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The Three Types of Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes offer fewer health risks than traditional tobacco products, greater public acceptance, and many flavor and style options. You've heard about thsem, but you might not know the different types and how they work. E-cigarettes generally have three main parts, as easy to remember as A-B-C.

Atomizer: the heating element that vaporizes the flavored liquid.

Battery: provides power and houses the circuitry.

Cartridge: the mouthpiece containing the flavoring. It is refillable or replaceable, depending on the type of cigarette.

Liquid nicotine solutions come in hundreds of different flavors, with some made to mimic traditional cigarettes, like menthol, and other various tastes like fruit, chocolate, and coffee. Solutions are sold in varying concentrations, offering nicotine doses from low, 6-8 milligrams (mg) per milliliter (mL) of liquid, to extra-high, 24-36 mg/mL.

While most e-cigarettes house the liquid solution in the cartridge, some people forego the cartridge and “drip” the liquid directly onto the atomizer to intensify the flavor. Prices on liquid solutions vary widely, but they can usually be purchased for $5 to $15 per 30 mL.

The three main types of e-cigarettes are:

Disposables: these have a pre-charged battery and a non-refillable nicotine cartridge.

E-Cigarettes with “Cartomizers”: these two-piece e-cigarette kits have the atomizer built in to the nicotine cartridge.

Complete Three-Piece Kits: this type of electronic cigarette has a separate battery, atomizer, and cartridge.

How do you know which kind of e-cigarette is for you? It depends on your reasons for using them and your current smoking habits. If you've never used e-cigarettes before or are unsure about them, start with disposables. This type of e-cigarette costs an average of $15 and will give you a good idea of what e-cigarettes are like, as well as what features you might like to look for when you purchase your next one. If convenience is your top priority, or if you have dexterity issues that make it difficult to switch cartridges in and out, disposable e-cigarettes are the recommended option.

Do you enjoy many different flavors? If so, the cartomizer design of the two-piece e-cigarette is your best option. This two-piece starter kits cost around $50, although you can find deals as low as $20 to $25. You can switch flavors in the three-piece model too, but to avoid mixing different flavors, you'll want to switch the atomizer every time you switch the cartridges. Spare atomizers cost $12 to $15 each.

If you're trying to quit smoking and want to use e-cigarettes as a step-down method, the three-piece (manual) type might be the best option for you. As a regular smoker, you’re likely have one brand, so you won't need to change flavors often. The manual e-cigarette gives you a more intense flavor concentration in the vapor than the two-piece type, and although the initial cost is higher – typically in the range of $45 to $70 for a complete kit – you'll get plenty of use from it for a longer time, thus giving you the time and freedom to reduce your tobacco use on your own schedule.

If you’re mainly concerned about cost, the three-piece set is also highly recommended. Despite a higher startup cost, you'll find it more cost-efficient because you won't have to replace parts that don't need replacing, and the atomizers will generally last longer than they do in the other types. For those who prefer "dripping" over a prefilled cartridge, the three-piece set is also your best option because accessing the atomizer is much easier than it is on a cartomizer/two-piece type.

If you're still having trouble deciding, find a knowledgeable supplier to help you. Or peruse reviews of the top rated e-cigarette brands on the market.

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