By now you’ve probably heard of electronic cigarettes. You’ve probably even seen a few in use, even if you were unaware of it. So what is an electronic cigarette? As the name implies, it’s a cigarette that uses electricity.

The traditional cigarette works by igniting tobacco tightly packed into thin paper. By inhaling, the smoker pulls air through the burning embers, commonly referred to as the ‘cherry’, and down the cigarette. This motion sends the smoke from the burning end of the cigarette down with the air, through a cotton filter (assuming the cigarette has a filter) and into the smoker’s mouth and lungs where the nicotine and additional chemicals are absorbed. Cigarette smoking is considered hazardous to the health of the smoker and the others around them due to these chemicals as well as the exposure to carbon monoxide that is produced from the burning cigarette.

In case you weren’t already aware, nicotine is a highly addictive substance and almost always leads to regular usage.

What differentiates the electronic cigarette is the lack of tobacco. Electronic cigarettes utilize an atomizer powered by a small lithium-ion battery to convert flavored liquids (commonly called e-juice or e-liquid) into vapor, which is then inhaled and absorbed into the mouth. Many of these liquids contain varying amounts of nicotine and are sometimes used by smokers as a crutch to help them quit. The electronic cigarettes have not been approved by the FDA as either a smoking cessation aid or a safer alternative to smoking due to a lack of regulated studies. What few studies have been done, however, point to the fact that vapor cigarettes contain far fewer carcinogens (if any) and the levels of nicotine are considered non-toxic when used appropriately.

Electronic cigarettes are a swiftly growing fad for a number of reasons. Though some are disposable, many are re-usable and contain batteries that can be recharged from car-chargers, USB ports, or even some that have their own portable charging kits, powered by a much larger battery. They come in many different shapes, such as the traditional cigarette shape for those who prefer the look and feel, or more discreet shapes that range anywhere from office pens to screwdrivers. Another part of the appeal comes from the range of flavors. While cigarettes occasionally break the tobacco/menthol blends for something a bit fruitier, e-juices come in a variety of flavors from imitating popular cigarette brands to drink flavors, fruits or even different desserts. Changing the flavor of a vapor cigarette is as simple as replacing the cartridge.

While electronic cigarettes are still relatively new (having first appeared in Japan in 2003) and have not been fully tested for safety, I firmly believe that we have discovered a way to save thousands of lives annually lost to diseases related to cigarette smoking. For more information, please refer to the sites listed below.