An electronic cigarette is a battery-operated device that emits doses of vaporized nicotine, or non-nicotine solutions, for the user to inhale. It aims to provide a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke, without the smoke.
Also known as e-cigarettes, e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery systems, vaporizer cigarettes, and vape pens, they are marketed as a way to stop or cut down on smoking.
E-cigarettes have been taken up by millions around the world since they first appeared on the Chinese market in 2004. In 2016, 3.2 percent of adults in the United States were using them.
“Vaping” is now the most popular form of tobacco use among teenagers in the U.S. E-cigarette use rose by 900 percent among high school students from 2011 to 2015.
In 2016, over 2 million middle and high school students had tried e-cigarettes. For those aged 18 to 24 years, 40 percent of vapers had not been smokers before using the device.
A growing body of research suggests that vaping may be hazardous.
While it may help existing smokers to give up, there is concern that young people are starting to vape for its own sake, and not to replace tobacco use.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started to enforce rules about the sales, marketing, and production of these products.
Fast facts on e-cigarettes:
Here are some key points about e-cigarettes. More detail is in the main article.
E-cigarettes aim to resemble cigarettes, but without burning tobacco.
They are sold as aids to reduce or quit smoking, and some people find them helpful for this.
However, research shows that they may have a negative impact on health.
Health authorities are trying to tighten up regulations to discourage young people from using e-cigarettes.
What are e-cigarettes?
Vaping: Is it really safer than smoking?
An e-cigarette is a long tube that usually resembles a cigarette, a cigar, a pipe, or a pen. Most are reusable, with replaceable and refillable cartridges, but some are disposable.
The first patent for a “smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette” was requested by Herbert A. Gilbert in 1963, but the current device did not appear until 2003.
The e-cigarette as we know it was invented by Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, working for Golden Dragon Holdings, now known as Ruyan. The company started exporting into major markets in 2005 to 2006. There are now over 460 different brands on the market.
Are electronic cigarettes safe?
Find out more about safety issues related to e-cigarettes.
The e-cigarette may be less hazardous than tobacco for existing smokers, but it appears to bring dangers of its own.
E-cigarettes claim to bypass many of the health risks of tobacco smoking, and to offer a more healthful alternative to cigarettes and other conventional forms of nicotine intake.
Some studies have found that using e-cigarettes can help some smokers quit.