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What's in an E-Cigarette?

Electronic Cigarette

By Jen HenseyPublished about a year ago 7 min read

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vapes, are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid, called e-liquid or vape juice, into an aerosol the user inhales. E-liquids typically contain a combination of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals.

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical in many e-liquids, often in varying concentrations. Some e-liquids are nicotine-free, while others may contain as much nicotine as a pack of traditional cigarettes. The amount of nicotine in e-liquids can vary widely, and it is important for users to carefully read labels and choose products appropriate for their level of nicotine dependence.

In addition to nicotine, e-liquids contain a variety of flavorings that are used to give them a distinct taste. These flavorings are often synthetic and range from sweet and fruity to savory and spicy. While many people enjoy the taste of flavored e-liquids, there is concern that some of these flavorings may be harmful when inhaled.

Components of an E-Cigarette

An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that vaporizes a liquid, which the user inhales. The liquid, e-liquid, or vape juice typically contains a mixture of propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings.

The battery powers the device and heats the atomizer responsible for vaporizing the e-liquid. The e-liquid is stored in a tank or cartridge attached to the atomizer. When the user inhales, the device activates, and the e-liquid is vaporized and inhaled.

Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin

Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are the two primary base ingredients in e-liquids. They are clear, odorless liquids commonly used in various consumer products, such as food additives, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Propylene glycol is a synthetic compound, while vegetable glycerin is derived from plant oils.

Both propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are used in e-liquids because they help to create the vapor that the user inhales. They are also used as a base for nicotine and flavorings.


Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant that is naturally found in tobacco plants. It is also the primary addictive ingredient in e-cigarettes. E-liquids come in various nicotine strengths, ranging from zero nicotine to levels as high as 50 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL).

Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs when the vapor is inhaled. It can cause short-term effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, and longer-term health risks, like addiction and cardiovascular disease.


E-liquids come in various flavors, ranging from traditional tobacco and menthol to fruity, sweet, and dessert-inspired flavors. The flavorings used in e-liquids are typically food-grade flavorings that are safe for consumption. However, there is some concern that the inhalation of certain flavorings may be harmful, particularly when heated and vaporized.

Health Risks Associated with E-Cigarettes

Although e-cigarettes are often marketed as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, several health risks are still associated with their use. These health risks include respiratory and cardiovascular issues and other potential health risks.

Nicotine Addiction

One of the most significant health risks associated with e-cigarettes is nicotine addiction. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a way that is similar to traditional tobacco products. This can lead to addiction and make it difficult for users to quit.

Respiratory Issues

Inhaling e-cigarette vapor can irritate the lungs and airways, leading to coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory problems. This is particularly true for people with preexisting respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some studies have also suggested that e-cigarette use may increase the risk of developing respiratory infections.

One of the primary concerns with e-cigarette use is the potential for lung injury. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified an outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use, which affected thousands of people across the United States. The exact cause of the lung injuries is still not fully understood. Still, it is believed to be related to using black market e-liquids that contain THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, and vitamin E acetate. This thickening agent is sometimes added to e-liquids.

Cardiovascular Issues

Nicotine can also harm cardiovascular health. It can increase heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. There is also some evidence to suggest that nicotine may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries, narrowing them and reducing blood flow to the heart.

Other Potential Health Risks

In addition to respiratory and cardiovascular issues, many other potential health risks are associated with e-cigarette use. These include:

  1. Oral health issues: E-cigarette vapor can cause dry mouth and irritation to the mouth and throat, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
  2. Brain development: Nicotine can harm brain development, particularly in adolescents and young adults. It can affect memory, attention, and cognitive function.
  3. Accidental exposure: E-liquids are often brightly colored and flavored, making them attractive to children and pets. Accidental ingestion or exposure to e-liquids can be dangerous and even deadly.

It is important for individuals to understand the potential health risks associated with e-cigarettes and to make informed decisions about their use. If you are currently using e-cigarettes and experiencing health issues, speaking with a healthcare provider as soon as possible is important.

Regulatory Framework for E-Cigarettes

The regulation of e-cigarettes is a complex issue that involves multiple agencies and organizations. The regulatory framework for e-cigarettes varies by country, and even within countries, by state or province. In the United States, e-cigarettes are subject to regulation by several agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local governments, and international organizations.

FDA Regulation of E-Cigarettes

In 2016, the FDA finalized a rule extending its regulatory authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Under the rule, e-cigarette manufacturers must submit applications to the FDA for approval before marketing their products. The applications must demonstrate that the products are "appropriate for the protection of public health.

The FDA has also taken action to limit the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to minors. In 2018, the agency launched a nationwide crackdown on selling e-cigarettes to minors, including undercover inspections of retailers and warning letters to manufacturers.

State and Local Regulation of E-Cigarettes

In addition to federal regulation, e-cigarettes are also subject to regulation by state and local governments. Many states and cities have implemented laws and regulations regarding the sale and use of e-cigarettes, including restrictions on where e-cigarettes can be used and how they can be sold.

International Regulation of E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes are also subject to regulation by international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2014, the WHO released a report calling for increased regulation of e-cigarettes, including restrictions on advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, as well as measures to protect non-smokers from exposure to e-cigarette vapor.


In conclusion, the popularity of electronic cigarettes online has grown significantly in recent years as a perceived safer alternative to traditional tobacco products. However, the long-term health risks associated with their use are still largely unknown. E-cigarettes contain a variety of chemicals, including nicotine, that can have harmful effects on the body. Using e-cigarettes is associated with several health risks, including lung damage, heart disease, and addiction.

To address these concerns, e-cigarettes are subject to regulation by several agencies and organizations, including the FDA, state and local governments, and international organizations. The FDA has taken steps to regulate e-cigarettes, including requiring manufacturers to submit applications for approval before marketing their products and cracking down on selling e-cigarettes to minors. State and local governments have also implemented laws and regulations to restrict the use and sale of e-cigarettes.

International organizations, such as the WHO, have called for increased regulation of e-cigarettes to protect public health. Several countries have already implemented strict regulations on e-cigarettes, including outright bans in some cases.

In summary, public health and safety must understand what's in an e-cigarette, the potential health risks associated with its use, and the regulatory framework that governs it. As the e-cigarette industry continues to evolve, it will be important for regulators to stay abreast of new developments and take action to protect consumers' health. Individuals who use e-cigarettes should also be aware of the potential risks and take steps to minimize their exposure.


Q: Are e-cigarettes safe to use?

A: No, e-cigarettes are not completely safe to use. While they may be perceived as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, they still contain chemicals, including nicotine, that can harm the body. The long-term health risks associated with e-cigarette use are still largely unknown.

Q: Can e-cigarettes help me quit smoking?

A: E-cigarettes are marketed as a tool to help smokers quit smoking. However, the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid is still under debate. While some studies have shown that e-cigarettes may help smokers quit smoking, others have shown that they are ineffective or may even lead to continued tobacco use.

Q: Are e-cigarettes legal?

A: The legality of e-cigarettes varies by country and jurisdiction. In some countries, e-cigarettes are completely banned; in others, they are legal but subject to regulation. In the United States, e-cigarettes are subject to regulation by the FDA, and the sale and use of e-cigarettes are restricted in some states and cities. It is important to check the laws and regulations in your location before using or purchasing e-cigarettes.


About the Creator

Jen Hensey

Call me Jen, a writer and blogger of LifeStyleConvo & UrbanHouses, who worked as a full-time content creator. A writer by day and reader by night.

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