Since they were introduced to the market in 2007, electronic cigarettes hit the scene and quickly became one of the best selling products in people trying to quit smoking. It’s no wonder these were so sought after because the idea of having the sensation of smoking without all the health risk sound appealing to any smoker. But what are these electronic cigarettes really, and how do they work?

Each electronic cigarette is designed to match a real cigarette in shape and size, and it consists of three components: a cartridge, an atomizer and a power supply. The cartridge serves as a mouthpiece and it’s a small reservoir containing the liquid which gets heated and evaporates, leaving the sensation of smoke when you inhale through it. The atomizer is actually a heating element which helps the liquid turn into a flavored vapor, and it’s powered by the third element – the power supply. Although the early models used batteries, most modern electronic cigarettes have the feature that allows them to charge via USB, so you can easily charge them using your computer or laptop. There are even special charging cases, or PCCs that can charge several electronic cigarettes at a time, designed to look like cigarette packs.

So, how do electronic cigarettes work? Unlike the real ones, you don’t need to light these up, so you might miss the feeling of lighting up the cigarette using your favorite zippo or a match. All the heat is provided by the power source, so once you inhale, the liquid from the container gets vaporized, and you inhale a mist that resembles tobacco smoke with the taste, although it contains zero nicotine, or low amounts of it. The one big difference is that there is no actual smoke, because nothing is burning, and all the vapor goes straight into your lungs, so you’re not bothering anybody with second hand smoke.

Based on the chemicals used in the vaporizing liquid, some electronic cigarettes have flavors like mint or strawberry, and some even contain a certain dose of nicotine, for the smokers who aren’t ready to quit yet but are looking for a way to cut back their daily nicotine intake. The levels of nicotine in the liquid are labeled low, midrande, high and extra high, and every electronic cigarette has the exact amount of nicotine in mg printed on the container.

While many have gladly accepted this new product and claim to have benefited from it, with thousands of satisfied customers who managed to quit smoking by using electronic cigarettes, others claim that these replacements aren’t risk free. Some scientific studies showed that traces of chemicals known to cause cancer have been found in several cartridges of different manufacturers, but the testing was to narrow and didn’t cover all electronic cigarettes manufacturers. Still, the potential health risks from smoking are still several times higher than those of using electronic cigarettes, so these devices still represent a great substitute for those who want to live a more healthy lifestyle.