What’s an E-Cigarette?

BY MATT SHI

portable-charging-caseThe electronic cigarette, introduced to the U.S. market in 2007, is an increasingly popular alternative to smoking tobacco for nicotine intake.

From the outside, most e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, but the inside is very different: E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco. Also, they do not need to be lit by fire. They are battery operated, and a mechanism vaporizes a liquid formula, which includes nicotine, when the smoker inhales.

Manufacturers report many advantages of e-cigarettes, but regulatory agencies and some health experts are unsure. The hundreds of companies in the United States that make and sell e-cigarettes often do not make specific health or safety claims. The FDA and other health experts are concerned that the side effects of inhaling pure nicotine have not yet been sufficiently studied.

The FDA is currently in the process of having e-cigarettes labeled as a drug-delivery device so they can be regulated. Manufacturers, on the other hand, argue that their products are purely recreational, and therefore should not be subject to regulation.

Because regulation of the e-cigarette is still underway, e-cigarettes are often marketed as cigarettes that can be smoked anywhere. Manufacturers say that they present no health risks because they do not emit secondhand smoke. Many bars, restaurants, and workplaces allow e-smoking.

The law requires consumers to demonstrate through I.D. that they are at least 18 years old in order to buy tobacco cigarettes, but this does not apply to e-cigarette sellers. Because of this, there is some concern over young children using these products. E-cigarettes are also sold online, where it is easier for kids to purchase them than to buy tobacco cigarettes at a store.

E-cigarettes come in a wide range of prices. A typical start kit, which contains the e-cigarette device, a battery, and several cartridges, can cost anywhere between $20 and $150. However, besides this initial fixed cost, a regular user is likely to find that e-cigarettes are actually less costly than tobacco cigarettes, depending on the brand. Consumers can also purchase the liquid in bulk to reduce cost and fill the cartridges themselves. This is both cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

E-cigarette users have a greater amount of control over how much nicotine they intake. The amount of nicotine that an e-cigarette delivers depends on the content of its liquid-nicotine cartridge. Some cartridges even contain liquid without nicotine for those who want the sensory experience without its effect.

E-cigarettes do contain some toxic substances, but, according to some studies, the toxic levels were 9-450 times lower than in tobacco cigarettes. (The wide range is due to a wide range of e-cigarette brands). Substituting tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes can significantly reduce exposure to many toxicants, but researchers are still unsure about the e-cigarette’s viability as a “harmless” alternative.

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