- What is a vaporizer?
- What are electronic cigarettes?
- Are electronic cigarettes safe?
- How do vaporizers work?
- Is it legal to possess a vaporizer?
- Does a vaporizer smell when using it?
- What is the difference between smoke and vapor?
- How do I clean a vaporizer?
- What do they use to make flavored eLiquids?
- How much nicotine is in eLiquid?
- How long will eLiquid last before it is unsafe to use?
- How does the nicotine in eLiquid compare to the nicotine in tobacco products?
- Do electronic cigarettes contain anti-freeze?
- Do electronic cigarettes cause cancer just like tobacco cigarettes?
- What about all of the news reports that electronic cigarettes contain toxic chemicals and metals?
- Are electronic cigarettes approved or regulated by the FDA?
- What electronic cigarette brand most looks and tastes like a real cigarette?
- Can electronic cigarettes help me quit smoking?
A vaporizer is a device that heats up dried herbs to a temperature at which they release their active components into an aromatic vapor. In this process the herb is not scorched, burned, or combusted, and thus no smoke is generated. Although vapor may appear to resemble smoke, it doesn’t contain any of the toxic particles (tar, benzene, toluene, naftalene, etc.) which make smoking such a health hazard.
Electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes or personal vaporizers) are an alternative to tobacco cigarettes. They are battery-operated devices that create a mist or vapor that is inhaled instead of smoke. The rechargeable battery powers a heating element called an “atomizer.” The element uses low heat to turn liquid in the cartridge – which contains propylene glycol, glycerin, food flavoring, and nicotine – into a fog-like mist.
There are many models of electronic cigarettes available. Some look like traditional cigarettes, others look similar to a pen, and some even look like small flashlights. Some have LED lights, some have built-in liquid reservoirs, others have combined atomizer cartridges, some are tubular, and some are even rectangular boxes. They come in all shapes and sizes and have different features for former smokers who wish to distance themselves from anything resembling a traditional cigarette or want a longer battery life and/or better performance.
While anything containing nicotine cannot be called 100% safe, evidence from numerous studies strongly suggests that they are magnitudes safer than tobacco cigarettes. Harm reduction experts can point to research supporting that switching from cigarettes to a smoke-free product will reduce health risks to less than 1% of smoking traditional cigarettes – nearly the same as non-smokers. It is misleading and irresponsible for public health officials to tell smokers that smokeless products, such as electronic cigarettes, are “not a safe alternative to smoking” simply because they are “only” 99% safer and not 100% safe.
All vapes have a few basic parts: battery, coil, juice tank, juice, and mouthpiece. The battery sends magical energy to the coil, and the coil turns the juice into vapor without a flame using super juice vaporization technology. You put your mouth on the mouthpiece and inhale the delicious vapor.
In most countries vaporizers are legal to possess, though vendors may have to limit themselves to advertising vaporizers as devices to vaporize only tobacco and aromatherapeutic herbs like chamomile.
In the United States of America Drug Paraphernalia are illegal: “Under the Federal Drug Paraphernalia Statute, which is part of the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to possess, sell, transport, import, or export drug paraphernalia as defined. The law gives specific guidance on determining what constitutes drug paraphernalia.”
Though vaporizers are marketed for the use of tobacco and legal herbs, local police officers might still seize your vaporizer if they suspect it’s being used for illegal substances like (medical) marijuana.
Compared to smoking, there is hardly any noticeable smell when vaporizing. There can be a slight scent – especially when the vaporizer is used at a temperature that is too high – when combustion takes place. Most vaporizers are safe to use without having to worry about the smell.
Burning incense involves carbonization, while smoking involves the combustion of plant material. In both cases the smoke contains enormous amounts of toxic byproducts such as solid particles (tar) and gasses like nitric oxide. These byproducts irritate the mouth, throat and lungs, and give off noxious odors. Moreover, the high and uncontrolled combustion temperature destroys a large percentage of the active ingredients, so one needs more of the plant material to obtain a similar effect.
A vaporizer directs a flow of hot air through the plant material so the active components melt and create an aromatic vapor. Ideally this vapor doesn’t contain any tars or unwanted gasses. The vapor can be filtered and cooled down with water or ice before it’s inhaled, or blown into a portable plastic balloon. After vaporization one is not left with ashes, but the solid remains of the herb, devoid of its original color and aroma. This is why cleaning a vaporizer is so easy; for most vaporizers it doesn’t take more effort than turning its filling chamber upside down over a dust bin.
The above-mentioned process of directing hot air through plant material is called convection. Some vaporizers heat up the herb through conduction, which means the herbs are heated on a metal plate. However, direct contact with the hot metal can scorch the herbs. That is why this is not a preferred method, and is rarely employed in modern vaporizers.
Most quality vaporizers are relatively large and need a source of electricity, which makes them impractical for outdoor use. For such purposes small glass vaporizers can be very useful. A torch lighter is used to heat the air around the herb, which then gives off its aromatic vapor. This vapor isn’t necessarily of less quality than that given off by the electronic vaporizers. Glass vaporizers are generally more fragile though, and cleaning or refilling may require a little more effort. There are also electronic vaporizers which have a battery pack, and, as mentioned before, others fill balloons that can be taken anywhere (as long as they are emptied within approximately 15 minutes).
