The e-cigarette was invented in China by a man called Hon Lik who worked for Golden Dragon Holdings which later changed its name to ‘Ruyan’, a Chinese term that translates to ‘Similar to smoking’. And what a landmark day it was, when he discovered this simple yet effective alternative to tobacco smoking, which provides not only the nicotine requirements of addicts, but also the hand to mouth action (often believed to be even more addictive than nicotine itself).
Hon Lik was the first person to try using an atomiser to vaporise a liquid containing nicotine, turning it into a mist that people could inhale. The idea was originally thought up in order to offer smokers in China a nicotine replacement therapy for helping them to quit smoking. However, referring to these devices as anything to do with ‘smoking cessation’ is now against the law in the UK, since they have not been approved for use as a medicinal product. For now, they are merely an “alternative to smoking”, so that’s all you will hear me say!
It was Hon Lik who also suggested the idea of using propylene glycol in order to suspend and dilute the liquid nicotine so that it could be incorporated into an electronic cigarette for vapourising when used. In 2004 the Chinese marketplace saw the first e-cigarettes available for sale, and since then the industry has exploded into one of the fastest growing new businesses this side of the turn of the century.
In around 2006 they began to export the product to foreign markets, who couldn’t get enough of them, hence the reason just about every supermarket and corner shop in the UK stocks them today.The primitive design idea which Hon Lik first came up with was soon developed and improved, eventually catering for all needs, desires and nicotine requirement levels.
Today this explosion has taken so many different twists and turns that we have a myriad of flavours, device types, suspension fluids, and along with all those, a myriad of beliefs too about the pros and cons of ecigs. Do they offer a chance to reduce the harm done by tobacco worldwide? Or do they offer a whole new potential global health pandemic? I suppose only time will tell the true answer to that one, but for now all the evidence at least appears to suggest that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, and that seems to be the general belief among vapers too, especially after they feel the effect of their reduced tobacco intake. This is not 100% concrete proof that its healthier for you to vape instead of smoke tobacco, but it does at least look that way so far.
The word “Vaping” refers to the process of sucking or taking a “drag” on an e-cigarette. When doing so, the device powers the Atomiser to transform the E-Liquid into a fine vapour which you then inhale into your lungs just like with a tobacco cigarette but without the tar and many other harmful chemical compounds known to be present in tobacco smoke.
People who ‘vape’ usually find it very similar, at least behaviourally-speaking if not biochemically, to smoking traditional cigarettes and as such they often find it a satisfactory replacement for tobacco. Aside from the beliefs among most vapers that they are less harmful to health, the most obvious benefit to vaping is the significant cost saving compared with tobacco. This is especially true for heavy smokers like I used to be. I spent a small fortune on tobacco, and my bank balance has long been showing me the financial benefits of converting to e-cigarettes. To think how much I used to spend, I can’t even understand how I ever managed to afford my habit!
If you want to give vaping a try for yourself, my advice is spend as little as possible within reason, in other words don’t buy a junk brand, but buy the cheapest cig-a-like type product from a reputable brand with good quality controls such as E-Lites or Smoker’s Halo. That way you can ensure your experience won’t be marred by sub-standard e-liquids and flavourings, as that can be a real turn-off, I speak from experience!
If you like it and see yourself doing it regularly, you can then begin looking into the more advanced devices which are around half the cost to use in comparison with the cig-a-likes. This is mainly because the advanced devices are refillable, so you can buy your e-liquid in bulk and refill it yourself by hand. The cig-a-likes have to be replenished using screw-on cartomisers, these are not overly expensive in the short term, but over the long term they add up to a much bigger expense than buying bottled e-juice.
Many people ask what e-liquid is when they first move past the cig-a-likes and onto the more advanced devices, for most ‘beginner’ vapers they have never needed to know since they can’t use this substance in their disposable e-cigs as it is all self-contained and sealed inside their cartomiser refills. Knowing about the finer details and technical components is not required until you advance into more custom ‘mods’ and clearomizers, at which point you also have to learn about e-liquid handling, flavours, suspension compounds and more.
