Electronic cigarettes are smoking devices that use vaporizing action instead of combustion, eliminating the odor, stains and toxins caused by tobacco smoke. They were invented more than a decade ago but only became popular when they arrived in the United States in 2007.
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Electronic cigarette technology has grown by leaps and bounds since the first models reached the market. Back in 2008, cigarette replicas were very popular. These cig-alikes used a three-piece design that connected a small battery to an atomizer to a liquid cartridge. Inside the cartridge was a mesh material soaked in flavored nicotine. When the user takes a puff, the battery powers the atomizer which draws the liquid and converts it to inhalable vapor. These faux cigarettes were marketed in malls and enticed people to smoke in places where lighting up is prohibited. The early ecigs gave users the “feel” of a real cigarette, getting that familiar throat hit upon inhale and blowing a smoke-like cloud upon exhale.
The batteries lasted around one to two hours on a full charge and the cartridges, which were advertised as equivalent to a pack of smokes, only lasted about 5-10 cigarettes.
Over the years, manufacturers were able to improve those initial designs.
The 501 came out and quickly became the ecig of choice because of its perfect balance of size and performance. The battery lasted longer, the vapor was thicker, and the throat hit was more pleasant. The 501 was also the first manual ecig. With a push button, there was more control over the amount of liquid drawn by the atomizer.
Battery power was still limited because of the small size of cigarette replicas. With smokers craving for more vapor and the electronic cigarette market on an upswing, hobbyists began creating advanced personal vaporizers (APV) and “mods” started to come out.
One of the most popular mods is the eGo, which has now become the standard in APVs. The flexibility of the eGo has allowed users to experiment with modified batteries that push up to 6 volts.
Instead of drawing from a disposable cartridge, eGo style electronic cigarettes used refillable cartomizer tanks that could hold 1.6ml to up to 6ml of liquid. This also paved the way for the massive e-liquid market today. With huge liquid reservoirs, vapers no longer had to change cartridges several times per day. Just fill the tank and you basically vape worry-free all day.
APVs quickly became popular with serious vapers but beginners were often intimidated with their size and bulk. As mini electronic cigarettes continued to dominate the market and attract curious smokers, the technology improved as well.
The “cartomizer” came out and turned the three-piece design into a more convenient configuration. Combining the cartridge and atomizer into one disposable unit, the cartomizer improved the flavor and vapor of minis while eliminating the need to clean and replace the atomizer.
The modern mini can now match the battery and cartomizer life of many mods without having to add inches and grams. Brands such as Green Smoke, V2 Cigs and White Cloud are able to offer batteries that last an entire day and cartomizers that are almost equivalent to two packs, all while maintaining their cigarette-like size.
Atomizers, Cartomizers and Clearomizers
The vaporizing unit in electronic cigarettes has also evolved in recent years.
The old atomizer featured a heating coil at the bottom with a metal mesh or silica wick on top that absorbed the e-liquid. Atomizers could only hold a small amount of liquid and were difficult to clean.
Cartomizers are similar to atomizers but the heating coil is wrapped by a polyfill material. This filler stays wet so you don’t have to refill often. Some cartomizer models are housed in a “tank” for bigger liquid storage.
Clearomizers are the most popular e-liquid delivery devices today because they are efficient and convenient. A metal tube runs through the middle of a cylindrical tank. The heating coil located at the top or bottom of the tube has fiber wicks that soak up the liquid in the tank. Clearomizers use a clear polycarbonate plastic or pyrex glass tank which allows you to see how much e-juice is left. These tanks can store up to 6ml of liquid. A great exampe of a tank like this is the Kanger Aerotank.
Clearomizers last longer than atomizers and cartomizers. Some users also say they enjoy the flavors more with a wick system than with fillers.
Variable Voltage vs. Variable Wattage
The most important feature of APVs and mods is variable voltage. Unlike minis that produce less and less vapor as the battery drains, variable voltage vaporizers can maintain the same amount of vapor with every puff regardless of remaining power. Experiment with different voltage settings until you find the right output that produces the best taste and the most vapor.
Recently, a new version of APV was introduced to the market featuring variable wattage instead of variable voltage.
With variable voltage vaporizers, you need to know the actual resistance of your atomizer, cartomizer or clearomizer, and then refer to a voltage/resistance chart to find the appropriate voltage range. Every time you change your e-liquid delivery device, you have to follow these steps.
Variable wattage vaporizers simplify this process by automatically measuring the resistance level and adjusting power output accordingly. You only have to set the wattage once and your ecig will find the proper setting every time you replace your atomizer, cartomizer or clearomizer.
E-liquids are now a huge secondary market in the electronic cigarette industry. More vapers are opting to manually refill their cartridges and tanks instead of buying pre-filled cartridges over and over again.
There are two reasons for the enormous popularity of e-liquid refills: cost and customization.
The cheapest pre-filled cartomizer available today is from V2 Cigs – you pay around $2 for a pack of smokes. If you order a bottle of e-liquid, it will only cost you 70 cents!
Although disposable cartomizers come in a variety of flavors and nicotine concentrations, you can only vape one flavor in one strength at a time. If you are using a clearomizer tank, you can mix as many flavors as you want and create your very own vaping cocktail. If you are not satisfied with the e-liquids currently available on the market, you could even prepare your own recipe from scratch.
