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What is an e-cigarette and how does it work?

A new trend to smoking, the e-cigarette has become popular among teens as well as adults. Hailed as being less harmful than regular cigarettes and an effective tool to quit regular tobacco smoking, e-cigarettes are a common substitute.

What are e-cigarettes? An e-cigarette is an electronic cigarette that uses aerosol, rather than tobacco, to deliver nicotine to a smoker. The electronic device is similar to a traditional cigarette in size, but completely different in style.

While electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they are still classified as a tobacco product by the Food and Drug Administration.

How does an e-cigarette work? With more than 460 different brands of e-cigarettes available, they all function in basically the same way in that they contain a cartridge, heating element, power source and a mouthpiece.

They are known by many names including e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), e-hookahs, mods, alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS), tank systems, vape pens, vaporizers and vapes.

Are e-cigarettes and vaping the same thing? When a smoker puffs on the mouthpiece, it activates the powered heating device which releases the liquid in a vaporized form inside the cartridge. The smoker then inhales the vapor or aerosol, which is known as vaping.

According to the American Cancer Society, the aerosol that comes from electronic cigarettes is not water vapor and can be harmful since it contains addictive substances.

Not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, however, the FDA warns that some e-cigarette brands that claim to be nicotine free have been found to contain nicotine, which is an addicitive chemical. Instead of nicotine, electronic cigarettes can also contain flavorings and/or other chemicals.

What are the types of e-cigarettes? For the most part, an electronic cigarette resembles a traditional cigarette, but can be found in forms of cigars, pipes and even everyday items such as USB sticks and pens.

What are e-cigarette dangers and electronic cigarette side effects? Many brands advertise their e-cigarettes as not being harmful. They also advertise them as a good way to stop smoking regular cigarettes, however, the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a quit smoking aide since there is no proof that they do.

The nicotine in e-cigarettes is just as harmful and addictive as regular cigarette smoking since they may still contain other chemicals and heavy metals linked to lung disease.

E-cigarettes also contain propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, which is used to produce the fog. It is a known lung irritant. The flavoring in some electronic cigarettes contain different levels of a chemical called diacetyl, while others have been known to contain formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Do e-cigarettes create second-hand smoke? Is second-hand vapor harmful? The answer to both questions is yes. The American Cancer Society says that while electronic cigarettes do not give off smoke, they do expose people to secondhand vapor that may contain harmful substances.

Researchers remind consumers that just because a brand claims to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes, does not mean it is harmless.

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