Disposable e-cigarettes, known as “disposables” in English, have been a big trend since 2022! It also looks as if these single-use devices would offer a good opportunity to give significantly more smokers low-threshold access to switching to vaping due to their ease of use. But how new are disposable vapes? How do they work and how are they different from other e-cigarettes? How long can disposables be used? For whom are these devices suitable, what are their advantages and disadvantages? We would like to clarify important questions about disposable e-cigarettes in this CAK article!
- Disposable Vapes: A Blast from the Past!
- How do disposable e-cigarettes work?
- What’s new about the current disposables?
- How long can you use a disposable e-cigarette?
- For whom are disposables suitable?
- What are the pros and cons of disposable vapes?
Disposable Vapes: A Blast from the Past!
Disposable e-cigarettes — popularly known as “vapes”, they are also often found under their English name “disposables”, are currently a big topic in the world of vaping: You see the devices in retail stores, you meet people in everyday life who like to use them and they are also part of the public discourse in the media landscape. However, these devices are by no means new! On the contrary, disposable products were among the first e-cigarettes to be available on the market over 10 years ago. The devices, which were then known as cigalikes, were in fact very reminiscent of classic tobacco cigarettes in terms of appearance and feel. The yellowish-brown mouthpiece was reminiscent of a cigarette filter, the housing of the battery was often white and had the length and diameter of a tobacco cigarette, and an LED at the tip often even imitated glowing embers. There were good reasons for the design at the time: e-cigarettes were new, hardly known and you wanted to give smokers the feeling of something familiar.
A lot has happened since the days of cigalikes. On the one hand, this applies to awareness and acceptance of the e-cigarette in society, but also in the technical area. As the development progressed, the devices were equipped with more and better protective functions, the batteries became more powerful and the coils were optimized. Many modern e-cigarettes are modular, have replaceable battery cells, refillable tanks and renewable evaporator heads. Larger mods are highly customizable, come with multiple output modes, have controls and displays as user interfaces. So where does the return to disposable e-cigarettes come from, which to some may seem like a step backwards? Before we look at how modern disposables differ from the cigalikes of the past, let’s take a look at the basic functionality of the devices!
How do disposable e-cigarettes work?
The principle of how disposables work is no different from that of other e-cigarettes: a thin wire in the form of a coil or a net-like mesh is heated by the flow of current. This wire is surrounded by cotton wool or another material, for example ceramic, which acts as a carrier for the liquid. Liquid for e-cigarettes is a flavored mixture of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG), which can, but does not have to, also contain nicotine in different concentrations and dosage forms. If the e-cigarette is activated, i.e. current flows, the liquid is vaporized on the heated wire and can be inhaled as vapor through the mouthpiece of the e-cigarette. The aroma determines the taste of the liquid. Activation takes place via negative pressure when pulling on the mouthpiece. The application is therefore intuitive, the devices offer low-threshold access and feel closer to the classic tobacco cigarette. Disposable vapes do not have different output modes or other options for individual adjustment, such as adjustable power, voltage or temperature. The integrated battery of the disposables is permanently installed and cannot be replaced or recharged. The capacity of the accumulators is therefore also limited and is based on the tank volume of the respective device. The coil on which the liquid evaporates cannot be changed in devices that are intended for single use, and the tank of the devices cannot be refilled either.
What sounds like a list of all the disadvantages for many seasoned vapers is precisely the appeal of the disposables for another user group: The devices are absolutely maintenance-free, require no prior knowledge and can be used right out of the box.
What’s new about the current disposables?
Even if there is rightly a lively discussion on sustainability issues with regard to electrical devices for single use – technically one can say that with modern disposable e-cigarettes the advantages of tried-and-tested, regulated e-cigarette sets are combined with the principle of a beratungs – and maintenance-free, absolutely intuitive product can be combined.
On the subject of safety: All e-cigarette products that are regularly sold in Germany and the European Union are subject to the provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive 2 (TPD2). Over time, however, a lot has changed on the one hand technically in terms of protective functions such as limiting the maximum draw time, protection against short circuits, deep discharge protection or protection against overheating, and on the other hand legally, for example with regard to the limitation of the maximum permissible nicotine content of the pre-filled liquid did. Current disposables are modern e-cigarettes that fully comply with all legal regulations.