The three main ingredients – flavoring, nicotine and PG/VG – can be purchased online or from your local vape shop. If you love DIY stuff and are serious about vaping, it can be fun to try your hand at e-liquid mixing. Not only will you be able to mix and match different flavors but you can also adjust the amount of PG and VG in your solution.
Propylene glycol is a colorless, odorless and tasteless compound often used as an additive in food products and medicines. Vegetable glycerin is a sweet organic compound made from coconut oil or palm oil. Both substances are classified as “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA.
Because propylene glycol is more fluid and does not alter flavor, it is the most popular diluting base used in e-liquids. PG is easily absorbed by the wick or polyfill in your e liquid delivery device and it does not leave plenty of gunk.
Since vegetable glycerin is more viscous, it creates thicker vapor. Its sweetening properties can also dilute strong flavors so the throat hit is not too harsh.
You don’t have to choose between PG or VG. Many e-liquids today use a combination of both in different ratios. If you want richer flavors and a more pronounced throat hit, add more PG. If you prefer more vapor, increase the amount of VG in your mixture. Most users find their sweet spot with a 60/40 or 70/30 PG-VG combo.
The flavor and quality of pre-mixed e-liquids have vastly improved in recent years, and the variety of offerings has become mindboggling.
Back in the day, e-liquids tasted like watered-down artificial flavoring. To make their e-liquid richer and stronger, manufacturers often had to increase the amount of nicotine in the solution. Today, e-liquids taste exactly like how they are described on the label. Fruit flavors combine sweet, sour and tangy perfectly. Menthol flavors are crisp and refreshing. Tobacco e-liquids are reminiscent of your favorite brand of smokes.
Find an e-liquid specialist and you’ll see hundreds of e-liquid flavors to choose from – literally giving you thousands of different combinations when creating your own blend. A few years ago there were only tobacco and menthol varieties. Then came fruity flavors like cherry, apple, and strawberry. The selection expanded to more exotic choices such as kiwi, watermelon, dragon fruit, boysenberry, lychee, and pomegranate. E-liquid mixers also began venturing into desserts and drinks, replicating the taste of vanilla ice cream, piña colada, cappuccino, green tea, root beer, blueberry cheesecake, champagne, chocolate chip cookies, bourbon, pumpkin pie, absinthe, and cinnamon bread.
Recognizing that some vapers may have special dietary needs, manufacturers are now offering e-liquids that are sugar-free, gluten-free, Kosher and organic.
The Future of Electronic Cigarettes
Six years ago, electronic cigarettes merely attempted to simulate smoking by connecting a heater to a battery. Fast forward to 2014 and the modern vaporizer looks nothing like a paper cigarette. Flavors are no longer limited to tobacco and menthol and the overall vaping experience has taken smoking to a whole new level.
As mobile phones become smartphones and cable TV upgrades to satellite, electronic cigarettes are now looking like futuristic gizmos too. Vaporizers with space-age designs are outfitted with microprocessors, Bluetooth technology, fingerprint scanners, and even gyroscopes.
Bluetooth-enabled ecigs allow users to tracks personal statistics on usage and nicotine levels. Smokio, “the connected electronic cigarette”, is a prime example.
While connected to an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth Smart, Smokio tracks all kinds of data on your smoking habits, including where and when you used your Smokio and how often you are smoking. The app shows you the equivalent number of regular cigarettes that you would have consumed based on the number of puffs taken from your Smokio. With this data, you can see how much money you have saved and how much your health has improved. You can also set the amount of vapor produced with each puff or check remaining power in your battery. The 900mAh Smokio battery is supposed to last seven hours of continued use.
Another cool ecig is the VUSE, created by leading tobacco company RJ Reynolds. The VUSE is embedded with a microprocessor that adjusts battery voltage in order to create “the perfect puff” every time. The chip monitors and adjusts the vapor production up to 2,000 times per second to deliver a consistent vaping experience. The design of the VUSE is also like no other – the QuickConnect attachment coupling snaps the battery and cartridge together instead of screwing them on. The tip of the VUSE battery lights up in different colors to indicate how much power is left in the battery.
The VUSE SmartMemory technology “remembers” how many puffs you’ve taken on each cartridge. It also detects when the cartridge is low on liquid and alerts the user when it’s time to refill. According to RJ Reynolds, VUSE cartridges are tamper-proof and encrypted to ensure that they are only used with VUSE batteries.
RJ Reynolds Vapor Company said it is exploring the possibility of adding tiny gyroscopes in the VUSE to enable gesture recognition.
Keeping electronic cigarettes away from the hands of minors has become a problem in the absence of federal regulation. Vapor Corp recently introduced a prototype vaporizer with biometrics that enables parents to lock their device so that no one else can use them. This way kids won’t be able to vape without a proper fingerprint scan.
With the highly advanced technology used in today’s electronic cigarettes, there’s no reason why you should stick to the stink, stain, and mess of burning tobacco. Personal vaporizers provide you with the same pleasures of smoking but with a better overall experience – no carbon monoxide, no ashes, no butts, and no need to be cast as a social pariah.