Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) have rapidly gained popularity since their introduction in 2004 and are now used regularly by an estimated 2.6 million people in the UK,1 with annual sales worth about £459 million.2
Since their introduction, e-cigs have been unregulated and are freely available. They have been heavily advertised,3 particularly since the large tobacco companies began buying up small, independent manufacturers or producing their own brand, such as the e-Voke®.3,4
E-cigs typically work by using a re-chargeable lithium ion battery to power an atomiser. This produces vapour by heating a solution of nicotine, usually in propylene glycol or glycerine, held in a (often refillable) cartridge in the device.5
E-cigs contain nicotine solutions of variable concentrations from zero to 36 mg/mL. An aerosol of nicotine is generated via a heating coil; the coil heats to a temperature of up to 350°C. The nicotine solution has various flavours, some of which appear to be attractive to younger users.6
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