Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered electronic devices. They were developed as an alternative to tobacco products, such as cigarettes. Indeed, because e-cigarettes lack tobacco — and emit no smoke — the companies that make them have argued their products are safer than cigarettes. Indeed, they were developed as a way to help smokers wean themselves off of tobacco. But while potentially safer than inhaling tobacco smoke, vapors from e-cigarettes are far from harmless, health officials note.
E-cigarettes release nicotine, an addictive and potentially dangerous drug. So users can become dependent on e-cigarettes much as smokers become addicted to tobacco.
A tiny light at the tip turns on when someone takes a puff. This is meant to resemble the burn of a regular cigarette. So to the eye, e-cigarettes may resemble traditional cigarettes or cigars. But instead of burning tobacco, a small battery inside powers a device that heats a liquid solution to create an aerosol spray. It emerges like an invisible mist. This is what the user will inhale.
E-cigarette companies call this aerosol a vapor. As a result, many people refer to puffing on e-cigarettes as vaping. The solution used to create that vapor contains various ingredients. These include flavors that sometimes resemble fruits, candy, mint or chocolate.
As of 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 1.78 million school kids had at least tried e-cigarettes. Currently, there are no U.S. regulations on the advertising and sale of e-cigarettes.