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What Is An E-Cigarette? Get Answers And Learn The Lingo

By Matt McConnell

Friday August 1, 2014
Learn about the history of e-cigs and learn the lingo

There are now more than 200 e-cig brands! That’s a lot but the truth is folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Every month an average of 10 new e-cig brands are launched into the market. The differences between the good brands and the all too numerous low quality junky brands are worlds apart. If you want vaping to work for you, if you want tobacco out of your life, then it is critical that you do your homework.

For someone who is new to e-cigs and vaping, the marketplace is a very confusing place especially when they begin hearing alien words like ‘cartomizer’, ‘atomizer’, ‘mini-tanks’ or ‘2000 mAh batteries’. That’s a lot to take in when many people are still asking the basic question, “What is an e-cigarette?”

When I go into any of the vape shops in my area or surf electronic cigarette brands online, the number of options available and the information overload is overwhelming. With all of the misinformation out there confusion is a near certainty.

Throwing someone new into this market place without guidance is like teaching someone to swim by pushing them overboard into waters frequented by carcharodon carcharias, or the great white shark for those of you who haven’t seen Jaws. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” That is one of the all time great movie lines, had to be said.

Back to the dilemma faced by so many consumers who are confronted with a chaotic market place inhabited by people who seem to be speaking an entirely different language.

For our regular readers and experienced vapers, please share this article with your friends, family and colleagues who will be hugely helped by learning the ecig basics.

Let’s begin with some of the terms that are typically used by e-cigarette users. Don’t worry it can be very simple. Here is a list of some of the words that you often hear or read:

  • Vape – vape, to vape is to ‘smoke’ an e-cigarette. When you are puffing on an e-cigarette it is also said that you are ‘vaping’.
  • Cig-a-like – a cig-a-like is an e-cig that looks like a tobacco cigarette. Also called an analog. E-cig that looks like a tobacco cigarette.
  • Mod – a different style of e-cigarette that involves a battery attached to a tank, which contains e-liquid. Between the battery and the tank is the atomizer which is responsible for converting e-liquid into vapor. The atomizer is sometimes replaceable.
  • E-liquid – the liquid in an e-cigarette that is turned into vapor by a heating coil. Also called niquid, e-juice or smoke juice.
  • Atomizer – the part of an e-cigarette that connects to a battery or tank and houses the heating coil that converts e-liquid into vapor.
  • Cartomizer or refill cartridge– a cartomizer is a combination of an atomizer and a cartridge containing e-liquid all in one piece. Often also called a refill, refill cartridge, nicotine cartridge or just plain cartridge.
  • Tank – the tank that contains e-liquid, used for a mod and other types of e-cigs. Not part of a cig-a-like model.
  • Throat hit – the sensation that’s experienced in your throat, that is similar to the feel of smoking a tobacco cig.
  • Nicotine satisfaction (nicosat) – the satisfaction of a nicotine craving that is experienced by vaping.
  • Manual battery – an e-cigarette battery that you push a button to activate. Some vapors prefer a manual battery because they assert that they can produce more vapor by activating the battery for a longer period than can be achieved by an automatic battery.
  • Automatic battery – an e-cigarette battery with a microprocessor that detects air flow so that when you puff on your e-cig the battery activates automatically.

That’s a few of the basics. You will hear a lot of other words that are self-explanatory. Words like puff and disposable are obvious. Keep in mind that when we talk about puff counts in our e-cigarette reviews, we are talking about the number of puffs that you get from a cartomizer or a battery. This is important to keep in mind because it is an indicator of quality. For comparison, a pack of cigarettes is about 200 puffs.

 What Is An Electronic Cigarette?

what is an e-cigarette?This question is far more common than you might think. Let’s begin by saying that an e-cigarette is a device that converts  liquid into an inhalable vapor.

