E-cigarettes are touted as the healthy alternative to smoking. They don’t have many of the carcinogens regular cigarettes have, don’t stain teeth, don’t cause bad breath or smell, and they don’t have the social stigma of smoking cigarettes. If you’re trying to quit smoking, an e-cig might be right for you.
On one hand, it’s difficult to imagine a world without smoking. On the other hand, it’s also difficult to imagine a world where electronic cigarettes would get so big. Yet e-cigarettes have exploded on the public scene. They have become so mainstream that Lorillard Tobacco Company, whose portfolio includes the popular cigarette brand Newport, recently purchased Blu Ecigs for $135 million.
If you’re considering buying an e-cigarette, you might be asking a few questions — how do they work, where did they come from, what are the benefits, and what should I look out for? Let’s review the facts about e-cigarettes and find out.
So What Am I Smoking? Am I Smoking?
Electronic cigarettes are a battery powered device that vaporizes a liquid solution containing nicotine, the active and addictive ingredient in tobacco, into a mist that users then inhale. It simulates smoking a cigarette. What you breath in and exhale looks and feels like real smoke.
And the tactile sensation of holding an electronic cigarette is the same as holding a real cigarette. So if you still enjoy taking a break from life every now and then with the “real” smokers, don’t fret — you can still join them on the patio. That social element is a big plus for many people looking to quit smoking.
The kicker? It’s not smoke you’re breathing when you use an electronic cigarette. It’s the vaporized form of propylene glycol — but we’ll get to that in a bit.
An electronic cigarette is made of 3 parts — a battery, an atomizer, and a cartridge containing eliquid. The battery, as you’d imagine, powers the device. The atomizer is the heating element that vaporizes the liquid. The cartridge, both the refillable or replaceable, is a slot for holding “e-juice.”
E-juice is the solution that’s being vaporized. Think of it as the tobacco. E-juice is made from propylene glycol, a commonly used organic compound that’s generally recognized as safe by the FDA. Mix it with nicotine and bingo — you’ve got e-juice.
How Did The E-Cigarette Trend Get Started?
Despite the recent boom in popularity, e-cigarettes have actually been around for decades — they just haven’t been on the market.
The original idea was patented by Herbert A. Gilbert in 1963, but fearing the market wasn’t ready, they were never produced. Enter Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, who invented the mechanism and the original device used by today’s digital smokers. He was suffering from a respiratory illness and because of constant wheezing and coughing, he was unable to sleep well. When he finally fell asleep, he had a dream where he was drowning in the sea when suddenly, the sea vaporized into a mist.
It’s said that Hon Lik’s dream provided inspiration to create the first modern e-cigarette. He gave the prototype device to his father, a heavy smoker at the time, who was dying of cancer. His father liked the product because he felt that fewer sons would have to watch their fathers dying of lung cancer.
This happened in 2003. In 2004, Hon Lik’s employer, Golden Dragon Holding, brought the first device to the marketplace. From there, the e-cigarette became an international hit.
There Are Two Certainties in Life — Death and Taxes. Well, Maybe Not.
Let’s get into the benefits of e-cigarettes. One of the many drawbacks of real cigarettes is the cost — which continues to rise thanks to government taxes. Cigarettes are considered a “sin tax”. E-cigarettes aren’t label as a “sin tax” so they aren’t taxed accordingly.
This means the only tax you’ll pay is the sales tax. Also consider the fact that you get more bang for your buck: typical e-juice cartridges amount to 1-2 packs of cigarettes and are sold in packs of 5 for around $5-12. In other words, e-cigarettes are more affordable than their paper-wrapped counterparts.
The health benefits of e-cigarettes are debatable. The FDA hasn’t spoken out on e-cigarettes, though it’s a safe bet that they’ll take a stance sooner or later as the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to grow. Discovery’s recent article How Safe Are E-Cigarettes? asked both health and tobacco industry experts their opinions on the possible benefits of e-cigarettes and e-juice. According to the article:
By isolating nicotine, e-cigarettes should carry far fewer chemical risks than regular cigarettes, said Michael Siegel, a tobacco researcher at Boston University. Tobacco contains about 5,000 known chemicals, he said, with as many as 100,000 more that haven’t yet been identified. E-cigarettes eliminate many of those ingredients.
Considering that the main ingredients in the e-juice are propylene glycol and nicotine, it would appear that e-cigarettes are the healthier alternative, but as always, be cautious when approaching the product. The jury’s still out on e-juice:
“There really are a lot of unknowns with respect to health,” said Prue Talbot, a toxicologist at the University California, Riverside. “I don’t know of any studies in the literature which are peer-reviewed. Almost all of the studies have been paid for by the e-cigarette companies.”
Don’t e-Smoke Just Anything
Like most products offered online, keep an eye out for the deals that seem too good to be true. Scambook users have reported many free or cheap trials offered by some e-cigarettes companies that aren’t exactly the deal they signed up for. The old bait-and-switch practice seems to be rampant when it comes to the less prevalent and reputable e-cigarette brands. Attracted to enticing deals, some customers are left dealing with a headache that rivals the ol’ nicotine withdrawal.
Make sure to do your research when purchasing e-cigarettes. There are plenty of reputable brands out there. By and large, the larger the presence the e-cigarette has in the marketplace, the better your experience with it will be.
And as always, search for the company on Scambook before you buy.
What Do You Think?
Have you used an electronic cigarette? Has it helped you quit smoking? Any changes since making the jump that are worth noting? And, if you have had any issues, make sure to file a complaint!