How Does an e-Cigarette Work?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Have you ever seen someone smoking an electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette) in public and wondered how it works? Keep in mind that while it may not be a traditional cigarette, an e-cigarette is still a form of tobacco.

An e-cigarette is battery-powered and is either disposable or rechargeable. There is an airflow sensor that detects when you suck in air from the mouthpiece. Once the air is sucked into the device, the sensor alerts the microprocessor to start the heating element that turns the nicotine solution into vapor. E-cigarettes often have an LED light at the end that glows when you inhale.

3 Main Parts of an E-cigarette

  1. The mouthpiece has a cartridge where nicotine solution is stored.
  2. When you inhale, there is a heating element that turns the nicotine solution into a vapor.
  3. The battery in the e-cigarette powers the heating element.
Composition of an e-cigarette

To learn more about e-cigarettes, visit UPMC Health Library and search for “e-cigarettes”. Now that you understand how an e-cigarette works, you can also read more about the dangers of e-cigarettes and how e-cigarettes affect the heart. If you are interested in learning more about how to quit smoking, check out our Journey to a Smoke Free Life booklet online. You can also enroll in a Smoking Cessation program at many of our UPMC facilities.



A $14 billion world-renowned health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. UPMC provides nearly $900 million a year in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 65,000 employees, more than 25 hospitals, 600 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.2 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical and behavioral health services insurer in western Pennsylvania. Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC ranks No. 12 Read More