The Science Behind Vaping

It’s been described by writer and broadcaster Will Self as “smoking digitised and rendered harmless”, and although this might be oversimplifying the process of taking in flavoured, chemical-laden mist rather than tobacco-flavoured, carcinogen-heavy smoke from tobacco, there’s no doubt that the groundswell of popular support has pushed vaping into the mainstream.

Where once it lurked in the underbelly of consumer thought as a bizarre and somewhat contrived solution to a health problem that sees off 480,000 Americans a year, now it is a more serious player.

Even tobacco companies themselves are starting to dabble in the creation of new e-liquid techniques, a move that can be viewed in a number of ways. Is it a cynical, financial method of somehow pushing non-smokers towards smoking via some kind of gateway? Not according to scientist-journalist Matt Ridley, who said in the Spectator:

“In several conversations I have had with senior medics, they immediately raised the horrifying fact that the tobacco industry has recently started producing e-cigarettes. For them this was a clinching argument against the technology. ‘No’, I replied, ‘that is the best news of all.’

“The fact that even the tobacco industry is going to be competing against tobacco is great news. It shows that big tobacco can read the writing on the wall and is trying to get out of selling smoke before it goes the way of Kodak film.”

The science and technology behind vaping is quite simple, almost stupidly so. Rather than lighting a cigarette and ingesting the smoke, the vaping process creates only moisture via a heated coil. The vapour appears upon the lighting of a wick that has soaked up the e-liquid that’s held in a cartridge.

Creating an e-liquid combines a strong scientific base with a little art and imagination. Those e-liquids contain a number of chemicals, including flavourings that range from traditional, old-school tobacco to tastes divined from the corners of the most creative minds – bright minds at laboratories such as EL-Science have created such treasures as Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster and Nana’s Custard.

Inside those genius e-liquids are various chemicals – not including tar and tobacco. One of those chemicals is nicotine which satisfies the addiction, and is available in e-liquids in varying amounts, ranging to cater for the casual vaper who only needs one hit a day to the 50-a-day smoker desperate to quit the habit.

The lack of poisons and carcinogens results in a healthier experience, similar to smoking and retaining the throat hit and social interaction, but without the guilt.

That final assertion has been backed up in many studies; in Poland a 2013 research paper found that toxic compounds found in e-cigarettes were 450 times weaker than conventional cigarettes. The level of carcinogens recorded was barely distinguishable from levels found in fresh air. Yes, they’re there, but in miniscule proportions.

Vaping is a basic process that allows expression and originality and modification. Part of the reason that it has gained in popularity is that the vaper can express their individuality, while still retaining the style that smokers just don’t want to give up. Whether one sees the e-cigarette as a replacement for a cigarette, or an accompaniment in the fight to give up, vaping should be seen as a friend to the smoker, not an adversary.


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