How Does Vaping Work? A Scientist Explains

Vaping is the new kid on the block. Vaping provides a controlled release of your preferred vapour flavour without the smell and smoke of traditional cigarettes. Used as a cleaner alternative to smoking or as cigarette replacement for those looking to give up the habit, it’s seen as fun and healthier by comparison.

Here’s a look at how vaping works and the scientific explanation, starting with a look at traditional smoking and tobacco.

Traditional Smoking

Traditional smoking requires the burning of tobacco to produce smoke inhaled into the lungs. The smoke from tobacco contains many harmful chemicals, including arsenic and benzene.

Smoking helps people feel calmer and relaxed by reducing levels of stress and anxiety. Exactly why this occurs is unknown, with a large part coming from the ritual of smoking itself. In fact, the smoking effect is a paradox, because it is officially a stimulant. However, smoking usually results in a calming effect on the user.

The smoking ingredient we hear the most about, nicotine, typically clears the body in a few hours (the liver breaks most of it down) leaving no longer lasting effects. It is not the culprit associated with the negative health effects of smoking. The other particulates in cigarette smoke have a longer-lasting and much more severe impact. The tar in smoke stays as a residue in the lungs and builds up over time, causing coughing and longer-term health problems, with cancer inextricably linked to these harmful toxins.

Vaping Process

Vaping is an alternative way to smoking whereby you can enjoy the rituals of smoking safely without tobacco and all its adverse effects. There is no flame or ignition like a regular cigarette requires and none of the harmful chemicals.

Specifically, vaping avoids the tar and toxic chemical mixtures found in cigarette smoke that contribute to the severe health problems found in traditional smokers. In fact, vaping is used by many people who want to kick the cigarette habit entirely. Vaping provides a mechanism to do so through either the complete elimination of nicotine or it’s gradual reduction over time.

Vaping units or vape mods come in various sizes and designs, and can look like cigarettes or be in a completely different form — see vape tanks and RDAs as examples. Regardless, the scientific principle is the same, heat provided by a battery atomises a liquid into a vapour, and it is inhaled.

There is no ash, no smoke (although there is vapour) and none of the smell that comes with standard cigarette smoking. As a result, many researchers have conducted studies that conclude vaping is a much healthier option.

 

Scientific Process Explained

The vape process works by using battery power to heat liquid injected into a chamber until it vaporises. This turns the liquid into a vapour or a mist that the user inhales through a small mouthpiece.

Various mechanisms allow this to happen. Some units have a switch that turns on the vapour, while others produce the vapour automatically when you inhale.

The original electronic device patented by Hon Lik used ultra sound technology. However, ultrasound created vape droplets that were much larger than burning tobacco creates. This provided a different feel and texture than cigarettes. Hence, ultra sounds did not really recreate the cigarette smoking experience very well.

Today’s versions almost exclusively use battery power to vaporise the liquid. The batteries produce low levels of heat to accomplish this task making the process efficient and clean for the user. The droplet size and hence the smoke produced mimics exactly the type of smoke produced by cigarettes, but with none of the harmful chemicals or odours. The droplets dissipate quickly, leaving no residue or any smell.

Liquid Cartridges

The liquid comes in a replaceable cartridge that fits into the mod and is available in many different flavours, from mint to caramel. It can also be nicotine-free, if preferred, or have reduced amounts of nicotine to allow a slow weaning off the chemical.

Vaping eLiquids or “vape juice” is vegetable-based with most having the same sort of chemical composition as FDA-approved food additives.

Psychologically, vaping reproduces the effect of holding and using a cigarette. The user holds the unit in their hands, like a real cigarette and raises it to their mouth in the same way.

Some mods have an LED at the end that lights up when the user inhales. This is meant to mimic the burning of a real cigarette artificially, further enhancing the experience by making it like smoking and psychologically giving a vaper who may have smoked cigarettes in the past the same sort of experience.

The ritual associated with smoking, that so many users enjoy remains mostly intact, providing close to the same psychologically comforting benefits of cigarettes.

Vape Cloud Chemistry

The vapour the unit produces is usually a vegetable based glycerine or propylene glycol — an FDA-approved chemical for use in food. It is used in thousands of food products in different forms. It does not have the same composition as cigarette smoke and produces no odor. In e-cigarettes, it looks like smoke but is, in fact, a thin liquid or mist. It is colourless and creamy in texture, contributing to the “smoothness” of the vape cloud, and has no underlying taste. The taste to the vapor comes from the flavours he or she chooses.

Its chemical formula is C3H8O2, and it has the E-number E1520. It also breaks down in the body within 48 hours and is not considered bio-accumulative. In other words, there is no residue left inside your system that can build up over time and potentially threaten your health.

Practical Considerations

Vape unit batteries usually are lithium and rechargeable, the e-liquid cartridges replaceable lasting on average the same amounts of time that a pack of 20 traditional cigarettes would. Depending on the options chosen, the cost is like smoking, although it is usually cheaper.

Summary

The science of vaping is simple. Due to the process and substances used to create the vaping experience, vaping is considered by many experts a healthier alternative to smoking.

 

 

 

 

 

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