While vaping is a great tool for moving away from traditional cigarettes and all of the toxic chemicals and long-term health effects that come with them, it’s important to know what kind of ingredients and chemicals are in vaping products so that you can make an informed decision on whether vaping is right for you.
The whole vaping world can seem a bit mysterious at first, but as far as the ingredients used to make vape juice, the list is actually quite short.
Vape juice, or e-liquid, is made of a balance of four parts: Nicotine, propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and flavouring. We’ve broken each ingredient down so you can understand exactly what is in vape juice and make the decision that is right for you.
While not all e-liquids contain nicotine, many of them do and it’s important to know what the nicotine content is in the type of disposable vaping devices, pods, or e-liquids you plan to use. In Canada, nicotine levels in vape products are capped at 20 mg/mL but can fall anywhere between that number and nicotine-free options with 0 mg/mL.
There are two types of nicotine used in vaping products: freebase nicotine and nicotine salts. Some e-liquids will use a blend of the two to create a specific kind of throat hit to correlate with a certain nicotine level.
Freebase nicotine has been around since the 1960s and is, essentially, a modified version of the pure nicotine extract taken from the tobacco leaf. The process alters the pH of the extract and creates a concentrated form of nicotine that gives a realistic tobacco sensation.
Nicotine salts are a much more recent development, though they also are created by altering the chemical structure of natural nicotine extracts, but this time by bonding the nicotine with certain acids. This bond creates a more stable compound that can be absorbed faster, vapourize at a lower temperature, and last longer on the shelf. Additionally, the pH of the nic salts is lowered in the process resulting in a smoother experience.
For more on the differences between freebase nicotine and nicotine salts, check out our article An Introduction to Vape Juices: Nic Salts vs Freebase.
Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin
Propylene glycol, commonly referred to as PG, and vegetable glycerin, also known as VG, are the carrier elements of the e-liquid. That means that they act as the base of the liquid, holding the nicotine and flavour elements for transportation through the device and aiding in the vapourizing process.
Some e-liquids will use only one or the other, but most use a combination of VG and PG.
Propylene glycol is a viscous liquid that is colourless and odourless. It is classified as “generally recognized as safe” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is included in a wide range of products including medications, cosmetics, and food.
PG is a highly effective solvent due to its ability to mix with water as well as hydrophobic substances. Our bodies process PG in the liver metabolizing it into lactic acid.
While PG is generally considered to be safe, it is possible to have allergic reactions that manifest as skin irritation. If you are allergic to propylene glycol you should not use vape products that contain PG, which may be difficult to find as vegetable glycerine is thicker and requires a vaping device with a higher wattage.
Vegetable glycerine has many names including glycerol and glycerine. The clear liquid is generally made from soybean, coconut, or palm oils and has a subtle sweetness, but no odour.
VG is a common ingredient in cosmetics as it has been shown to have certain benefits for skin health. While it too is considered to be generally safe, it is possible to experience an allergic reaction that can present with symptoms such as nausea, excessive thirst, and headaches.
Some vape manufacturers will also add a certain amount of water to their base mixture, but that would be no different than breathing in the vapour from the humidifier in your bedroom.
The flavour aspect of a vape product is actually the part that would likely make people the most uncomfortable if the chemicals and compounds were listed out in full. Not because there is anything dangerous or harmful in them, but just because the names of flavour ingredients are often so foreign to us.
When flavourists create say a strawberry flavour, they can’t simply pour juiced strawberry into a vape cartridge, there are in fact many chemicals and compounds, like sugar, citric acid, etc. that would interfere with the process and cause the product to rot.
Flavourists take only the parts of a base ingredient involved directly in imparting that specific flavour and blend them together to create a realistic taste experience that matches the experience of tasting the actual ingredient itself.
Sometimes these flavour compounds need to be or are better for the environment and user when they are developed synthetically; however, the chemical structure of a synthetically derived flavour compound and its naturally extracted counterpart are exactly the same.
All flavour ingredients are highly regulated with GRAS, CAS, and FEMA certifications and are, by definition, food-grade materials.
If you’re looking for a vape system that uses the highest quality, food grade ingredients to deliver the best possible vape experience, try STLTH.
The STLTH pod system offers all the convenience of disposables with the reliability and reduction in waste of a rechargeable device. STLTH even runs a recycling program to collect used pods to keep them out of landfills.