What is an Electronic Cigarette?

Whilst the UK smoking ban has led to the dramatic increase of e-cigarette and vaporiser use, a surprising number of both retailers and consumers are unaware of exactly how an electronic cigarette works and what it is made up of.

An electronic cigarette is made up of three separate sections (the battery, the atomizer and the cartridge/mouthpiece) that are assembled together. They typically form a device that looks like a conventional tobacco cigarette although can sometimes be bought in a completely different style. Whatever the aesthetic, all electronic cigarettes have the same primary components and work in the same way. Electronic cigarettes have the advantage of being free of the 4,000 chemicals included in a tobacco cigarette.

What Does The Electronic Cigarette Liquid Contain?

The e-liquid contained within an electronic cigarette is a very basic solution. Unlike traditional cigarettes, which contain nicotine and a selection of other chemicals and substances from the burning of the tobacco leaf (carcinogens). Electronic cigarettes feature no by-products of combustion. The fluid is made up of three parts:


This is the stimulant and addictive substance found in traditional cigarettes. The nicotine in e-Cigarettes can be bought in a range of strengths and can be vegetable glycerine or propylene glycol based, sold in volumes of either 50ml or 100ml.


Nicotine has no real taste. So for an e-cigarette to have a taste a flavouring is added to the e-liquid. There are thousands of possible flavours that can be used. Popular flavourings include: traditional tobacco flavouring, menthol, vanilla, cherry, strawberry and chocolate.


The final part of e-cigarette liquid is the Diluent. This has two functions, firstly it is used to dilute the nicotine and flavourings to the correct strength. Next, it adds the vapour characteristic of an e-cigarette. This vapour transports both the nicotine and flavour to the user. There are three commonly used e-cigarette diluents on the market:

  • Propylene Glycol (PG) – This substance is used to produce what is called the ‘throat hit’. It usually contains a mix of 20% Glycerine and 80% Propylene Glycol.
  • Vegetable Glycerine (VG) – This substance helps to add a greater vapour along with an additional sweetness
  • Aqueous Glycerine (AG) – This is diluted with de-ionised water to allow for the same viscosity as PG.