Today, everybody knows everything about the harm caused by cigarettes. According to the statistical data, every second smoker at least once in his/her life tried to quit smoking (Hajek et al., 2014). Addiction to nicotine itself is not the strongest aspect of the bad habit. Equally strong is the psychological addiction to making smoke flow out of the mouth and feeling a cigarette in the hand. Not so long ago, scientists created new high-tech devices to replace cigarettes. These groundbreaking gadgets are electronic cigarettes. According to the producers, the new invention reduces the negative effects of nicotine addiction (Bullen et al., 2013). In other words, the electronic cigarette helps smokers in the fight against smoking and minimizes negative feelings during this process. The device is based on the principle similar to that of the inhaler. Instead of tar and smoke, a user inhales the odorless vapor (Goniewicz et al., 2013). However, it is impossible to avoid some pitfalls. Therefore, this research paper aims to present the history, characteristics, working principle, and pros and cons of vaping.
The History of the Invention of the Electronic Cigarette
Humanity acquired the pernicious habit of smoking a long time ago. The first attempts to save people from this addiction were made in the 16th century when temporary bans on the use of tobacco appeared. In the 21st century, scientists have devised many means of fighting against smoking. They include nicotine gums, patches, candies, etc. Attempts have been also made to invent various devices that will help people to break the bad habit. The electronic cigarette has become that tool which could change everything.
The first electronic cigarette was devised in 2003 by Chinese smoker Hon Lik (Bullen et al., 2013). The pharmacist pursued the only goal of turning the process of smoking into a safe activity. He tried to reduce harm which cigarettes do to the body of the smoker and those who are around him/her. To create such a device, the researcher devoted much energy and effort. It was necessary to choose the substance producing the thick vapor during evaporation. This vapor had to be similar to smoke. For this purpose, the food additive, propylene glycol, was selected (Goniewicz et al., 2013).
From the very beginning of mass-production, manufacturers of electronic cigarettes have been stating that their products are safe as they do not have many harmful substances compared to conventional cigarettes. The e-cigarette contains pure nicotine, some excipients, and flavorings (Bullen et al., 2013). However, a bad habit cannot be harmless, and vaping is detrimental to health as well. Pure nicotine is also a poison; therefore, one should understand that manufacturers clearly exaggerate.
Construction and Operating Principle of Electronic Cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes are manufactured in the form of cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. There are also other forms – the so-called mods. Although the electronic cigarette is visually similar to its tobacco counterpart, it does not produce usual smoke. Instead, the e-cigarette generates the vapor (Farsalinos & Polosa, 2014). When using the device, the smoker does not require a lighter and ashtray.
There are also other differences between conventional and electronic cigarettes. If one disassembles the electronic cigarette, he/she will see that it contains such basic parts as the cartridge, atomizer (evaporator), and battery. Each part of the e-cigarette has its own lifetime.
The cartridge is a part which connects the container with the liquid and atomizer. One needs to replace this airtight container according to the amount of the liquid (nicotine and flavors) that was consumed. Cartridges have various flavors and the amount of nicotine. The liquid may have tobacco, chocolate, coffee, fruit, and berry flavors. E-cigarettes are divided into four main groups: high, medium, low, and no nicotine cigarettes. The cartridge of the electronic cigarette allows smokers to take the number of puffs comparable to 15-20 conventional cigarettes (Bullen et al., 2013).
The atomizer (evaporator, vapor generator) is the main part of the electronic cigarette which converts the liquid into vapor. The evaporator consists of a helix (nichrome), system of liquid supply to the heating element, and vaporization chamber (Hajek et al., 2014).
The battery is a galvanic cell that generates and supplies an electrical current to the atomizer. It can have automatic or manual control. The battery can work 5-6 hours and after that, it needs to be recharged. The more milliamps the battery has, the longer it holds a charge. The average battery has 180-220 mA (Bullen et al., 2013). However, a capacity depends on the size of the battery. Bigger batteries have a higher capacity. Therefore, one should choose between these two aspects.
