An electronic cigarette is an alternative to smoked tobacco products, such as cigarettes products, cigars, or pipes. It is a battery-powered device that provides inhaled doses of nicotine by delivering a vaporized propylene glycol/nicotine solution. In addition to nicotine delivery, this vapor also provides a flavor and physical sensation similar to that of inhaled tobacco smoke, while no tobacco, smoke, or combustion is actually involved in its operation.
The electronic cigarette usually takes the form of some manner of elongated tube, though many are designed to resemble the outward appearance of real smoking products, like cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. A common design is also the “pen-style”, so named for its visual resemblance to a ballpoint pen.
When a user inhales through the device, air flow is detected by a sensor, which activates a heating element that vaporizes a nicotine solution stored in the mouthpiece. It is this vapor that is inhaled by the user. An LED on the opposite end of the device is also activated during inhalation, which serves as an indicator of use, and also to simulate the glow of actual burning tobacco.
Electronic cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking, since most of the harmful material produced by the combustion of tobacco in traditional cigarettes is not present in the atomised liquid of electronic cigarettes. They have also been marketed as a way to keep or curtail an addiction to nicotine.
Toxicological studies of the electronic cigarettes have been conducted, with some reporting that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes. In September 2008, the World Health Organization issued a release proclaiming that it does not consider the electronic cigarette to be a legitimate smoking cessation aid, stating that to its knowledge, “no rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted showing that the electronic cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy