An electronic cigarette, e-cigarette, e-cig or vaporizer cigarette is a battery-powered device that provides inhaled doses of nicotine or non-nicotine vaporized solution. In addition to purported nicotine delivery, this vapor also provides a flavor and physical sensation similar to that of inhaled tobacco smoke, while no smoke or combustion is actually involved in its operation.
An electronic cigarette takes the form of some manner of elongated tube, though many are designed to resemble the outward appearance of real smoking products, like cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Another common design is the “pen-style”, so named for its visual resemblance to a ballpoint pen. Most electronic cigarettes are reusable devices with replaceable and refillable parts. A number of disposable electronic cigarettes have also been developed.
In automatic models, when a user inhales through the device, air flow is detected by a sensor, which activates a heating element that vaporizes a flavored liquid solution stored in the mouthpiece, which may contain nicotine. On manual models, the user must depress a button to activate the heating element to produce vapor which is then inhaled by the user. On most models an LED on the opposite end of the device is also activated during inhalation, which serves as an indicator of use. Several LED colors are available from various manufacturers.
A complete electronic cigarette (ecig) consists of a cartridge, atomizer and battery. The battery powers the atomizer coil producing a smoke like fog.
While electronic cigarettes take many forms, they each generally employ the same basic components: a mouthpiece, a heating element, a rechargeable battery, and various electronic circuits.
The mouthpiece is a small disposable, plastic, cup-like piece affixed to the end of the tube. Inside the mouthpiece is a smaller plastic cup which holds an absorbent material that is saturated with a flavored liquid solution. The level of nicotine varies depending on the solution. This inner cup is made such that air is able to flow around it and through a hole in the end of the outer piece; this is necessary for the device to provide the ability for suction to move the vapor into the user’s mouth. The mouthpiece is referred to in the industry as a “cartridge“. When the liquid in the cartridge has been depleted, it can either be refilled by the user or replaced with another pre-filled cartridge.
Another alternative to using cartridges is the direct dripping method using drip tips. By removing the absorbent material, one is able to simply remove the plastic mouthpiece and drip several drops of e-liquid directly onto the atomizer bridge. To further ease dripping, some manufacturers have created specialty mouthpieces made of stainless steel or plastic that are intended just for dripping and do not require removal each time you drip (drip-tips).
Heating element: “atomizer”
The heating element serves to vaporize the liquid in the mouthpiece so that it can be inhaled. This component is referred to in the industry as an “atomizer“. Atomizers last about 3-6 weeks (on average) and replacements are one of the recurring expenses associated with electronic cigarettes. Some models combine an atomizer and pre-filled disposable component referred to as a “cartomizer”.
Most electronic cigarettes employ a lithium-ion rechargeable battery to power the heating element. Battery life varies depending on the battery type and size, frequency of use, and operating environment. Many different battery charger types are available, such as wall outlet, car, and USB chargers. The battery is generally the largest component of an electronic cigarette.
Some electronic cigarettes employ an electronic airflow sensor to automatically activate the heating element upon inhalation, while other models require the user to press a button while inhaling. Various other electronic circuits are usually employed as well, such as a timed cutoff switch to prevent overheating and a colored LED to signal activation of the device and also to mimic the glow of a cigarette’s end tip.
Traditionally, electronic cigarettes have utilized an electronic means of activation. This involved the use of small tactile switches, vacuum switches and the related wiring and electronics necessary to run them. Users soon discovered these could be unreliable. With the advent of “mods”, several manufacturers have created all-mechanical electronic cigarettes that eliminate the use of any wiring, solder or electronics in an effort to improve switch reliability.
While some larger electronic cigarette models employ a user-replaceable standard-size battery cell, many models are too small to house a standard-size cell and instead require a proprietary component made by the electronic cigarette manufacturer. For those models, the battery and electronic components are housed within a single replaceable part, which is still generally referred to in the industry simply as the “battery”.
There have been some recent developments with the implementation of mobile phone battery technology into this market sector allowing the electronic cigarettes batteries to be charged on the go in a crumple proof box known as a Personal Charging Case. The rechargeable battery inside the Personal Charging Case allows the user to charge the battery stems inside the case and store the replacement cartomizers/cartridges too. The recharging box/case is also the same size as a packet of traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Most manufacturers of electronic cigarettes offer an accessory known as a USB Passthrough or USB battery. This device resembles an e-cig battery with an attached USB cable. It is used in placed of the e-cig battery and requires a USB power source of 1500mA or greater. Plug this USB Passthrough into an adequate USB power source, attach an atomizer and cartridge, add eLiquid and it is ready to produce vapor. No charging is necessary.
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