the hazard to their health; electronic cigarettes' use of vaporization offers a drastically different form to 'smoking'.
- When a cigarette is lit, the tobacco/additives combust and produce smoke; delivering a chemical cocktail of 4000+ toxic substances, tar, carbon monoxide, and various other extremely dangerous components.
- E-cigs make use of a liquid solution of propylene glycol(or vegetable glycerin), distilled water, nicotine, and flavoring; and heat that nicotine-solution(at temperatures too low to produce combustion) with a metal coil, producing a vapor. Since it is a vapor, and not smoke, there aren't 4,000+ deadly chemicals, carbon monoxide, tar, and there is no second hand smoke.
The nicotine solution (aka e-juice)comes in a wide variety of flavors:
tobacco, menthol, chocolate, vanilla, cherry, caramel, coffee, cola, and many others
and nicotine strengths:
0mg, 6mg, 12mg, 18mg, 24mg (and 36+mg for cutting your own E-juice)
The E-cig itself offers a myriad of make/model choices(each with their own pros/cons) as well:
510, 901, 808, 801, 402, etc
The look of the E-cig can vary depending on the model, and personal modifications(which I will refrain from getting into).
- It may resemble a cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
Or it can resemble devices unrelated to smoking
- such as : pens, juice-boxes, or screwdrivers.
Regardless of the aesthetics of the device however, it typically is composed of three parts: a cartridge(basically a mouthpiece with filler inside of it, which acts as a wick for e-juice) an atomizer, and a battery.
- Two part models exist as well, combining the mouthpiece and atomizer to make a "cartomizer".
What does it cost?
When considering the costs of an E-cig, there are a few things to consider: Initial investment, replacement parts and accessories (or sustained cost), and availability being the most important.
- Most new E-cig converts purchase one of the many kits available in a model of their choosing. Kits typically cost anywhere from $30 to $70, and generally consist of 2 rechargeable batteries, 2 atomizers, some pre-filled cartridges, and a wall(or perhaps usb) charger.
I advise potential buyers to research models and suppliers heavily at www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/ , before making an initial purchase to make the smoothest(and cheapest) transition possible from smoking.
- After a while, replacement parts will be necessary. The batteries will lose their ability to recharge, the atomizers will burn out, the cartridges will dry up, etc. The beautiful thing though, is the cost doesn't have to be anywhere near as large as the initial investment(as it is unlikely all of your parts will need replacing at the same time), and it won't be anywhere near the cost of smoking traditional cigarettes.
Atomizers usually cost anywhere from 6-9 dollars, batteries can range from 10-15 dollars, blank cartridges are about 2 dollars for 5, and prefilled cartridges are usually around 5-8 bucks for 5.
- Additionally, you can save money by refilling your cartridges with e-juice.
E-juice costs vary by size and supplier, but the price range will probably resemble something like this
- 10 ml - 4-6 dollars
- 30 ml - 10-15 dollars
- 50 ml - 19-22 dollars
Your E-juice will probably be your most frequent expense, but you can minimize it further by making your own E-juice (PG/VG is very cheap, candy flavorings are sold all over, and flavorless nicotine juice does exist).
- If you use 30ml in a month, and your atomizer/batteries do not need replacing, you might be spending 8-12 dollars to resupply, if you use 50 ml a month, and you throw a new atomizer or battery in as well, you might be spending $35-45 .
As a comparison, If you smoke a pack a day at 5 dollars a pack, in a month you are spending $150.
Availability is a little tricky, and definitely requires a little research, as you can't just run to the corner store and pick up your pieces(not just yet anyhow).
- If you pick one of the more popular models(like the 510, 901, 801, or 808) most all E-cig suppliers will have compatible parts available. For less common models, legwork might be required.
I personally recommend, potential converts choose between one of the more popular styles, and buy a kit and a few 10 ml bottles of juice.
- Or if you are more of a daredevil, you can pick and choose your pieces separately; but I'd be sure to get at least 2 atomizers, 2 batteries, a wall charger, some blank cartridges, and some e-juice.
How long do the parts last?
- The lifespan of a battery depends on the model, but 4-6 months is not out of the question.
- Atomizers, if properly cared for, can last a few months.
- A 10ml bottle of juice is a toss up however. Its lifespan depends entirely on personal vaping habits, cartridge size, and other unknowns. A 10 ml bottle for me lasts about 1.5 - 2 weeks.
Blank cartridges can last indefinitely, so long as you clean them(and the filler) regularly. Pre-filled cartridges will probably run dry within a day(hours for some models), but you can refill them indefinitely as well.
Why switch to e-cigs?
Aside from the implied health benefits, and being drastically cheaper than cigarettes? For one, you can use it most everywhere(even various non-smoking establishments) thanks to the lack of combustion/smoke. E-cigs have no offensive odor(if there is a scent at all, it is usually flavored as the e-juice). There is no discoloration of teeth/fingers, or nicotine stains in your clothing/household fabrics. Perhaps most importantly of all, it works. Unlike the staggering low success rates of NRTs(patches, gums, pills), E-cig users have a comparatively high efficiency when helping a smoker quit.
Is it healthy?
While the Jury is still out, as to exactly how safe E-cigs are, certain facts have emerged from the proverbial smoke.
Facts about Ingredients:
- Nicotine is FDA approved.
- Nicotine has never been linked to cancer-causation(in other words, has not been found to be a carcinogen).
- Nicotine is not a significantly addictive chemical until combined with MAOI's (as found in tobacco, and not in e-cigs).
- Nicotine is a stimulant, and vasoconstrictor, as such it can raise your blood pressure.
- PG is FDA approved.
- PG is used in many pharmaceuticals(oral, injectable, topical), as a preservative in various foods, fog machines, deodorant, tattoo ink, solvents, less-toxic anti-freeze, coolants in beer and wine tanks, and various other common products.
- PG is metabolized into the human body as pyrruvic acid, a normal stage of the glucose metabolism process after which it is used for energy.
- PG has a very low oral and long-term toxicity
- PG is non-carcinogenic
- VG is FDA approved
- VG is used in much of the same fashion as PG. (foods, drinks, anti-freeze, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, soap, etc)
- VG is converted to glucose by the liver to be converted to energy.
- VG is non-carcinogenic
Facts about Studies:
- The FDA has only ever released one study on electronic cigarettes, and it was specifically on one manufacturer's(NJOY) cartridges(rather than the vapor one inhales). Further shadows are cast on the study when considering the slant the FDA put on the results.
- The FDA reported the presence of four TSNAs(tobacco specific nitrosamines) at trace amounts so low they were not quantifiable or immediately dissimilar from the amounts of TSNAs in FDA approved nicotine replacement products(gums, patches, lozenges) or other FDA approved products (like beer, fish, meat, or cheese).
Facts about Court cases:
- In the case of Smoking Everywhere vs. FDA, Judge Leon found the FDA does not have the right to regulate E-cigs. (you can read more about it here: abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory )
- Attorney General Edmund G. Brown has recently opted to sue Smoking Everywhere to prevent the company from targeting minors and marketing their product as a safe alternative to smoking (read more about it here: ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/print_release.php)
Again, it remains to be seen how safe electronic cigarettes are, but even if the manufacturers can not market themselves as "safe(r)" or "healthier" than traditional cigarettes, logic and research should be more than enough.