How Do Electronic Cigarettes Work And Are They Safe?
Increasing in popularity over the last decade, the electronic cigarette has provided an alternative solution to those addicted to nicotine and one that does not involve the smoking of tobacco. These new cigarettes commonly take the shape of a conventional one, but are comprised of the place for the power source (the battery, normally a rechargeable lithium one), the place for the liquid (the cartridge) and a place for the vapour to be created from the liquid (the atomiser).
In order to use an electronic cigarette, the charged battery is connected to the vaporisation chamber which is a hollow tube containing electronic controls and the atomiser. The cartridge also has to be attached to the vaporisation chamber – the cartridges can be bought pre-filled with e-liquid or as blanks (also known as cores) which can then be used with liquid that has been separately purchased and it is also possible to reuse the cartridges a few times. This liquid, sometimes referred to as ‘e-juice’ is a mix of a solution of propylene glycol (for those who have allergies to that, sometimes vegetable glycerine is used instead) with a variety of flavours such as fruit or menthol and different concentrations of nicotine – although the latter does not have to be present, as nicotine free e-cigarettes are also widely available.
The inserting of the cartridge into the electronic cigarette will have the effect of, through a combination of gravity and capillary action, the juice being absorbed into the atomiser. The design and type of the atomiser varies, but commonly they will consist of a wicking material to draw the liquid in as well as a small heating element that is responsible for the vaporisation of the liquid – for example a small length of resistance wire that is connected to both the positive and negative poles of the device and wrapped around the wicking material will upon activation heat up and therefore the liquid will rapidly be turned into a vapour which can then be inhaled by the user; using the mouthpiece of the electronic cigarette in the same way as its more conventional counterpart. It is worth noting that there are two types of batteries – manual and automatic (the latter can also be mechanical or electromagnetic) which bring with them different advantages such as being able to pre-heat the atomiser and even electronic airflow sensory activation.
Electronic cigarettes are often promoted as a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking, but just how safe are they? The problem it appears is that the research that has been carried out to date has not proved conclusive one way or the other – it has been noted in the past that the electronic alternatives are safer than smoking their traditional counterparts with fewer toxic effects. With electronic cigarettes being banned from Scottish hospitals, schools and council buildings this week, the debate is set to continue.