What’s the Deal With Electronic Cigarettes?

According to leading American business magazine Forbes, electronic cigarette sales are expected to surpass $1 billion by the end of 2013. Known tobacco companies realize the potential profit of the e-cigarette and are making business moves to capitalize.

Lorillard (manufacturer of the brands Newport, Kent, True, Old Gold, Maverick, Triumph, Satin, and Max) purchased Blu ECigs, distributed it to 80,000 stores nationwide, and spent millions of dollars to heavily market the e-cig through all mediums of media.

Altria Group (Basic, Black & Mild, Copenhagen, Marlboro, Optima, Parliament, Skoal, Virginia Slims) created their own electronic cigarette to compete in the growing industry. “If the technology continues to innovate the way that it has been, in 10-15 years from now, we are the replacement to big tobacco,” says Andries Verleur, CEO and co-founder of e-cigarette maker V2 Cigs.

The question remains:

What is an electronic cigarette?

With media exposure covering all aspects of the electronic cigarette industry, it’s difficult to not be curious about the innovative piece of technology. According to the ProSmoke Electronic Cigarettes, the e-cig is an electronic device that vaporizes a solution of nicotine, water, and flavoring to simulate the feel and look of cigarettes.

“Unlike nicotine gum or the nicotine patch, the e-cigarette actually functions much like a regular cigarette. However, rather than burning and smoking, it vaporizes a solution that contains nicotine. The nicotine is still delivered to the body, but in vapor form rather than smoke which contains carcinogens and tar. ProSmoke E-cigarettes do not burn like a typical cigarette, yet feel the same and have the choice of multiple nicotine levels, including no nicotine.”

How does the electronic cigarette work?

Typically, electronic cigarettes are constructed using three components:

Cartridge: The cartridge usually holds the liquid nicotine and is where the user inhales on the cigarette. The liquid in the cartridge is vaporized by the atomizer for the user to inhale. Users can refill the cartridge with various “flavors” of liquid nicotine or replace it with pre-filled flavor cartridges – usually sold by the vendor.

Atomizer (or cartomizer): The atomizer is usually a small heating element in the center of the e-cig. High performance electronic cigarette brands have atomizers that can be used for months, while other brands combine the atomizer and cartridge together for less performance, but simpler usage.

Power: Electronic cigarettes have rechargeable batteries and are usually the biggest part of the device. The battery is usually an electronic airflow sensor – activated when you take drags through the device. Other e-cigs use power buttons that must be held while inhaling.

The device vaporizes the smoke by heating the nicotine liquid with minimal temperature – just enough to create vapor instead of smoke. Usually, the liquid (most likely propylene glycol, which is a common ingredient of the e-liquid) is vaporized at 185°C – 210°C. Regular cigarettes are known to reach up to about 900°C due to the oxygen provided while inhaling – creating various carcinogens and tar in the process. In essence, common sense would say electronic cigarettes are fundamentally healthier for the human body than tobacco cigarettes for that reason alone.

Are they satisfying?

Some electronic cigarette users have successfully quit tobacco use by making a slow transition from one vice to another. With the many flavors that e-cig vendors offer, it’s difficult to not want to make the switch. Electronic cigarettes are typically $50 – $150 and sell cartridges (which can be an equivalent of multiple packs of cigarettes) for around $5 – $10. This can mean a cheaper vice for individuals who enjoy nicotine.

Tobacco smokers should consider the electronic cigarette if they’re interested in saving money, using an alternative to tobacco, and enjoy the rush of nicotine without the taste of smoke and tar.