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A Beginner’s Guide to E-Cigarettes

E-Cigarettes are a technological revolution, and have been touted as a way to save thousands, if not millions, of lives. In addition to being a practical way to quit smoking, e-Cigarettes can be an enjoyable way to consume nicotine on their own. While many people have heard of e-cigarettes, most don’t completely understand how they work, and exactly where they can and cannot be used. To rectify this, we’ve put together a brief introduction to this increasingly popular alternative to smoking.

The first thing to understand is that e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco. Rather, they use liquid propylene glycol, which is an approved food additive in the United States. If you’ve ever been to a rock concert or a haunted house, you have likely encountered propylene glycol: it’s the same stuff fog machines use! In addition to the propylene glycol, some contain flavoring: blackberry, mint, chocolate, caramel – there are a wide variety of flavors available to suit any taste.

If e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Here’s the thing: the propylene glycol is contained in a cartridge, and that cartridge likely also contains liquid nicotine, which is the addictive part of a cigarette. It’s possible to purchase the cartridges with and without nicotine. Those that contain nicotine come in varying strengths, so it is possible for the user to control their nicotine consumption.

You are probably wondering how the liquid nicotine is consumed. E-cigarettes are powered with a rechargeable lithium battery that can be charged much like a cell phone or notebook computer. Users activate the device by either sucking on the mouthpiece or using a switch. Turning the device on activates an internal vaporization compartment, which converts the liquid to a vapor that can be inhaled.

One of the really neat things about e-cigarettes is that they often mimic smoking a cigarette, both visually and in terms of the experience. “Smoking” with one of these devices is called “vaping” (it’s a brand new verb: to vape!), and requires the user to exhale “smoke” after each vape. This is great news for users who use them to cut back on cigarettes, but has created a bit of a headache for regulators and business owners.

In many places, legislation has not yet caught up to the pace of innovation. While some places have put in place clear policies about the use of e-cigarettes, they are few and far between. For example, vaping is prohibited on an airplane in US airspace, but may be allowed in other countries. If you find yourself hankering for a vape while in a public space, such as an airport, bar, or restaurant, the best thing to do is ask. If a business or institution has a clear policy against vaping, the staff will likely know and be able to advise you as such.

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    Author: Carmelo Speelman

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