What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes (ECs) are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid, which usually contains nicotine, into an aerosol for inhalation into the lungs (vaping). Using an EC simulates or mimics a smoking experience but is much safer than smoking.

There is growing evidence that ECs can help smokers quit or reduce their cigarette intake. They also are a safer alternative for smokers who do not want to give up the smoking ritual.

Despite strict regulations in Australia, the use of ECs has grown dramatically over the past few years. The latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2013 found that one in seven smokers in Australia had used an EC in the previous 12 months.

How do they work?

ECs consist of 3 parts: a lithium-ion battery, a heating element or atomiser and a reservoir for the liquid (known as e-liquid).

First generation breakout.JPG

When you puff on the EC, the heating element turns on and heats up the liquid solution into a fine mist which is then inhaled. You will feel a familiar ‘throat hit’ if the mist contains nicotine. You then breathe out a vapour that looks like smoke.

In some models, you need to press a button on the device to turn on the heating element. In others, the tip of the EC lights up to indicate that it is working'

What types of EC are available?

First generation: ‘Cigarette-like’e-cigarette with cartridges.jpg

Many users start with first generation models which usually resemble cigarettes. They usually have a rechargeable, low capacity battery and pre-filled replaceable cartridges of e-juice. Some brands are disposable. An airflow sensor activates the battery and heats the liquid during inhalation. The tip usually glows during inhalation.

First generation ECs are popular with many smokers. Others may require a later generation model which is more satisfying and delivers higher doses of nicotine.

Second generation: ‘Tank or eGo’ style


Many users progress to second generation ECs, which  deliver nicotine more efficiently and more quickly. They consist of 3 parts:

  • A mouthpiece
  • A clearomiser, which is made of
    - A heating element (atomiser). This contains a heating coil and wick which need to be changed at regular intervals, and
    - a large, refillable chamber filled with e-liquid by the user
  • Battery: A larger, higher capacity battery, often with adjustable power.


Third generation ‘mods’ (modifiable)Eleaf istick 2.png

These models deliver larger doses of nicotine and bigger vapour volumes and consist of

  • A mouthpiece and a heating element
  • A larger refillable reservoir
  • A higher capacity battery with an adjustable power output.
  • Replaceable components which can be modified by the user. They contain electronic circuits and LED displays and deliver larger doses of nicotine and larger vapour volumes.

Fourth generation models allow the user to set the desired temperature for optimal vaping.



Last Modified: 31-05-2017