E cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes and vaporizer cigarettes are devices that emit doses of vaporized nicotine that are inhaled. The device is battery operated and can also emit non nicotine vaporized solutions. Manufacturers say they are an alternative for tobacco smokers who want to avoid inhaling smoke. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals, many of which are hazardous for human health.

Manufacturers and a significant number of users say the e cigarette provides a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke, however, there is no combustion (no smoke).

E cigarettes are long shaped tubes, many look like the product the user used to smoke, such as a cigarette, cigar or pipe. Some look like ballpoint pens (biros). The majority are reusable with replaceable and refillable cartridges. A small percentage of products are throw away ones disposable e cigarettes.

The electronic cigarette first entered the market in China in 2004. In 2003, Hon Lik, a pharmacist from China invented the device. Golden Dragon Holdings, the company Lik worked for, started exporting into major markets in 2005 2006. Golden Dragon Holdings changed its name to Ruyan.

Most of the current models are automatic as the user sucks on it, a sensor activates a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution held in the mouthpiece. The user can choose whether or not to have nicotine in the flavored liquid solution. In older models (manual models), there is a little button which turns the heating element on and off. An LED indicates whether the device has been activated when the user inhales. The E cigarette has various components Most devices have a mouthpiece, a heating element, a battery (rechargeable), and some electronic ciruicts.

  • The mouthpiece also known as the cartridge. This is fixed to the end of the tube. A smaller plastic cup within the mouthpiece holds an absorbent material drenched in liquid solution.

    The solution can carry varying levels of nicotine.

    Manufacturers refer to the mouthpiece as the cartridge. This can either be refilled or replaced with another pre filled one when necessary.

    Instead of using the cartridge, the user can also use drip tips the absorbing material is removed and drops of liquid are placed directly into the atomizer bridge.

  • The Atomizer this is a heating element which heats up the liquid, causing it to vaporize so that it can then be breathed in (inhaled). An atomizer needs to be replaced periodically, usually about once every 3 to 6 months.
  • The battery and some electronic components in most cases there is a lithium ion battery which is rechargeable. The battery powers the heating element. The battery life depends on how often you use it, its type, size and operating environment. It is usually the largest component of an electronic cigarette.

    Newer versions have a sensor which automatically activates the heating method as soon as somebody sucks on the device, while others have a button you need to press when you suck.

    Many have an LED (light emitting diode) which tells when the device is activated.

What do the cartridges contain? The solutions are often referred to as e liquid or e juice. Typically, they contain hundreds of flavors. For those desiring nicotine without smoke, the solution contains nicotine dissolved in propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin both common food additives. Experts say propylene glycol has had no serious known side effects since the 1950s when it was included in nebulizers and asthma inhalers. In fact, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), USA, includes this ingredient as one of its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substances.

The solutions come in varying levels of nicotine concentrations, ranging from zero to extra high (24 36 mg/ml).

Some flavors, such as tobacco/menthol combinations, try to resemble traditional cigarettes. A number of them claim to mimic specific brands too.

Tobacco giant, Reynolds American Inc. says its new electronic cigarette “VUSE” will be available at retail stores in Colorado in July, 2013.

E cigarettes are as effective as nicotine patches in helping tobacco smokers give up, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand found.

Written by Christian Nordqvist

Cdc – fact sheet – low-yield cigarettes – smoking & tobacco use

Cigarette Descriptors and Design

Labels with descriptors, such as “light,” “low,” or “mild” can no longer be used.3

In the past, the tobacco industry categorized low yield cigarettes using measurements of tar on standardized smoking machines.1

  • Cigarette brands that yielded approximately 1 6 milligrams (mg) of tar were historically called “ultra light.”
  • Those with approximately 6 15 mg of tar were called “light.”
  • Brands yielding more than 15 mg of tar were called “regular” or “full flavor.”

The following cigarette design changes made over the past decades affected the tar and nicotine measurements 1,2,4

  • Addition of different size and density filters
  • Ventilation holes in the cigarettes to bring in air and dilute the smoke measured
  • Chemical additives in the paper and/or tobacco
  • Tobacco (i.e., using different types, blends, and curing methods)

Changes in cigarette design have not made cigarettes safe.1,5

  • No strong scientific evidence exists indicating that changes in cigarette design have resulted in a decrease in the diseases caused by smoking cigarettes.

Compensatory Smoking

Most smokers are addicted to nicotine and consequently may compensate when smoking low yield cigarettes in order to take in more nicotine than estimated by a smoking machine.1,5,6,7

  • Many smokers block the ventilation holes, thus inhaling more tar and nicotine than measured by machines.
  • Many smokers inhale longer, harder, and more frequently when smoking low yield cigarettes to get more nicotine.
  • Smokers may get as much or more tar and nicotine from cigarettes with low yield ratings as from regular cigarettes because of the ways they compensate when smoking them.

Smokers Who Use Low Yield Cigarettes

  • Many smokers consider smoking low yield cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, or additive free cigarettes to be safer than smoking regular cigarettes, even though no strong scientific evidence exists to substantiate these beliefs.1,2,5
  • Many smokers may have switched to low yield brands instead of quitting smokers may be misled by the implied promise of reduced toxicity underlying the marketing of such brands.1,5,6
  • Information on sales of U.S. cigarettes indicates that there were decreases in tar and nicotine from 38 mg of tar and 2.7 mg of nicotine in 1954 to 12 mg of tar and 0.95 mg of nicotine in 1993. Tar and nicotine levels have remained stable since then.4

Health Risks of Smoking

  • The evidence indicates that changing cigarette designs over the last five decades, including filtered, low tar, and “light” variations, have not reduced overall disease risk among smokers and may have hindered prevention and cessation efforts.4
  • There is insufficient evidence to determine whether novel tobacco products reduce individual and population health risks.4
  • The overall health of the public could be harmed if the introduction of novel tobacco products encourages tobacco use among people who would otherwise be unlikely to use a tobacco product or delays cessation among people who would otherwise quit using tobacco altogether.4


  1. National Cancer Institute. Risks Associated with Smoking Cigarettes with Low Machine Measured Yields of Tar and Nicotine. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 13. Bethesda U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 2001 accessed 2013 June 11 .
  2. Institute of Medicine. Clearing the Smoke Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Prevention. Washington National Academy Press, 2001 accessed 2013 June 11 .
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff Use of “Light,” “Mild,” “Low,” or Similar Descriptors in the Label, Labeling, or Advertising of Tobacco Products. Rockville (MD) U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Tobacco Products, 2010 accessed 2013 June 11 .
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking Attributable Disease. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010 accessed 2013 June 11 .
  5. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Light and Low Tar Fact Sheets.
    PDF 180.59 KB Washington Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 2010 accessed 2013 June 11 .
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing Tobacco Use A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2000 accessed 2013 June 11 .
  7. Public Health Law Center. Light/Low Yield Cigarettes. St. Paul (MN) Public Health Law Center, 2010 accessed 2013 June 11 .

For Further Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Office on Smoking and Health
E mail tobaccoinfo
Phone 1 800 CDC INFO

Media Inquiries Contact CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health press line at 770 488 5493.