If you’re asking yourself what is vaping, you’ve already considering using an e-cig. The rise of the electronic cigarette and vaping has taken the world by storm with an increasing number of smokers switching to e-cigs every single day. Electric cigarettes first flooded the market in 2004, long after their original patent from 1965. They started being created in China and the use of the electronic cigarette has grown exponentially since then. Initial inventor Herbert A. Gilbert remarks that “there is no electric cigarette today, that I have seen, that does not follow the basic road map set forth in my original patent.

Over the last 13 years, they have grown to become one the most popular smoking cessation products ever created. Almost exactly mimicking the action and process of having a tobacco cigarette making it one of the easiest considered ways to give up smoking. Or at least swap smoking for a cleaner and “healthier” alternative.

But what’s an e-cigarette and what is vaping?

An electric cigarette is a small handheld device that varies between small pen-style “vape pens” to much larger and “heavy duty” models that offer the user much more power and vapor. The device works by heating a metal coil to vaporize a flavored liquid into a thick vapor which is inhaled in the same way as a traditional tobacco cigarette. This practice is referred to as vaping.

The device is usually made up of two main parts: a “mod” (less often referred to asthe battery) and atomizer (or tank). Mods house a battery (either removable or permanently built-in) and provide power to the coil that is located within the atomizer.

incandescent coilAtomizers are often made from Pyrex-style glass (but can also be made from metal or plastic) and contain a mouth piece, a coil (wrapped around something, usually cotton) to soak up the liquid and a chamber for the liquid itself.

The device works by pressing a button on the mod at the same time as inhaling through the mouthpiece. This action works to heat up the coil and produce the thick cloudy aerosol that vaping is most commonly associated with.

For most users, an electronic cigarette is a smoking cessation tool – it might not help smokers to give up nicotine, but works to replace smoking with an alternative that is widely considered “less harmful” than traditional tobacco smoking. Although many non-smokers also enjoy the electronic cigarettes, often opting for a nicotine-free vaping liquid. There are no studies showing that non-smokers are using vaping as a “stepping stone” to smoking. While a recent study did find that teens who experimented with e-cigs were more likely to smoke “traditional” tobacco products (mainly cigarettes), no direct link between the two was proven.

I recommend buying vaping liquids through reputable brands who use only natural ingredients rather than opting for cheaper, generic brands that often have other ingredients added that could be harmful.

What’s an e-liquid?

With the seemingly weekly headlines about the vaping industry and the effect vaping could have on our bodies, it can seem impossible to work out what is the truth and what isn’t. For a better view about safety, please consider reading our article on this topic.

In order to understand if e-liquid is considered safe, it is important to first look at their ingredients.

E-liquids are usually made up of four ingredients. In fact, any with more than four should be avoided if possible: vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, flavorings and nicotine (optional).

Vegetable glycerin is the ingredient that creates a thick vapor. It is often produced from palm or coconut oil and is considered safe for human consumption by the FDA. Secondly, in order to create better flavor, propylene glycol (used in asthma inhalers) is added to the liquid. This substance is considered safe to inhale, but not to swallow in large amounts. Thirdly, flavor is added, whether it be artificial or natural, for the sole purpose of flavoring the vapor, before the optional ingredient – nicotine – is added.

Nicotine is an optional ingredient and the amount is often a lot less than the amount in a traditional or rolled cigarette with most users who are looking to quit tobacco and subsequent nicotine addictions using a lower nicotine strength until they are vaping a liquid with no nicotine and have therefore beaten the addiction.

Unfortunately, with such a saturated market space and more suppliers than you can shake a stick at. Not every manufacturer will be using organic products, natural flavorings and sticking to the four-ingredient rule, so you really need to look into what you’re buying before you begin using a new supplier.

This saturation in the market makes it extremely difficult for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to apply for a blanket approval on all e-liquids, although the (main) four individual ingredients are considered safe for consumption. A good rule of thumb when trying a new liquid or supplier is to simply check the ingredients. If there are more than four, inquire about them or move on to other brands.

Are the devices themselves safe?

There doesn’t seem to be a month that goes by without a viral video of various e-cigs exploding in pockets, as people use them or whilst they have been left to charge and like with all electronic devices, there will always be a risk of malfunction.

As the marketplace for vaping has grown, so has the ability to “build-your-own” devices and the availability of much more powerful mods. When electronic cigarettes first hit the market, they produced minimal wattage, however now it is not uncommon to find devices of 120 to 220 watts (the rx200 is rated at 250W) available on the market.

In addition to this, those who vape can now build their own coils, which, whilst considered relatively easy, requires a basic understand of wattage and Ohm’s Law. It also creates a lot of room for error. These coils aren’t regulated and could be considered a lot more dangerous than using a pre-manufactured coil that would have passed through quality control.

With so many mods on the market and so many options to modify your own devices, it is often best to read and watch reviews to work out which will be the best device for you. Most major brands, including KangerTech, SMOK and Aspire have unique product codes so you can check online that you’re buying their true product and not a potentially unsafe imitation.

To decrease the risk of your device malfunctioning, ensure you only purchase from reputable brands. Always turn it off when not in use as it could fire in your pocket or bag, don’t leave to charge for two long (and remove the atomizer if charging an all-in-one mod as opposed to one with removable batteries) and understand the increased risk when making your own liquids.

Overall, vaping is considered a much safer alternative to smoking, although the long-term effects of using an electric cigarette are relatively unknown.

Most health professionals agree that the negative effects are a far “healthier” option than tobacco, which often contains over 7000 different chemicals compared to the three or four ingredients in electronic cigarettes.