Guide to Vape Liquids: How To Choose One?
What is e-liquid?
E-liquid (also referred to as ‘vape juice’ or ‘vape liquid’) is the fluid vapers use in electronic cigarettes to produce vapour. As a vaper, e-liquids are a necessary part of the vaping journey you need to understand.
The process of how the liquid turns into smoke is similar to how water turns into steam. The incredible heat generated by the vaping device is enough to change the juice into an inhalable aromatic vapour.
The next question you may naturally want to ask is what do e-liquids contain?
What is in vape liquid? Components breakdown
Regardless of the brand and type of juice, all vaping liquids contain at least three main ingredients: vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG), and flavouring. Of course, there are many scientific compounds in the latter, but we classify the substances singularly to make things easy.
The fourth material commonly found in e-liquids is nicotine. However, many nicotine-free options are available now for those preferring to stay away from the chemical’s addictiveness. We’ll now break down each component in more detail.
VG / PG
You can find each organic compound in various food products like cereal, ice cream, soft drinks, and so on. Both of these non-toxic substances go hand in hand in affecting the vaping experience.
Propylene glycol is a thin, tasteless, and odourless fluid responsible for the ‘throat hit’ in vaping. On the other hand, vegetable glycerin or vegetable glycerol is a thick, syrup-like liquid made from palm oils, coconuts and soybeans.
It is the main contributor to the size of your vaping ‘clouds.’ All e-liquids consist of these two materials in different dosages, known as the VG/PG ratio. The ideal mixture is 50/50 since you get the best of both worlds in throat hit, flavour content and vapour production. So, why would you want an e-liquid with more VG than PG (e.g., 70/30)?
Here, vapers can create much larger clouds due to the content’s thickness. High-VG juices are a fan favourite of ‘cloud chasers.’
The other benefit is that the throat hit with these e-liquids is less harsh than those with greater PG. Despite the advantages, higher-VG juices are not the friendliest to your coils, requiring more replacing or cleaning.
Similarly, the wick absorption is slower, meaning considerable heat generation is necessary each time you press the button. Lastly, the tang intensity is somewhat less since the substance’s thickness can affect the added flavouring.
How about e-liquids with more PG than VG (e.g., 80/20)? If your juice has more than 50% of PG, the throat hits and flavour content are stronger. But, such e-liquids cannot produce massive clouds. Yet, some vapers prefer to be discreet and not generate large vapour.
Still, juices with higher PG offer more life on the coils as gunk takes longer to build on them due to the liquid’s thinness. Also, the cotton wicks absorb higher-PG juices faster, meaning less heat is generated for each puff.
It is almost uncommon to have purely PG or VG-only vaping juice from a retail perspective (unless it’s home-made). Therefore, the safest bet is with the 50/50 ratio. But, of course, vapers are free to experiment with different dosages to find their sweet spot.
The concentrates used in vaping liquid combine artificial and natural flavouring found in typical foods and drinks.
As expected, you can find thousands of flavours on the market. Yet, experts generally classify them into fruity, tobacco, dessert, drink, candy and menthol. Through experimentation, vaping hobbyists have come up with a range of mixtures.
Yet, vapers should understand each flavour's VG/PG ratios and stick to those that naturally go well together.
Nicotine is an alkaloid or nitrogenous organic compound found in eggplants, tobacco, potatoes, vines, shrubs and more. It’s a well-known fact that this stimulant is highly addictive and one of the primary reasons smokers find it difficult to quit.
Therefore, nicotine-free options are available in vaping e-liquids. Also, nicotine doesn’t necessarily cause cancer in tobacco smoking.
Instead, the other additives in cigarettes like tar, benzene, and arsenic (actually, hundreds) are the more prominent contributors. Fortunately, vaping juices do not contain these toxins, making them less harmful than traditional smoking.
Nevertheless, here’s what else you need to know about nic. This stimulant is measured in different milligram strengths for any e-liquid, starting from 0mg (no nicotine) to 60mg. However, 36mg is the maximum for ordinary vaping liquids unless we're looking at nicotine salts.
Choosing the right intensity boils down to your smoking habits.
- Heavier smokers (more than a pack daily) will want to pick from 18mg and above. The average nic in a cigarette is about 12mg. Therefore, the higher dosage should give this group proper vaping satisfaction to quit conventional smoking.
- For the average puffer who may smoke up to a pack daily, 12mg is generally the happy medium.
