What is an electronic cigarette

On first hearing about electronic cigarettes many people dismiss them as nothing more than a novelty item or fad. But once they delve a little deeper into the subject it soon becomes apparent that there is more to these devices than they first thought. In fact these revolutionary electronic cigarettes can completely change the way people smoke.

What is an electronic cigarette?

Simply put, an electronic cigarette is a battery powered device that acts that acts like a real cigarette simulating its action, right down to a water vapour simulated smoke. In fact they can often be mistaken for real cigarettes when seen from a distance.

They also deliver the nicotine that smokers crave by suspending the liquid nicotine in a mixture of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine which is vaporised as the user inhales or draws on the electronic cigarette. But unlike real cigarettes there is no harmful smoke, tar or other chemicals associated with smoking.

electronic cigarette

Anatomy of the electronic cigarette

These ingenious devices can be broken down into three basic parts:

1 Battery
2 Atomiser
3 Nicotine Cartridge

The electronic cigarettes battery is of the rechargeable variety and powers the atomiser and glowing tip, if it has one. Many are designed to resemble the body of a cigarette, whilst others can be more cigar sized or bigger. Depending on the model of electronic cigarette a fully charged battery can last anywhere from an hour up a full day or more of fairly continuous use before needing a recharge, with a life expectancy of around 300 re-charges. However most people won’t be continually inhaling on their electronic cigarette.

The atomiser in the electronic cigarette produces the simulated smoke effect, by heating up and vaporising the liquid nicotine mixture. Inhaling this vapour produces a sensation very similar to inhaling real cigarette smoke but without the associated health risks of tobacco smoke. The smoke effect mist that is produced when you exhale is just a form of condensation that quickly evaporates into the air, leaving no visible or harmful residue behind.

The nicotine cartridge of the electronic cigarette, as the name suggests, is the storage area for the water/nicotine mix, and attaches where the filter would be on a regular cigarette. How long a cartridge will last depends on which particular electronic cigarette you purchase, with the smaller ones obviously not lasting as long as larger ones. It’s not very easy to compare a cartridge to an equivalent number of cigarettes, but I wouldn’t expect to get more than about the equivalent 8 tobacco cigarettes from the smallest electronic cigarettes, although a site selling them may state a figure of 20 or more, some of the figures quoted are based on some rather questionable figures.

Many newer types of electronic cigarette have combined the atomiser and cartridge into a single unit called a cartomiser. These cartomisers simplify the electronic cigarette, making it a 2 piece design, and were designed as a single use item, however most can be refilled multiple times making them very cost effective.


Electronic cigarettes give a smoking experience extremely similar to regular cigarettes but without the associated health risks of tobacco smoke. They produce no smoke or lingering unpleasant odours, and can be used in public enclosed spaces such as restaurants and pubs, but be prepared to explain how they work when people ask you to put out that cigarette