Rather than inhaling tobacco smoke, which contains thousands of toxic chemicals and carcinogens, vapor is produced from a solution containing propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and flavor. Vaping is a way of mimicking the act of smoking and avoiding all of the toxins in cigarette smoke.

Propylene glycol is a food additive that is approved by the FDA and recognized as safe. Propylene glycol may have an intimidating sounding name but honestly this is a natural substance that you most likely encounter on a daily basis. Look at the ingredients on your tube of toothpaste, you will find propylene glycol (PG) there.

Vegetable glycerin (VG) is also recognized as safe. E-liquids can contain either PG or VG or a combination of both.

You may have read a lot about how vaping is no better than smoking. Most real data suggests otherwise. Keep in mind that a lot of powerful interests have a desire to see e-cigarettes fail. The negative health effects of electronic cigarettes are generally limited to the negative health effects of nicotine. Remember it is not nicotine that causes cancer. It is the byproducts of combustion that lead to the release of the toxins in treated tobacco.

Tobacco contains thousands of toxins.Tobacco companies are notorious for mixing in additives that cause the tobacco to burn faster. In addition, they also like to add chemicals designed to rush nicotine into your system so that the effects of nicotine addiction become all the more powerful.

To put it into a perspective that anyone can understand, consider the fact that e-cigarette vapor is produced from three ingredients, none of them being carcinogenic. Tobacco smoke contains in the range of 5,000 toxins and carcinogens. The scoreboard would ‘read tobacco 5,000 and e-cigarettes 3’. It seems safe to say that e-cigarettes reduce your exposure to harm.

 Is There Tobacco In E-Cigs?

This is a question that we often get and it is actually a valid question. There are no burning tobacco leaves involved in e-cigarettes. No combustion, no fire, none of that. Nicotine, however, is a tobacco derivative. In fact ‘nicotania’ refers to the entire family of tobacco plants.

Before tobacco makes its way into a cigarette, it goes through a process. Once upon a time that process involved several months of drying, curing and handling. As the tobacco leaves dried, they could be cut in certain ways to separate the sweet parts of the plant from the more stout parts. Tobacconists were experts in the field. There existed many ways to cure the tobacco, often a smoke from an open fire was used to create ‘fire-cured’ tobacco. At one time, it was quite an art form. Not so much now.

Tobacco companies generate billions. Company’s that generate billions tend not to have the patience of 19th century tobacconists. Modern cigarette tobacco is processed much more quickly thanks to an endless list of additives designed to dry the tobacco faster, help it burn faster, help nicotine get into your system faster etc. Basically any additive that makes anything tobacco related happen faster, Big Tobacco puts it in there.

The CDC is now telling us that they have detected 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Most often you will hear people talking about 4,000 or 5,000 toxic chemicals, well it seems that those numbers were off. Imagine, 7,000 chemicals. As high as that seems, it is very credible. If you see the list of tobacco additives you would be astonished. There are more than 1000 tobacco additives that are being used right now, today, of tobacco.

Fortunately, none of these additives are found in e-cig liquid. The only byproduct of the tobacco plant that is used in e-cigs is the nicotine. The nicotine can be extracted from the plant separate from any other substance.

When nicotine is extracted in liquid form, no combustion is involved in the process. Most reputable e-cigarette companies utilize pharmaceutical grade nicotine that is safely derived form the plants through a laboratory process.

How Do Electronic Cigarettes Work?

Thought you’d never ask! The development of the e-cigarette can be traced to a single technological advancement, in particular, the lithium ion battery. This same technology is also responsible for the rapid growth of mobile phones and laptops. I’m sure you’ve seen a few of those around!

The lithium ion battery allows for the storage of large amounts of energy in a very small space. Lithium ion battery cells are also very conducive to quick and efficient recharging thanks to the smooth transfer of energy within the battery cells themselves.

One thing to keep in mind, the quality of a lithium ion battery is directly connected to the purity of the lithium being used. The quality of materials used is one of the main reasons why you shouldn’t buy cheap e-cigs. When it comes to e-cigarettes, like most other things, quality counts.

