The Science of Vaping

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Or, at least, there’s science. 

Vaping is becoming more popular, especially amongst teens. Three out of every eight 12th graders have tried vaping in the last year. The National Institutes of Health encourages people not to vape, yet more and more people are vaping. 

Understanding the science of vaping allows you to decide whether or not to vape. Here is a quick and impartial guide on how vaping works. 

Vaping Liquid

There are many types of vaping liquid on the market. Most liquids contain nicotine, one of the active ingredients in tobacco. Nicotine is an addictive substance, but some doctors prescribe nicotine as a smoking cessation drug.

All liquids contain a base substance that allows other ingredients to mix together. The two most common bases are propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). PG keeps liquid from drying out, while VG imparts a sweet flavor. 

Manufacturers add many different flavors to liquid. Some manufacturers design their liquids to mimic the flavors of traditional cigarettes and cigars. Others recreate flavors from food and drinks, like cotton candy and grapefruit. 

Manufacturers make these flavors through different chemical compounds. Aldehydes are naturally-occurring compounds found in many plants. Some manufacturers use aldehydes for vanilla and cinnamon flavoring, though aldehydes can irritate the respiratory tract. 

Menthol is a very common component of vaping liquid. It can enhance nicotine while reducing its harshness. 

The most common sweetener found in vaping liquid is sucrose. Vape manufacturers can derive sucrose from tobacco leaves.

Some vaping devices allow users to place herbs and flowers directly into the device. These devices are especially popular for marijuana consumption. But more people use liquid solutions than hard herbs.

Vaping Pens 

Vaping devices are battery-operated machines. Vaping devices are also called “vaping pens” or “e-cigarettes.” They use four components to produce their vapor. 

A cartridge or reservoir contains the vaping liquid. The cartridge slides into the back or bottom of the pen, delivering liquid into a vaporizing chamber.

The chamber contains a battery-powered atomizer that heats the liquid. The user then inhales the heated liquid through a mouthpiece.

The user fires their vaping pen with a button. Most vapes contain safety features like button locks to keep the device from activating by accident. 

Most vapes can be charged through a wall outlet and cord, permitting continuous use. Some vapes also contain USB ports to plug the vape into a computer, charging it through the battery in that device.

Heating Methods

Vaping devices can heat vaping liquids in one of two ways. 

Conduction is heat transfer through physical contact between two objects. One object heats up, and the heat travels from it into an adjacent object. When you touch a hot stove and receive a burn, you are burned through conduction. 

Convection is heat transfer through the air. Heating elements contact the air, then the air circulates to other objects. The objects get heated up through their contact with the air. 

The structure of conduction vapes applies the atomizer to the cartridge. This allows heat to travel directly into the vape liquid. Convection vapes attach their atomizer away from the cartridge, circulating hot air onto the cartridge.

Many vape users prefer convection over conduction. As observes, conduction units can burn liquids. This dilutes the flavor and creates smoky vapor. 

Some vaping devices can combine convection and conduction. These devices are rare and expensive. 

Vaping Batteries 

Some vape devices use rechargeable lithium batteries. Lithium batteries use lithium cells to store and release power.

If lithium cells are heated, they generate more heat in a massive chain reaction. If the battery is big enough, the chain reaction can trigger a fire or explosion. 

Clear all flammable objects from your vape while it is charging. Keep your vape out of direct sunlight and away from hot surfaces. Do not charge your vape near other devices that are charging. 

If you bring your vape on a plane, carry it in your carry-on bag. Do not use or charge your vape while you are flying. Store spare batteries away from your device and away from each other. 

The Risks of Vaping

There is no scientific consensus about the health risks of vaping. Hon Lik invented the first electronic cigarette in 2003, and e-cigarettes did not take off in popularity for another decade. It may take some time before scientists determine the safety of vaping devices.

Some scientific data has surfaced. Nearly 3,000 Americans have been hospitalized with injuries related to vaping devices. 

Many liquids contain Vitamin E acetate, a derivative of Vitamin E. When inhaled, acetate can interfere with lung functioning, damaging the lungs. 

Many liquids also contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces its high. THC can increase the heart rate to dangerous levels, causing a heart attack. 

Some vaping liquids do not contain Vitamin E acetate or THC. If you do use vaping devices, find liquids that do not have these ingredients. If you are on the fence about using vapes, wait until more scientific data surfaces. 

The Science of Vaping

Vaping has become one of the most controversial activities in America. But the science of vaping remains misunderstood.

Vaping liquids contain a number of chemical ingredients, including bases and sweeteners. Vaping pens use atomizers that heat the liquid up. Devices can heat liquid through convection or conduction. 

Most devices use lithium batteries to charge the atomizers. Chemical reactions in lithium can cause fires. The biggest risks of vaping come from Vitamin E acetate and THC. 

Science is ever-changing. Facts and theories surface every day, especially in medicine. Follow our coverage so you can make informed decisions about your health.