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Electronic cigarette

I have seen people at work with these "electronic" cigarettes and I have wondered what is actually inside them (and why does everybody hold them so that sucking on them is a mouth position similar to playing a flute?).
Well, in the "assorted mostly reject crap" shop, I found an e-cigarette with a bottle of the solution for the nice price of six euros. That was cheap enough to be worth the purchase for the USB plug and battery, if nothing else.

Here it is:

Inside the pack, well, there's nothing to hide in a clear plastic pack, really...

Pressing the button gave a blue glow to the button, so that much appears to work. Checking the USB lead for shorts, nothing to concern me. Yeah, I'm that paranoid. Actually, looking inside the charger, it appears to be extremely basic, and wired up in an "oh, we don't need the rest of that circuit" kind of way.

The battery charged, it didn't take long. Maybe half an hour? Not bad for a device that might have been sitting in a box for who knows how long. Nothing is dated so I don't have an idea of 'age'. I did find it on for €23,88!

Having a look at the device, I think the first thing we can do is dispense with the word "electronic". Collins defines the word as "of, concerned with, using, or operated by devices in which electrons are conducted through a semiconductor, free space, or gas" (though it notes it can be used interchangably with "electric" but in some cases that would be a stretch - would you call an electric oven that has analogue controls (dial thermostat, mechanical timer) an electronic oven?). This is a battery hooked to a heating coil. There may be some smarts in the battery as the blue LED sort of fades on and fades off, but this could just be some sort of resistor/capacitor arrangement as a prod with the multimeter on the terminals suggests the output voltage when the button is pressed is a simple on/off. If I can be bothered, I'll scope it some day. ☺

Here is the important part, the vapourising chamber. Or, as the instructions call it, the "Clearomizer".

In normal use, you would unscrew the mouthpiece and partially fill the glass tank up to the level of 1.6ml. Putting it all together, you stick the mouthpiece into your mouth (clue in the name!) and suck whilst pressing the blue button.

Here is an annotated diagram:

Note that the vapourising chamber is actually the metal tube inside the glass tank, and note also that the diagram lies slightly for clarity. The top of the wicks and the heater coil are inside the upper rubber seal.

So here's how it works:

  • You put the special solution into the glass tank. A primary component of the solution is propylene glycol which is a liquid that readily converts to a sort of 'mist' when heated. The next component is vegetable glycerine, this makes the solution slightly gloopy so will act both as an aid to the user (consider the difference between superglue gel which is controllable and superglue liquid which goes everywhere, especially on your fingers) and also as an aid to the capiliary process used in wicking up the solution. Then will come flavourings, and finally your drug of choice - typically between zero and 18mg of nicotine, but I'm not so naive as to not believe that there isn't, somewhere, a healthy little cottage industry in supplying, shall we say, other substances to enjoy.
  • When the device is re-assembled, the threads inside the tank (probably silica) will absorb the solution and capiliary action will transport it under the large rubber seal to the heater coil.
  • When the button is pressed, the heater coil will heat up, and yes, it can glow red hot (in a couple of seconds, in the absence of solution), as this picture demonstrates:
  • This creates a microparticle mist. Technically, it isn't a vapour, but the difference is geeky and most people say vapour as mist is what you get when it is dreary but not quite foggy.
  • As you suck on the mouthpiece, it draws air in through small holes and up through the vapourising chamber (mist chamber?) where it mixes with the mist from the atomised solution. This mixture then passes up through the mouthpiece, into your mouth, into your lungs, and the intended drug fix takes place. Perhaps with a bunch of carcinogens for good measure.
Here's a diagram of the flow of air and atomised solution:


Have I tried it? Hell NO. I have no interest or desire to smoke (it smells bloody awful) and I do note that there is a big "TOXIC" warning indicator on the solution bottle. I'm not entirely certain why, propylene glycol isn't that nasty, vegetable glycerine should be safe enough, food aromas, water, and natural extracts also ought to be safe. Yet, for some reason, the bottle says that you must wear protective clothing and appropriate (anti-chemical) gloves when handling the product. The hell!?!?!?
I also notice that this particular solution contains no nicotine, which sort of defeats the purpose of smoking, don't you think? I guess this is for people who have "given up" but haven't yet weaned themselves off the must-go-and-shove-something-horrible-in-my-gob-and-I-don't-mean-giving-head habit.
At any rate, my body is not a temple, but some things are just dumb. Smoking and dodging trains, for instance. Both might seem like a good idea at the time, and you might never encounter much problem. But when you do, it'll be too late to say "ugh, better stop this now".


As an aside comment, while emptying a bin the other day, I saw a cigarette packet. One side contained the not-very-tactful message that SMOKING KILLS (yes, big and bold like that). The other side had more words, which I can paraphrase for you as: Smoking will affect the libido and can cause erectile dysfunction.


Dying? Meh, not worried.
Can't get it up? Aaaaaargh!

Should this be taken as a statement on the mentality of male French smokers? ☺


Diagrams created with OakDraw, a Windows version of the RISC OS !Draw package.



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joe, 22nd November 2014, 11:46
Perhaps it should re-brand it to iCigarette, it would sell better.
Rick, 22nd November 2014, 22:04
Somebody already thought of that: 
There was an amusing title on a blog post that I passed by (looking for "iCigarette") that said "eCigarette, not iCigarette (it's electronic, not virtual)". 

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