- The light smoker puffing less than five ciggies a day may stick with 6mg strength, which is still lower than the average in a cigarette.
- ‘Once in a blue moon’ smokers (who might smoke once or twice weekly) should stick with 3mg or zero nicotine.
Does it matter what liquid you put in a vape?
Absolutely, it matters what liquid is in a vaping device. You should only use juices manufactured explicitly for use in e-cigarettes. Failure to do so poses many unintended health risks, not to mention the potential destruction of the device itself.
What sizes do e-liquids come in?
Typically, you’ll find e-liquids in 10ml, 30ml, 60ml and 120ml bottles (in extreme cases, even 180 ml). For flavours you haven’t vaped before, always try the smallest juice size before committing to a bigger one. You don’t want to buy an untested e-liquid only to find it barely enjoyable later.
Once a vaper has found their favourite flavours, they’ll tend to purchase larger bottles for time and monetary savings.
How to store e-liquid properly
Storage is a topic many vaping enthusiasts tend to gloss over. Understandably, due to the compact size of e-liquids, it’s easy to keep vaping juices in various locations. However, e-liquids are a recurring vaping expense.
Therefore, you should take storage seriously if you want to keep costs down and not affect the taste quality. Still, this doesn’t mean you need some fancy storage containers. A very simple rule to this process is to avoid the ‘three elements’: heat, light and air.
Make sure your e-liquids shy away from hotness, are always airtight and stored in a dark-lit location.
Heat, light and air can break down the molecules in your vaping juice, slowly affecting their flavour and colour density over time. One of the best places to store your fluids is somewhere like a cupboard, cabinet or drawer.
Still, you must ensure this location is away from any heat and light source and that the juice is sealed. Another facility experts recommend is the fridge, but this one is a continuously debated topic in vaping communities.
You need to understand the right temperature to set your refrigerator as this can affect the VG/PG density (not to mention any sneaky children). So, this option isn’t the most ideal but may be practised by some hardcore vapers.
Another long-term storage tip is using juices with dark-coloured glass bottles instead of plastic (to prevent oxidation). Lastly, you’ll want to give your e-liquid a few shakes each time before dipping it into your device tank.
Organic and natural vape juice
Just as there’s a massive push for eating organic foods, a similar concept applies to vaping. It’s healthier for the body and friendlier to the environment. While e-liquids hold far less toxic materials than cigarettes, they are not risk-free due to the other additives in PG, VG and flavourings.
So, the solution in recent years is for natural vape juice, which is a challenging endeavour. Firstly, these products are not nearly as widespread as ordinary e-liquids because of the higher prices.
So, you may have to pay four to five times more for natural juice with the same capacity as standard vaping juice. Achieving 100% natural e-liquids without synthetic material is a mammoth and costly task.
All the ingredients in the fluids must be entirely grown and extracted organically with no additives, preservatives, sweeteners, and other artificial elements (including flavourings). PG is content that cannot be treated without chemicals.
Therefore, the only elements that can be grown organically are VG (as it’s made from vegetable oils) and nicotine (as it comes from the tobacco plant). Natural vape juice should meet the regulatory standards administered by the respective body of the manufacturing country.
For instance, in the United States, this is the USDA’s National Organic Program. Understanding this aspect is one way to ensure you’re getting real organic e-liquids which have gone through the correct assessment standards.
There is one caveat, though. Certification is a lengthy and pricey process that not all manufacturers encounter. So, just because a natural product has no regulation doesn’t necessarily mean it's not organic.
But, you would need to research all the juice ingredients thoroughly. A tell-tale sign that an e-liquid brand may not be organic is the inclusion of PG.
Vape liquid with CBD
If going natural wasn’t enough, CBD vape liquids have also become an interesting alternative to regular juices. CBD (cannabidiol) is a chemical found in cannabis or weed plants. A CBD-based vape juice should involve all the traditional e-liquid ingredients except nicotine.
The health benefits of CBD are well-documented, ranging from pain relief to reducing mental disorders. Yet, we need to clear up some confusion about cannabinoids. Firstly, it’s common to see the term ‘CBD vape oil’ in the marketing of vaping devices, which is a misnomer.
CBD juice is just a different e-liquid, meaning you shouldn’t vape any oil-based product. Another question is whether vaping cannabinoids will get you high, to which the answer is no.