The Way the Electronic Cigarette Works
The electronic cigarette is an electronic device which simulates the process of smoking. The standard package includes a removable cartridge and battery charger. Once the owner of the electronic cigarette takes the first puff, the microprocessor located inside the battery immediately receives a signal. The battery begins to produce an electrical current and supplies it to the evaporator. The flavored mixture starts to flow from the cartridge to the evaporator, turns into the vapor, and enters the respiratory tract of the smoker (Hajek et al., 2014). Smoke which one sees is actually not smoke but the vapor produced from the liquid in the cartridge. To stop the process of evaporation, the smoker should simply stop inhaling the vapor.
As one may see, the electronic cigarette works like the inhaler. During smoking, the device generates the vapor which contains a dose of nicotine. The nicotine vapor is delivered into the body during inhalation (Goniewicz et al., 2013).
The Chemical Composition of E-Liquids
Manufacturers of e-cigarettes offer their customers a wide range of liquids. The main components of these liquids are propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, and various flavors (Callahan-Lyon, 2014). To see whether these substances are harmless, one needs to know their characteristics.
Propylene glycol is the main component contained in any e-liquid. It is a colorless, viscous liquid with a weak odor and sweetish taste. Propylene is used worldwide as a food supplement. For example, it can be found in biscuit rolls, oatmeal cookies, or candies. Moreover, it is used as a spray to clean the air due to its antibacterial properties. One needs to understand that in the food industry propylene glycol is used as a humectant and it cannot enter the body in a pure form (Hajek et al., 2014). While being diluted, it remains non-toxic. The low concentration of glycol is harmless. However, e-cigarettes contain the huge amount of propylene glycol (to 90 percent). To create the effect of reality, it is necessary to dissolve flavors (propylene glycol gives a taste of smoke and irritates nerve endings in the upper respiratory tract). Therefore, one needs to be careful. The high concentration of propylene glycol may not only cause allergies and breathing problems but also a weak narcotic effect (Farsalinos & Polosa, 2014).
The next component of the e-liquid is glycerin. Glycerin is a colorless, viscous, highly hygroscopic liquid which is soluble in water in all proportions. Manufacturers emphasize that glycerin is an ordinary substance widely used in the food industry as an additive that improves the quality of products (Goniewicz et al., 2013). For instance, one can find it in mustard, tea, ginger, and vinegar. However, like propylene glycol, the concentration of glycerin in the e-cigarette is high.
The third component is nicotine. Nicotine is a hygroscopic, oily liquid with a bitter taste. It is completely soluble in water. This component of the e-liquid is added to help the smoker to reduce his/her reliance on tobacco products (Bullen et al., 2013). However, nicotine is one of the most harmful components of the liquid.
The flavor enhancer is the last main component. Flavors are composed of propylene glycol and various chemical substances which give different tastes.
The Pros and Cons of E-Cigarettes
First of all, it is necessary to consider the differences between the electronic and ordinary cigarette. The electronic cigarette neither contains benzene, ammonia, arsenic, cyanide nor produces smoke (Callahan-Lyon, 2014). It means that there is no passive smoking. Conventional cigarettes have all these disadvantages. The electronic cigarette has no carcinogens, which is a great advantage compared with cigarette smoke that contains 60 carcinogens (Goniewicz et al., 2013). Furthermore, as it has been mentioned above, modern devices contain no tar. Therefore, they do not cause dental plaque. When smoking the electronic cigarette, one keeps his/her breath fresh and protects clothing, hair, and other things from a bad smell. Moreover, if a person prefers vaping, he/she can choose the most desirable flavor.
However, when an individual decides to switch to electronic cigarettes, he/she should not forget about the price. If he/she smokes much and is not going to change this situation, switching to e-cigarettes will have a negative effect on his/her budget. The reason is that electronic cigarettes themselves are not as expensive as their consumables. Nevertheless, if one smokes no more than one pack per day, he/she will not notice the difference in expenditures.
