How do Vapes & E-Cigarettes Work?

By James Powley


All vapes rely on the same base components to function: a battery, atomizer, and e-liquid. If you want to ensure that your device remains in good condition, want your coils to last longer, and improve your battery life, a fundamental understanding of how vapes work is crucial. So, how do vapes and e-cigarettes work? We’ll explore the mechanisms of these devices in a little more detail below. First, let’s understand whether there are any differences when it comes to how different types of vaping equipment work.

Understanding How Different Vaping Devices Work

Vape pens are one type of vape device, but there are several other models available. Here’s a rundown of the different types of vapes:


  • Cigalikes: vapes that resemble cigarettes, usually disposable but can also use replaceable cartridges
  • Vape pens: slim, easy-to-use devices with liquid tanks
  • Box mods: larger and high-tech devices with tanks
  • Pod mods: compact vapes that use pre-filled pods or refillable cartridges

    How vapes work tends to follow the same basic principle, whichever model you choose:


  • The device is powered by a battery
  • Vape juice is used either as a prefilled pod/cartridge or manually added
  • The wick draws the juice to the coil
  • The coil heats the juice to transform it from liquid to vapour
  • The vapour is directed to the mouthpiece for the user to inhale

    What are the Different Components of a Vape or E-Cigarette?

    While the general mechanism behind vapes is the same for almost all devices, the actual components can vary depending on which device you’ve got.


    Found in: all vapes

    Vapes are powered by batteries. Many vapes feature an in-built battery that can be recharged via USB. Some models may have removable batteries – like classic AAs – that can be recharged with a mains-powered charging kit.

    Atomizer, Wicks & Coils

    Found in: all vapes

    This is the top part of the vape that includes the coil and wick. The atomizer is what enables the device to turn liquid into vapour.


    Found in: vape pens, box mods

    The tank is the part of a vape where e-liquid is inserted before it is drawn into the coil to be turned into vapour. Typically vape pens and box mods will feature a tank.

    Pods / Cartridges

    Found in: pod mods, cigalikes

    Pods and cartridges provide the same function as a tank – they house the e-liquid. Cartridges are easily inserted and removed with either a pod mod or the battery base of a cigalike. The cartridge or pod contains the heating element, so there is no need for separate coil replacements.

    Activation Button

    Found in: vape pens, box mods and some pod mods

    The activation (fire) button is used to start up your vape. They’re most commonly found in vape pens and box mods, but some pod mods also feature them. When the fire button is pressed, the heating element warms the juice and releases vapour. In practice, this means that users need to press the button on each inhale. Cigalikes and some pod mods automatically power up with inhalation, so there’s no need for a button.


    Found in: all vapes

    All vapes use e-liquid, but some require the user to manually fill the liquid, while others use pre-filled pods. Vape juices contain vegetable glycerine (VG), propylene glycol (PG), flavourings and (usually) nicotine. Different juices will use different ratios of PG and VG, which can provide different vaping experiences. Vape juice also comes in a variety of flavours and nicotine strengths, ranging from 0mg to 20mg.

    Other Alternatives to Smoking

    Hopefully, we’ve given you a better idea about how vapes work, from pens to mods, as well as the individual components in your device.

    There are other alternatives to smoking, such as heated tobacco products. Unlike a vape product, which uses liquid, IQOS is an electronic device that heats real tobacco for a satisfying taste experience. Visit the IQOS blog for more information.

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