E-Liquid (or e-juice) is the term given to the clear liquid you find inside all e-cigarettes. It contains the suspension fluid, the flavourings, and of course the nicotine unless you have one of the many nicotine-free e-liquids.
Inside the average e-liquid (not including nicotine-free varieties) you will usually find natural and/or artificial flavourings, therefore your choice of e-liquid is basically equivalent to the choice you used to make between brands of traditional cigarettes, as your whole vaping experience will be influenced by your choice of e-liquid, and not just in terms of flavour but in many other ways too.
There are two types of carrier liquid, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Some only use PG, but many of the better brands are now using a mixture of the two. Vegetable Glycerin is much smoother (as an inhaled vapour) than PG. But PG is what causes the so-called “throat hit” which is that feeling of something making contact with your throat like you get with tobacco smoking. This is essential for ex-smokers to get a realistic sensation. I personally prefer a higher VG content as I feel VG is a safer chemical compound than PG, marginally anyway. But if you had an e-liquid of 100% VG, you would basically feel nothing in your mouth and throat when inhaling, which means you would get no satisfaction from it. For this reason the highest ratio I have found is 80-20 VG-PG, and this is what I tend to stick with most of the time.
Buying bulk loads of e-liquid can save an absolute fortune over the long term. Some people I know even buy bulk raw component chemicals direct from laboratories and save yet more money by bypassing the e-cig companies altogether! I like the idea but I can’t say I do that myself, I just don’t like the idea of bottles of neat nicotine (highly dangerous) lying around my home where there are kids and animals. But each to their own.
When you buy e-liquids by the bottle, you can actually begin mixing different ones as you get more experienced at it. This means that if you like the flavour of one brand, but fancy adding a fruit flavour such as strawberry, you can do so. This is a huge advantage and allows you to adjust things to your own personal tastes until you have your perfect vape! I recently did this myself when I found a lovely berry flavour e-juice. I now use a virginia tobacco flavour mixed with the berry flavour, with some apple flavour on top and then finally just a drop or two of menthol flavouring. This makes the most wonderful taste sensation, and nothing I have ever tried comes close to it! Certainly not any of the cig-a-like varieties.
This is the the final essential component.
An atomizer is just a device which transforms liquid into a fine spray or mist when it is used, either with pressure (usually a lever or pump handle forcing liquid through a small hole) or with battery power doing the same thing as in this case.
By forcing it through such a tiny hole, the liquid has to basically break down to individual molecules in order to fit through. This causes the liquid to turn into a vapour, and out the other side you get a cloud or mist of the original liquid.
Atomizers were not invented by Hon Lik, they are simply something which e-cigarette manufacturers decided would do a good job at producing the vapour that users want.
Atomizers have been used for years in various industries, most notably the fashion and cosmetics industries where they are used in perfume bottles and dispensers of anything where it comes in liquid form but the user wants that liquid in vapour or spray form so they can apply it more easily or spread it around. Perfume is a good example of this.
In vaping devices, atomizers are used in conjunction with power from a battery to warm the liquid which makes them thinner and allows the atomiser to produce a nice super-fine mist or vapour.
The vapour is quite sweet on the taste buds, almost sickly at times. This is mainly caused by the Propylene Glycol suspension fluid. But just like anything else, it’s an acquired taste and once you find an e-liquid which suits your taste buds, you are, well… quite literally hooked!
Hopefully that has given you a good basic understanding of the subject. The only other component I haven’t mentioned is a battery, but we all know what they are and how they work so they don’t need any explanation. Having said that, one word of advice I would give is to be very careful when charging yours, and always use a charging sock. You can find these on Google, they are just a fireproof envelope type bag which you put the battery in when it’s on charge. So if your battery decides to spontaneously combust, you will still have a house to sleep in when you get home! LiPo battery fires are not to be sniffed at, they can be pretty dangerous when they go wrong or when improperly handled. So always buy reputable batteries and chargers, and always read the instructions so you can stick to the stated maximum charging periods. You don’t want an unhappy LiPo battery anywhere near you, take it from me!