Cleaning procedures vary by the type of vaporizer. Some products require hardly any cleaning, whereas portable glass vaporizers usually require a frequent cleansing with hot water or solvents. Dr. Vapor Warehouse can teach you how to properly care for your vaporizer.
Many flavorings in eLiquids are various food flavorings and/or additives. While most have been approved by the FDA for human consumption in the composition of a liquid or a solid, many have not been approved for human inhalation in the composition of a gas or vapor.
The nicotine content in eLiquid is measured by the number of milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid. So, 18mg/ml means there is 18 milligrams of nicotine for each milliliter of liquid. The amount of nicotine can be controlled in eLiquid. Some eLiquid is also available without nicotine added.
Since no eLiquid has been approved by the FDA, no real accurate expiration dates have been established. Both USP food-grade vegetable glycerin and USP propylene glycol have a shelf life of about 2 years when stored in dark and cool conditions. The addition of nicotine will increase the oxidation process and exposure to light will rapidly degrade the glycerin. The addition of other flavorings or additives could have an effect on the shelf life but none have been officially determined in eLiquids.
The nicotine in eLiquid is extracted from tobacco. It is accurately measured before being added to a liquid base. The eLiquid is heated into a gas or vapor, at which time the vapor is drawn into the mouth. Some people inhale the vapor into their lungs, while others just blow the vapor back out of their mouth. Nicotine is absorbed by body tissue, enters the bloodstream, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and reaches the brain.
It is difficult to measure the amount of nicotine in tobacco products or, more importantly, how much enters the body. The amount of nicotine absorbed by the body from tobacco depends on many factors: the types of tobacco, the additives in the tobacco, whether the tobacco is burned and the smoke is inhaled (cigarettes, cigars, and pipes), if the tobacco is placed in the mouth (chewing tobacco), or if it is taken in the nose (snuff).
In the case of smoking tobacco, the nicotine in the smoke travels through the rest of the unburned tobacco before reaching the mouth. Some of it is absorbed in the unburned tobacco. Some will be trapped in the filter of a filtered cigarette. The amount of nicotine absorbed in the body will increase as the tobacco product burns down.
In the case of chewing tobacco or snuff, the nicotine is absorbed directly from the tobacco and, consequently, the nicotine level is much higher than smoking.
No. This myth was created by a 2009 FDA press statement regarding electronic cigarettes. The FDA tested 18 cartridges from 2 companies. Of those 18 cartridges, 1 tested positive for a non-toxic amount of diethylene glycol (approximately 1%). While diethylene glycol is occasionally used in anti-freeze, the chemical is not a standard ingredient in electronic cigarette liquid and it has not been found in any other samples tested to date.
The base liquid for electronic cigarette liquid is usually propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is considered GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the FDA and EPA. While it is also sometimes found in anti-freeze, it is actually added to make the anti-freeze less toxic and safer for small children and pets. Propylene glycol is a common ingredient found in many of the foods we eat, cosmetics we use, and medications we take. It is also used in fog machines used in theaters and nightclubs.
Though testing by the FDA and some researchers have discovered trace amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which are known to cause cancer with high exposure, the amounts found were extremely low and unlikely to cause cancer. To put it in perspective, an electronic cigarette contains nearly the exact same trace levels of nitrosamines as the FDA-approved nicotine patch and about 1,300 times less nitrosamines than a Marlboro cigarette. This means that electronic cigarettes would not be any more likely to cause cancer than FDA-approved nicotine gums, patches, or lozenges.
Reports of studies that show potential health risks due to electronic cigarette use are premature. In spite of what has been reported, the studies done to date have not only been largely inconclusive, but have actually found that the levels of contaminants detected in electronic cigarette liquid and vapor are so low that it is highly doubtful they would even pose a health risk. Most certainly, they are thousands of times less of a risk than continuing to smoke. The fact is, the mere “detection” of a chemical does not mean that a product is hazardous. Every day we harmlessly consume and breathe in chemicals that would be toxic at much higher levels. It is disingenuous for public health organizations that disapprove of electronic cigarettes to point to the trace levels found in electronic cigarette studies as conclusive evidence of a potential health risk.
Dr. Igor Burstyn of Drexel University reviewed all of the available chemistry on electronic cigarette vapor and liquid and found that the levels reported – even in those studies that were hyped as showing there is a danger — are well below the level that is of concern. His report was peer-reviewed and published in January 2014 on Bio Med Central’s Public Health Journal: “Peering through the mist: systematic review of what the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tells us about health risks.”
