What Parents Should Know About E-Cigarettes

 In 2009, under the Tobacco Control Act, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was given the authority to ban flavors such as strawberry, vanilla, and cinnamon from cigarettes to minimize the attractiveness of these products to kids, because research showed that young people are attracted and susceptible to the marketing of these and other flavors. The FDA has not yet decided what it will do in regard to the endless variety of candy, dessert, beverage, and other enticing flavors common in e-liquids used in e-cigarettes, but it's certainly concerned that it may contribute to the product's increasing popularity among teens.  Although electronic cigarettes have been proven to be at least 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco, and are a viable alternative for the adult smoker, it is extremely important that we, as a society, work together to ensure that in our quest to assist adult smokers, we do not raise another generation of nicotine users. 

It is important to talk openly with your kids about the dangers of vaping. Youth see e-cigarette advertisements from many sources, including gas stations, the internet, television, movies, magazines, and newspapers. They may also see posts or photos about vaping or vapor products on social media. Parents should monitor screen-time use and talk to their youth about what they may have seen or heard about vaping and clarify any misconceptions. Parents should let their children know that these products are for adults and were created to assist the adult smoker in finding a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.  Parents can also be role models and set a positive example by educating their children on factual data about nicotine products in all its forms, as well as their intended uses.  This includes electronic cigarettes, nicotine inhalers, nicotine patches, nicotine lozenges, and gums. 

Here are a few words of advice to help you in your interactions:

  • Be patient and ready to listen.
  • Avoid criticism and encourage an open dialogue.
  • Remember, your goal is to have a conversation -- not to deliver a lecture.
  • It’s OK for your conversation to take place over time, in bits and pieces.

What Is An E-Cigarette, What Does It Look Like, and What Does It Do? 

Electronic cigarettes are a technology product, and like all technologies, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Although the look of an electronic cigarette will vary from device to device, their basic functionality always remains the same.  

Every electronic cigarette will have a:

  • Battery - A battery is required to make the unit function.  Some devices are disposable, but most recharge and will have a inlet for a micro USB cable or some other proprietary charging cable.  (The Juul, for  example, has its own proprietary charging cable). Batteries can also be replaceable/external.  Higher powered devices can require as many as 4 lithium batteries that must be charged on a separate charger. 
  • Tank/Cartridge - All electronic cigarettes need somewhere to hold the eliquid.  Some devices, called "closed system," like Juul, use pre-filled pods that insert directly into the battery and are replaced when they are emptied.  "Open systems" use tanks the user must refill with e-liquid each time the tank empties.
  • Atomizer/Coil/Filter - Although all systems use an atomizer as the heating element required to create the vapor, only open systems require that they be replaced.  These typically come in a small box of between 3-5 and are almost always made of metal.  

We have added images here of some of the different products available to help you learn to identify them. If you see these items, or items like them in your minor’s possession, you should definitely follow up with a conversation, as they are most likely a hint that your minor is experimenting with vaping. 




E-Cigarette Components



Batteries come in many forms. The battery is generally rechargeable and can be charged with a usb cord or with a seperate batter charging dock. The first few pictures are units that house the battery inside itself, recharging only via usb or docking station/cord. The last red battery is a photo of an external battery that must be placed inside a device (like the device to the left of it) and charged inside a separate rechargeable docking station. 



Tanks are often called by many other names, the most common being "cannister" or "reservoir."  They contain an e-liquid chamber and an atomizer coil within a single clear component. This allows the user to monitor the liquid level. 

Most tank systems rely on gravity to bring the e-liquid to the wick and coil assembly (called bottom coil tanks).   The atomizers (see below) are typically inside a prefabricated assembly or "head" that is replaceable by the user. 




An atomizer, or coil, is any device that creates vapor out of liquid. It is a term closely associated with vaping. Although it sounds complicated, it can be summarized as a coil made from a piece of resistance wire that heats up in order to create vapor out of e-liquid.

These atomizers come in a variety of styles ranging from disposable coil heads like the ones depicted here, to complex and even artistic, do-it-yourself coil builds.   

Atomizers – more specifically, the coils inside the atomizer – are measured in ohms based on the amount of resistance within the coil. The lower the ohms, the more power it requires. 

Vape coils can be made out of a number of different wire types including kanthal, stainless steel, nickel, and titanium. All atomizers require a wicking material that feeds e-liquid to your vape coils, the most common of which is cotton.  When you fire the electronic cigarette battery, the coil will heat up and turn the e-liquid into vapor.



All rechargeable electronic cigarettes will need a method of recharging their batteries.  Smaller devices and those with built-in lithium ion batteries, rely on micro USB charging cables and a wall plug similar to those used by smart phones and tablets.  Larger, more sophisticated devices require external batteries that are inserted and recharged and replaced by the user, more similar to a flashlight.  

We have selected  a few of the chargers that are available to help you better identify parts that might indicate your minor is experimenting with vapor products.  



Pod Style Devices

These devices are pod style (or closed vapor) systems. They are designed so the user can replace or refill the small pod. They can be charged with a proprietary charging dongle or with a micro USB cable. 

A pod is a cartridge designed for ease of use and convenience. Users insert a pod into the device and vape. It is easy and they come in a wide range of styles, shapes, and sizes.

Pods are less powerful than larger devices due to the limited size of their batteries, and so are designed for convenience and portability.  There is no tank. There are no atomizer coils. Instead of a coil, you have the pod, or pre-filled cartridge. The pod will either snap into place or be held in place by magnets.


Ego/Pen Style Devices

These devices are a battery with a refillable tank. They are a skinny pen style and can be charged through a USB port or specific charging cord designed for their battery input. 

 Cig-a-like styles resemble a cigarette and have refillable or replacement cartridges that are attached at the top.


Mod Style (Box Mod, Mechanical)

The variations of these is numerous and vast. Many require you to replace the battery, and others have an internal battery and USB charging port.  They come in many sizes and shapes, from a flashlight style to a box style. Some light up, some are digital, but all will come with a button and a digital screen or dial that shows numbers for power and sometimes battery strength. These require a tank (above) to be screwed onto the top to use. 

Help To Identify What Is Inside Of That Vape Pen

Many vape pens look very much alike and most contain e-liquid comprised of nicotine, PG and VG, but there are some products on the market that contain marijuana or THC. How can you identify what is in the device your child is using?  Did your minor tell you they weren't using nicotine?  Do you suspect that they may have marijuana in it as opposed to e-liquid? Are you wondering if that gummy bear or brownie is laced with marijuana. Below are a few links where a simple test strip or two can help answer all of these questions. These, and others that are similar, are designed to help you identify if an individual is using nicotine, if their vape pen has marijuana in it instead of e-liqiud and can even identify marijuana in foods. 


Indentifying Marijuana in Vape Pens and Food

Video Of How It Works:

Identifying Nicotine Usage