Electronic Cigarettes are just like real cigarettes except they don't produce cigarette smoke and they don't contain tar or any of the other harmful chemicals often found in real cigarettes. They can look just like real cigarettes, can taste just like real cigarettes, but produce water vapor as a by-product rather than standard cigarette smoke.
Electronic cigarettes use an atomizer to create a simulated smoke when you inhale that is actually water vapor and nicotine.
There are three major parts that make up most electronic cigarettes.
Other parts include a small battery charger and some brands include a case or a "pack" to store the cigarettes.
Here's a diagram of one brand's electronic cigarette (click to view full-size image):
Yes. Electronic cigarettes do not burn tobacco, so they can be smoked in areas where normal smoking bans are in place, like bars, restaurants, airplanes and offices. Electronic cigarettes produce an odorless water vapor that disappears within a few seconds.
Most retailers require that you be over 18 years of age because they do contain tobacco.
No, they produce an odorless water vapor that disappears in a few seconds.
For the most part, yes. Upon close inspection its obvious that they're not traditional cigarettes, but from a distance, they look very similar. Some brands even use a red LED on the tip of the cigarette that lights up when you inhale to simulate the glowing embers of a traditional cigarette. A number of brands use different color lights to more easily distinguish electronic cigarettes from real cigarettes - useful if you're smoking indoors and don't want to be bothered by people telling you to put out your cigarette.
Sizes vary by brand. Some brands are about the size of a standard smoke, while others are the size of 100s or 110s. Some brands are even larger. See the reviews for exact sizes and how they compare to traditional smokes.
You have a lot of choices here. You can order anything from high levels of nicotine if you're a heavy smoker to no nicotine at all if you're trying to quit and everything in between. See the reviews for exact nicotine amounts.
Although they are not approved to help you quit smoking in the United States, most electronics have none of the tar and carcinogens associated with traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes have not been approved as smoking cessation devices in the United States. However, most brands offer varying levels of nicotine cartridges all the way down to 0mg and so they have been used to quit smoking by a lot of people, including me.
Most brands offer a variety of flavors. Some of the most popular include: Tobacco, Menthol, Java, Vanilla and Cherry. If you're coming from smoking traditional cigarettes the tobacco or menthol flavors will give you an experience closest to what you're used to. Each brand's flavors are slightly different, however, so check out our electronic cigarette reviews to find out more about the flavor of each brand.
That varies by brand, but in general, they're cheaper than traditional cigarettes.
Most brands offer starter packs that contain everything you need to get started. Our favorite starter pack costs $59.95 and includes 25 cartridges, which is equal to 17.5 packs of traditional cigarettes (for you math wizes, at $5/pack, 17.5 packs would cost you $87.50 so even the starter pack is cheaper than traditional cigarettes). After the starter pack you can buy 25 cartridges for $25.