Fog Machines: How Modern E-Cigs and Vaporizers Work

Vaporizers are gaining recognition as a useful alternative to cigarettes, giving users a clean, even extraction of tobacco or medical marijuana that doesn’t involve burning your lungs. As the business grows, the FDA is still deciding on regulations. Supporters say it’s easier, safer and less hassle for bystanders than cigarettes, critics point to safety and health concerns – but how does it all work, anyway?

Why Is It Called ‘Vaping’?

An e-cigarette is a portable vaporizer which typically looks either like a cigarette or more like a futuristic stick. They are a smokeless system that heats up herbal material (such as tobacco or medical marijuana) but doesn’t actual cause it to combust, instead causing the essential oils to boil and create a vapor which can be inhaled, producing the same effect as smoking with less harmful effects.

What’s It Made Of?

Its main component is its rechargeable lithium battery, which can be charged with a USB cord. Most models come with a good quality LED light which simulates the burning of a cigarette, and a sensor which actives the LED light when you take a drag. It has a cartridge inside which contains the nicotine, flavoring, and chemicals such as glycerin or polyethylene glycol. Finally, there’s the atomizer and heating coil which do the hot work.

How it Works

The atomizer is key to its function: it heats the liquid (“e-juice”) to boil it into vapor you inhale, hence the name “vaping”. While some e-cigarettes offer parts separately, most popular brands combine the battery, atomizer and refillable cartridge into one “cartomizer”. These are often disposable so you don’t have to clean or refill them and they last relatively long because of the polyfoam which surrounds the heating coil, thereby limiting the amount of liquid that is vaporized at once.

When you take draws (or hits) the essential oils are vaporized and transported by a tube to the mouth. The cloud of vapor it produces dissipates quickly and contains a faint scent depending on the flavor you buy. One of the key features of e-cigs is the variety of flavors on offer, everything from fruits to spices to gummy bears and maple, with new mixes continually being invented by companies like bad drip labs.

Conduction vs. Convection

Different types of e-cig have different drawing and heating methods. The two ways vaporizers extract active ingredients are conduction and convection. Whereas conduction heats up plant material by putting it into contact with something hot, convection blows hot air over the plant to heat it.  Conduction models are generally less preferred because they overheat parts and can lead to combustion, whereas convection – while more expensive –  gets more get more vaporization in a more thermostatically controlled manner.

Isn’t It Just Smoking?

While e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, different strengths can be sought and the technology is different to cigarettes in several ways. Vaping is less risky than smoking because it reduces the amount of harmful substances ingested with the active ingredients, as vaporization only takes the oil of plant material and leaves behind the other chemicals which are included in the combustion when you smoke. Smokers have used vaping to transition off smoking, although it’s unclear whether this is helpful in quitting nicotine altogether.

E-cigarettes were developed in 2003 but only entered the US and European market around 2006/7 and gained prominence in recent years. Each cartridge will last about as long as a pack of cigarettes and is cheaper by the pack.

Vape on!

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