The mind-altering component responsible for ‘being stoned’ is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which shouldn’t be found in a legitimate CBD vape e-liquid. So, these juices can offer the benefits associated with cannabis without psychoactivity.
Can vape liquid go out of date?
Vape juice does have an expiry date, usually about two years from the manufacturing time. However, e-liquids are similar to shelf-stable foods in that they can take a very long time to go stale. This understandably depends on practising the correct storage methods and the type of fluids.
Provided you can keep bottles at room temperature and store them properly, you can enjoy a few years out of the e-liquids. There are a few ways to tell when the juice has gone bad, the main one relating to sensory profile.
If the e-liquid’s colour has darkened or thickened over time than what it was previously, it’s time for some replacing. Or, if the juice’s smell has degraded or tastes differently than expected, it has likely gone bad.
Another sign is when the e-liquid’s components appear separated and don’t gel even after a few shakes. Therefore, taking proper care of these bottles is crucial.
Vape liquid vs salts
In recent years, there’s been a trend in e-liquids to contain nicotine salts. Traditional vape juice, cigarettes, along with replacement therapies like gum and patches, have what is known as freebase nicotine.
This means the stimulant is converted from its natural salt form into a base state to up the nicotine’s potency. Freebase nicotine has been found to be harsher when consumed in high dosages.
Traditional smokers craving the stimulant usually reduce the nicotine content in the vape juice. However, this trade-off makes it likely for them to return to cigarettes to satisfy their yearning.
So, the solution is nicotine salts or nic salts. These contain the stimulant in its natural salt form (this doesn’t mean the juice is salty), offering a less harsh puffing sensation. It’s worth noting that nicotine salts incorporate an additional substance in benzoic or citric acid.
Also, nic salts are another form of vape juice since they incorporate PG, VG and flavourings. The primary difference is the type of nic used.
Vape liquid vs cigarettes
The whole point of vaping is delivering nicotine without the tobacco and hundreds of other toxic chemicals found in conventional cigarettes. When inhaling a combustible product, it’s bound to mess up your health.
So, vaping is a far less harmful smoking alternative because you are not burning anything. However, the practice is only marginally safer as e-liquids still consist of some contaminants.
Vaping, like its predecessor, can affect several body systems like the heart and lungs, along with other physical effects. Smoking and vaping can be pretty addictive, except that the latter is the lesser of the two ‘evils.’
Nicotine free vape liquids
As we know, nicotine is the main substance that hooks people to cigarettes. When heavy smokers switch to vaping, the aim is to slowly reduce the nicotine strength, preferably until it reaches zero. And so the reason for nicotine-free vape liquids.
Such juices carry archetypal ingredients like VG, PG and flavourings, minus the addictive stimulant. Still, the subtraction of nicotine doesn’t make vaping drastically less harmful. It boils down to your addiction tolerance.
Popcorn lung and vape health risks
Some many decades ago, employees in a popcorn factory got sick from breathing in something called diacetyl. This is a buttery-flavoured chemical used in popcorn, caramel, alcohol, dairy stuff (cheese, milk, yoghurts, etc.) and other foods.
The unintended exposure to diacetyl led to a life-threatening, and irreversible lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans (or popcorn lung). Hundreds of reported death cases during this time were linked to diacetyl.
Hence, some popcorn manufacturers eventually removed this substance. However, this chemical is still being used today in various products. In 2015, Harvard conducted a study on several vape juices which they found to have diacetyl.
Still, the researchers found an average of 9 mcg (micrograms) in the e-liquids, a stark contrast to the roughly 335 mcg discovered in a cigarette. After this study, vape juice manufacturers started removing diacetyl.
However, not all vaping fluids are diacetyl-free, meaning you need to verify with the respective brand if you still hold fears. Yet, no conclusive studies exist that suggest popcorn lung was caused by vaping.
What about other health risks to e-cigarettes? As we’ve already mentioned, the main dangers concern the heart and lungs as with any form of smoking. Also, too much nicotine harms the brain, severely affecting mood, attention, learning and impulse controls. Numerous oral illnesses have also been linked to nic as well.
Picking vape liquid flavours: summary
As a new vaper, it certainly helps to know a few vaping enthusiasts who could help you try a few different flavours beforehand. Regardless, it’s beneficial to understand the ins and outs of e-liquids.
This helps you appreciate the contents of the juices, the different types, and how to care for them properly to have a satisfying vaping experience.