A lack of quality equates to a lousy vaping experience that leads to people going back to cigarettes. There are too many stories of people that have tried a gas station e-cog and decided that gaping is all hype. If only they had tried a quality e-cig.  In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say that quality is everything.

So, to summarize, we have a small battery that can provide charge for an extended period of time and then we add an atomizer and e-liquid. The atomizer uses the battery’s energy to heat a coil. That coil comes in contact with a wick or foam that is soaked in e-liquid. The result is vapor.

The story behind the invention of the e-cigarette is quite interesting. The inventor of the modern incarnation of the e-cig is Hon Lik. Hon, a pharmacist and inventor, was a heavy smoker who had perviously lost his father to lung cancer. It is said that he was having a bad dream about drowning. In the dream, he struggled to get to the surface and when he made it, suddenly he was surrounded by smoke. Then, he realized that the smoke was actually mist and he could breathe again.

True or not, it makes for a good story! The ultimate success was that Hon Lik found a way to mimic smoking, address the nicotine craving and eliminate the terrible toxins.

 E-Cigarette Safety

E-cigarette safety begins with proper handling. Always follow the manufacturers guidelines for proper use. Do not modify your e-cigarette. Make sure to take precautions with your nicotine e-liquid, especially if you have small children in your home. Avoid getting e-liquid on your skin and don’t charge your battery in freezing temperatures. Most importantly, stick to reputable e-cigarette brands like those on our top-ten ecig list.

Recently, there have been a couple of sensationalized accounts of e-cig batteries exploding. This is an incredibly rare occurrence and can be avoided by following the manufacturers guidelines. Plugging a battery into a charger that it was not made for is a recipe for problems. E-cig battery safety is simply common sense.

If you are regularly handling e-liquids, it is important to keep in mind that nicotine is easily absorbed through the skin. In fact, many tobacco field workers have experienced Green Tobacco Sickness, which occurs when handling tobacco plants and nicotine is absorbed through the skin. This is why tobacco workers wear gloves and protective clothing.

 What Are The Best Electronic Cigarettes To Buy?

ECCR e-cog reviews help you make clear choicesThis is much like asking what is the best car to buy. There are a lot of good answers! You need a reputable brand that uses high quality materials and e-liquids.

Next, you need enough vapor to satisfy and the consistency to make sure that you avoid frustration and the temptation to light up a cigarette. Read about the  four e-cig brands that we feel are very effective.

ECCR has thoroughly tested all of the e-cigarette brands that we recommend. We have no agenda and our recommendations are the result of honest evaluation alongside the reviews of consumers that have first hand experience with the products.

Most review sites are exclusively designed to generate a commission, which is not what ECCR is about. We have built our reputation of honest reviews. We view trust as our best commodity. We believe that e-cigarettes truly have the potential to save millions of lives.

We don’t want to see people write off vaping as some kind of novelty rather than a true alternative. We sincerely want you to find a true alternative that really works.

The absolute last thing that we want to happen is to see someone be misled into trying a lousy e-cigarette that will have you back on tobacco cigarettes before you know it.

There have been a number of studies that indicate that the more closely that you mimic the act and rituals involved in smoking, the better your chances of avoiding tobacco. For that reason we do recommend beginning your vaping journey with a cig-a-like model. It looks like a cigarette and behaves like a cigarette.

Read our e-cigarette reviews, do some research and then make an informed choice. Also, memorize the terms mentioned earlier as there may be a pop quiz at some point. Just kidding!

We hope that this has helped you understand e-cigarettes a little bit better. We are happy that you visited us and we encourage your feedback. You are also welcome to come back and visit ECCR. We are always adding new e-cig information that can help keep you informed so that you can make clear choices.




Disclosure: We may receive a commission for purchases made by consumers after clicking through one of the links on this website.

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