Published on October 3rd, 2017 | by Guest


Coils, Tanks, Juice: Understanding the Tech Involved in E-Cigarettes is Easier Than You Think

Cigarettes have been around for several generations, so almost everyone knows roughly how they work. But e-cigarettes have only been around since about 2005, so almost no one really knows how they work. This uncertainty and lack of understanding probably contributes to the decidedly negative attitudes that most Americans have about vaping.

In a nutshell, whereas cigarettes burn chemicals to produce smoke, e-cigarettes heat a liquid to produce and aerosol-like vapor. But the specifics are much more detailed.

Basic Design

Most e-cigarettes are made from metal and contain the same basic components, since they all use the same basic process:

  • Mouthpiece,
  • Tank (also called a cartridge),
  • Coil/atomizer/heating element,
  • Microprocessor that activates the coil, and
  • Battery.

To activate the coil that heats the liquid, the user generally presses a button; in some models, the act of inhaling triggers this process. The coil heats the liquid to between 200 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit in most cases, which is hot enough to atomize the liquid but not hot enough to make the e-cigarette uncomfortably warm to the touch.

Currently, there are four different types of e-cigarettes:

  • “Cigalikes” are disposable e-cigarettes that look a lot like paper cigarettes in terms of size, shape, and overall appearance.
  • Reusable eGos closely resemble cigalikes, but the are somewhat larger and have refillable tanks along with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
  • Vape Mods are larger and customizable e-cigarettes. Many mod users derive almost as much satisfaction from tinkering with their devices as they do by vaping.
  • Advanced mods have all the components that regular mods have, along with customizable controls for things like the e-cig’s temperature.

Particularly with regard to mods, the battery is usually the largest single component.


Just like a cigarette is just a rolled-up piece of paper if it contains no tar, an e-cigarette is just a metal tube if it contains no e-liquid. These liquids contain about 95 percent glycerin (an odorless, colorless, sweet-tasting liquid that’s often used in sweeteners) and propylene glycol (a similar substance that’s often used in food processing applications). Other ingredients include water, artificial flavors, and nicotine; about 99 percent of e-liquids contain nicotine in various amounts.

There are about 8,000 flavors currently available, and hundreds of more are introduced almost every month. Moreover, many mods allow users to combine different e-liquids and create their own flavors.

Not all these chemicals are entirely safe, especially for minors, which is why the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of e-cigarettes to people under 18 and has undertaken a more comprehensive review to make final safety determinations. Some are also concerned that the different flavors are designed to attract children and that e-cigarettes are a gateway to paper cigarettes.

Hopefully, understanding how e-cigarettes work will help more people understand why vaping is so popular and such a good alternative to smoking.

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