Electronic cigarettes also have some unique advantages. Switching to e-cigarettes is a great way to stop smoking regular cigarettes. Moreover, if a person smokes electronic cigarettes, it is easier for him/her to quit smoking in the future. Vaping does not damage the lungs, as the construction of devices does not involve combustion products (Hajek et al., 2014). As it has been mentioned earlier, one of the significant advantages is the absence of smoke. Therefore, it will not bother the consumer and people standing next to him/her. Clothes, hair, and fingers also remain clean. The next advantage is important to people who are always busy. There are no prohibited areas, so it is possible to smoke wherever and whenever one wants. Ashtrays are not required as well. The device can be put in a bag or pocket at any time. In addition, e-cigarettes are simple and safe to use. Vapers do not need to use a lighter or matches; therefore, there is no fire risk (Hajek et al., 2014).
Despite all the advantages, it is important to consider all possible disadvantages of vaping. It is important to remember that scientists have not proven the harmlessness of electronic cigarettes yet. There is a high possibility of undesired results. When a person stops smoking regular cigarettes, it is likely that he/she will acquire a psychological addiction to electronic ones and spend much money on them (Hajek et al., 2014). Moreover, the vapor from the e-cigarette may resemble cigarette smoke and cause psychological discomfort among non-smokers. The liquid which simulates tobacco smoke during evaporation includes propylene glycol. This ‘ingredient’ is very allergenic and can be dangerous for breathing. Smokers may have problems with the lungs and throat (Farsalinos & Polosa, 2014).
Talking about addiction, one should not forget about the fact that while thinking that electronic cigarettes are completely harmless, a person may smoke even more than before. The e-cigarette is a dubious pleasure that makes the smoker dependent as well. As a result, an individual spends a large sum of money to buy new cartridges. In case the level of nicotine in cartridges is high, it certainly causes an addiction among non-smokers. Nicotine directly enters the lungs, and this is the main danger of such cigarettes. Nicotine is a strong poison that causes blood vessels spasms. Moreover, the effect of vapor on the human lungs is still not fully studied. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned about potential risks of using e-cigarettes (Callahan-Lyon, 2014). The major danger which is caused by e-cigarettes is their composition and concentration of flavors in liquids. According to the WHO, the level of formaldehyde or acrolein (carcinogens) in some electronic cigarettes can be much higher than in conventional ones. In addition, some substances contained in the cartridge can be cytotoxic (act on body cells). They are especially dangerous for pregnant women and adolescents (Hajek et al., 2014).
Humans are strange creatures. People have always had a passionate desire to live longer and better. Apart from that, they have also had a desire to self-destruct and weakness for unhealthy and harmful actions. One of those situations in human life is bad habits. However, if a person acquires a bad habit but then breaks it, he/she is worthy of respect. To win the fight against bad habits, one should be determined, strong-willed, and persevering.
The modern market is full of electronic cigarettes because they are in great demand. Recently, global sales of new products have greatly increased. Manufacturers and sellers of electronic cigarettes try to hide the truth about them, claiming that they are harmless and even help smokers to break the bad habit. However, the truth is not as pleasant as it may seem.
Despite the research in this area, there is no common position on the effects of e-cigarettes on the state of health of the smoker. Some scientists claim that these devices are dangerous and should be banned (Goniewicz et al., 2013). In addition, people who smoke in public places, no matter whether this cigarette is electronic or conventional, may set a bad example to children or non-smokers (Farsalinos & Polosa, 2014). Therefore, if a person cannot beat this addiction, he/she should try to smoke only at home in order to prevent others from starting to smoke. However, despite these disadvantages, electronic cigarettes are safer than conventional ones. These devices are not dangerous for those who stand in front of the smoker because they contain less noxious ‘ingredients’ than ordinary cigarettes.
From my point of view, a person should never start smoking. Smoking causes great harm to his/her health. It may lead to such diseases as lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, asthma, reduced fertility, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and many others. If a person smokes, it is necessary to break this bad habit as soon as possible. People who think that with the help of electronic cigarettes they can quit smoking delude themselves. To overcome addiction, an individual should devote much time and effort rather than replace one poison with another one, albeit less harmful. There are many various methods which do not require substitutes for regular cigarettes. However, if a person smokes and does not want to quit, he/she should better try to reduce harm to his/her health by using such latest invention as the e-cigarette.