How Does An Electronic Cigarette Work?

How Does An Electronic Cigarette Work?

So, you noticed your buddy smoking some led-lit thing and perhaps you took a drag. Shocked that “the thing” actually produced vapor, you decided to learn a little more about what an electronic cigarette is and how it works. Well, you’ve come to the right place! I can’t tell you how many people are shocked when I suck on my e-cig and actually blow something out. How does an electronic cigarette work and how does it actually produce that vapor? Let’s find out…

How a Basic Electronic Cigarette Works

The concept is simple: when you take a drag off of an electronic cigarette, you trigger the battery to activate the atomizer, which heats up and vaporizes liquid nicotine (a.k.a. ejuice or e-liquid). Simple enough, right? The process changes a little with more advanced forms of vaping tools, but basic electronic cigarettes all work pretty much like this. Let’s take a closer look at each of the individual parts that make up a basic e-cig…

TIP: You can purchase nicotine-free cartridges and cartomizers for your electronic cigarettes! Many e-cig companies offer different levels of nicotine (including 0 percent), allowing you to lower your nicotine intake, while continuing to enjoy the experience of vaping (a.k.a. the e-cig version of smoking).

Parts of an Electronic Cigarette

The Battery

Often a lithium-ion rechargeable battery (as if that means anything to us), the battery’s purpose is to power the heating element of the electronic cigarette (either the atomizer or a cartomizer). Batteries range in color, size, shape and power and are often adorned with a neat little LED light at the end to simulate the glow of a real cigarette. You can purchase either a disposable e-cig (which means you do not recharge the battery) or a rechargeable one. Rechargeable batteries usually come with AC, USB and car chargers. Batteries also come with different types of threading, allowing them to connect with different types of atomizers and cartomizers.

TIP: My favorite battery chargers are Personal Charging Cases, which often look just like the packaging of a real pack of smokes! These handy accessories keep your batteries charged on-the-go and fit conveniently wherever you used to store your old pack of smokes.

The Atomizer

The atomizer acts as the heating element of an electronic cigarette. It is made of a metal coil that heats up when the battery is activated. The heat vaporizes the liquid contained in the cartridge of the electronic cigarette (the atomizer produces the vapor that is inhaled by the user). Atomizers either come as an individual part of an e-cig or are integrated into the cartridge, creating a “cartomizer”. Atomizers require replacement over time (the ones built into cartomizers are meant to be disposable once the liquid has been used up).

The Cartridge

The cartridge is the mouth-piece of the electronic cigarette and contains the liquid that the atomizer vaporizes. When the battery powers the atomizer, the atomizer heats the liquid inside of the cartridge, producing vapor. Once the liquid is depleted, the cartridge is either refilled or replaced with a new one.

The Cartomizer

The cartomizer is the combination of an atomizer and cartridge built into one piece (cartridge + atomizer = cartomizer… clever, right?). You can purchase refillable and disposable cartomizers.

Electronic Cigarette Cartomizer


Now we understand how a basic electronic cigarette works. There are many different types of e-cigs, so be sure to continue reading The Real Cig’s Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Cigarettes to discover the right option for you!


Howdy, I'm the blogger behind The Real Cig. After 11 years of smoking, I quit by switching to electronic cigarettes! My blog is meant to help other smokers become vapors by finding an electronic cigarette that can replace the real thing. Check out my story →

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