In 2011, The FDA issued a statement regarding the approved smoking cessation drug Chantix, which has been linked to over 500 deaths, suicidal tendencies, and heart attacks. The FDA stated that “the drug’s benefits outweigh the risks.” E-cigarettes have been on the market nearly as long as Chantix, without reports of significant adverse reactions or deaths. Studies have shown that while chemicals have been detected, they are too low to pose any significant health risks and are certainly far less exposure than found in cigarette smoke. It is clear to anyone who reviews the more than 60 available studies on electronic cigarette liquids and vapor that the benefits of electronic cigarettes also “far outweigh the risks.”
If there are over 60 studies of electronic cigarette vapor and liquid, why do health experts say we don’t know what is in them or that they may be more dangerous than traditional cigarettes?
Good question. Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear answer. What we do know is that pharmaceutical companies do not like to see smokers switching to electronic cigarettes instead of using pharmaceutical drugs and nicotine products. The pharmaceutical industry and its “foundations” fund a lot of anti-tobacco research and supports many of the anti-tobacco organizations and politicians that object to electronic cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction policies.
We also know that there is a small, but very vocal, part of the public health community that is against anything that doesn’t require 100% abstinence from all tobacco and nicotine. Their objection to electronic cigarettes appear to be more ideological than science-based and it seems they would rather smokers remain uncertain enough about electronic cigarette safety that they will choose to keep trying to quit smoking with traditional methods instead. Unfortunately, while this may be an option for those smokers who are actively trying to quit, it keeps smokers who aren’t trying to quit – or who fail to quit using traditional methods – using the most hazardous product on the market, rather than a far safer alternative.
The FDA currently considers electronic cigarettes to be tobacco products. Originally, it claimed that electronic cigarettes are being used as smoking cessation devices and therefore they needed to be regulated the same as pharmaceutical nicotine replacement therapy drugs (NRTs). In 2009, the FDA ordered customs officials to start seizing electronic cigarette shipments coming into the country.
On April 25, 2011, FDA announced in a letter to stakeholders that it would not appeal the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Sottera, Inc. v. Food & Drug Administration, stating that electronic cigarettes and other products are not drugs/devices unless they are marketed for therapeutic purposes, but that products “made or derived from tobacco can be regulated as ‘tobacco products'” under the FD&C Act. The FDA stated that it is aware that certain products made or derived from tobacco, such as electronic cigarettes, are not currently subject to pre-market review requirements of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. It is developing a strategy to regulate this “emerging class of products” as tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Products that are marketed for therapeutic purposes will continue to be regulated as drugs and/or devices. In late 2013, the FDA submitted its regulatory proposal to the OMB.
Contrary to some media reports and comments by legislators, regulation as a “tobacco product” under FSPTCA does not mean that electronic cigarettes are automatically regulated in the exact same manner as tobacco cigarettes; i.e., subject to PACT, flavoring prohibitions, and indoor use bans, nor subject to the same tax rates. However, it does mean sales of these products to minors are finally prohibited by law.
This is the most common question on electronic cigarette forums. The best answer to that question is “none” and “it doesn’t matter.”
Since those considering electronic cigarettes are usually seeking to replace tobacco cigarettes, they are under the assumption that having the most realistic, tobacco-flavored electronic cigarette will bring the most satisfaction. The truth of it is that after switching to electronic cigarettes for a few weeks, the vast majority of users discover that looks ultimately don’t matter – performance does. And the best performing electronic cigarettes don’t necessarily look anything like traditional cigarettes because they require larger batteries. And the most popular flavors with experienced users are often as far from tobacco-tasting as one can get.
One problem is that none of the tobacco flavors really taste like burning tobacco – they taste more like fresh tobacco smells and slightly sweet. So, experienced electronic cigarette users will tell you that nothing tastes exactly like a burning tobacco cigarette. However, we know you won’t believe us and will insist on buying something that looks and tastes like a tobacco cigarette. That’s OK – we’ve all been there!
E-cigarettes are not approved to be marketed as nicotine cessation products like the nicotine gums and patches on the market. However, that doesn’t mean that some smokers haven’t found them an effective way to wean from nicotine. There is also a lot of real-world evidence and even some studies that strongly indicate that electronic cigarettes are an effective alternative to smoking. Surveys show that up to 80% of electronic cigarette users quit smoking traditional cigarettes while using electronic cigarettes. One study showed electronic cigarettes worked at least as well as the nicotine patch for nicotine replacement therapy.
However, while some users have gradually reduced the nicotine levels down to zero, the majority of electronic cigarette users treat the devices as an alternate source of nicotine and not as a nicotine cessation program. So there is not as much scientific evidence yet that shows how effective electronic cigarettes are when used to treat or cure nicotine addiction. Yet, anecdotal reports by users who have used electronic cigarettes as a way to wean from nicotine indicate that they seem to be a very effective way to break smoking triggers and dramatically reduce nicotine levels. As with pharmaceutical NRTs, it depends upon the smoker and the strength of his or her addiction and resolve to quit. E-cigarettes also appear to be a much safer option for short-term use in the event of relapse.
The good news is that nicotine by itself has very low health risks, so switching to electronic cigarettes can be nearly as good as quitting altogether. The most important thing to do for those who cannot or will not quit nicotine is to stop the exposure to the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke; electronic cigarettes can help them do it.