E-cigarettes, or vapes, are electronic devices which mimic conventional cigarettes and deliver nicotine to users, among other chemicals, through the inhalation of vapours (hence 'vape'). E-cigs produce nicotine by vaporising a liquid solution in a replaceable cartridge into vapours using electricity. Since the process does not require any burning, e-cigs do not generate smoke, harmful chemicals, carcinogens or other dangerous elements commonly associated with smoking.
Due to its relative safety, an e-cigarette is a popular option for nicotine replacement therapy for people who want to quit smoking. The solutions inside the replaceable cartridges, called e-juice or e-liquid, are also usually flavoured and scented, which has contributed to the popularity of e-cigs and acceptance in social settings.
E-cigs or vapes typically consists of four primary components:
- Mouthpiece: For inhalation of vapour
- Batteries: To power the atomiser
- E-liquid Cartridge: Contains a liquid blend which usually consists of nicotine, vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol and flavouring (natural and artificial)
- Atomiser: The atomiser heats the e-liquid into vapour
There are many varieties, models and designs available for e-cig devices. However, they are generally divided into two categories: the cheap, disposable units and the more expensive refillable and rechargeable devices.
Due to its shape and delivery mechanism, e-cigs feels very comfortable to smokers. However, there is no credible data yet behind the efficacy of e-cigs as a nicotine replacement therapy. Some critics argue that the sense of familiarity of e-cigs may compel smokers into a relapse.
Nevertheless, the Royal College of Physicians believes that e-cigs is an effective aid to quit smoking and that the long-term risks of vapour inhalation is minimal as the by-products are 95% safer than conventional cigarettes. However, they caution that current devices in the market are not built to meet medical standard and may represent some risk to users.
E-cigs are widely available across the country, but under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations of 2016, they are not allowed to be sold to people under the age of 18.