On the subject of vapor development: The first marketable e-cigarettes – not just cigalikes, but these too – evaporated the liquid on a simple wire coil, the winding or English “coil”. First, these coils became more complex over time and offered the liquid a larger surface area to vaporize, a well-known example is the Clapton coil. Mesh coils are currently state of the art. Mesh fabric is a kind of network made of thin wire. Due to the resulting large surface, a higher amount of liquid evaporates at the same time, which leads to an intense taste and dense vapor development. Mesh is used as the standard for many current disposables.
Topic Throat Hit: Conventional liquids trigger a slightly scratchy feeling in the throat, which is appreciated by some vapers, but also found unpleasant by others. NicSalts, which we look at in more detail in an article about nicotine salt liquids, have a lower pH value and are therefore perceived by some experienced users as having a less pronounced throat hit. While the early cigalikes were used exclusively with classic liquid – NicSalts hadn’t even been invented yet – modern disposables are often optional and are also available with nicotine salt liquid from some manufacturers.
On the subject of taste: The users of the first e-cigarettes primarily had classic tobacco flavors at their disposal. If a fruity taste was offered, it was a simple single-taste flavor like “strawberry” or “peach”. In recent years, not only the technology of the e-cigarette, but also the variety of flavors on offer has developed significantly! Tobacco flavors are now available in spicy, tart or sweet versions, fruit flavors are available in a wide range of combinations and unusual varieties such as cucumber are also on the market. Sweet, so-called “Tasty Tastes” unfold the aromas of cotton candy or caramelized waffles when vaping. Premium liquids combine 10 and more flavors, some of which are contradictory, into completely new, independent compositions. This variety of flavors is currently also adequately offered in disposable vapes!
How long can you use a disposable e-cigarette?
According to the manufacturers, the disposable e-cigarettes currently available on the market allow around 500 to 600 puffs. How many puffs you can actually make depends heavily on your individual puffing behavior: those who prefer long, intense puffs will end up with a lower number than those who take more moderate, short puffs.
In many cases, the tanks of the disposables are pre-filled with 2 milliliters of liquid. The fact that different puff numbers are specified for the same filling quantity is due to the different resistances on the evaporator. Just like with conventional, reusable e-cigarettes, a lower resistance means that a larger amount of liquid vaporizes because the performance – with the same output voltage – is then higher. This way you experience a more intense taste and a dense vapor development, but the liquid in the tank is also used up faster. Higher resistances on the evaporator lead to a more subtle taste and less intense vapor development at lower outputs. The supply of liquid is then exhausted less quickly.
The term “single-use product”, which is also used, does not mean that a disposable device cannot be used over a longer period of time. For example, if you only take a few puffs a day, you can have a week or more until the supply of liquid in the tank is exhausted. If you have the e-cigarette in “continuous use”, the tank is of course empty correspondingly faster!
For whom are disposables suitable?
All e-cigarette products are aimed exclusively at adult smokers, as they are proven to be 95% less harmful than classic tobacco cigarettes! For smokers who are not yet familiar with e-cigarettes and would like to try vaping but are unsure whether purchasing a larger e-cigarette set is worthwhile for them, single-use products can be a good, low-threshold alternative to quickly, to get in touch with the world of vaping in an uncomplicated and relatively inexpensive way. Even for established, experienced vapers, disposables can be of interest wherever high-quality devices could be damaged or lost, for example at major events such as street festivals or music festivals. If you decide to vape for good reasons, the step towards reusable products can make sense in the long term, since these devices, as the list in the next paragraph shows, have undeniable advantages in terms of multifunctionality, for example. At the same time, reusable products are of course more sustainable and resource-saving. In terms of costs, too, it naturally makes sense to use essential parts of a device such as the battery, the circuit board or the housing several times. Anyone who has only known vaping from disposables so far should take this on their way: Even with reusable devices, not all e-cigarettes are the same! The range is incredibly wide, from really complex devices with many individual setting options to the cap system, which comes very close to a disposable in terms of look and feel, but allows the multiple use of essential assemblies.