What’s in e-cigarette e-liquid?
This question is usually asked because people are worried about what they are inhaling, thankfully there really is no big mystery to the ingredients found in e-liquids.
Almost all of the contents of the bottle are what we call the 'base ingredients', these are Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin (also known simply as PG/VG). They are always used as the 'carrier' for our nicotine and flavourings too, so these ingredients make up a very large part of what we are vaping. Both are considered safe and completely acceptable substances to be ingested and neither has been shown to cause any damage by vaping them.
So what exactly are PG and VG?
Both PG and VG are used in many day to day products around our home. PG is used in inhalers, toothpaste and also very commonly found in foods. The PG used for vaping is what is called 'medical grade'. VG is used in cough syrup, sweets and cosmetics as just a few examples. VG is a natural product and is typically made from rape seed or other types of vegetable extracts. Both PG and VG are considered totally safe for vaping.
There was a scare story ran in some newspapers about PG being in anti-freeze. What they failed to mention was that PG was actually being used in anti-freeze as a non-toxic alternative to what was being used before, to make the product safer. PG and VG are both very common, have been around for a long time and are extremely useful in many household products, which means we know a lot about them! They aren't strange, new chemical concoctions created just for vaping and many of us consume them every day already in other products.
Understanding the PG/VG ratio of e-liquids.
PG and VG used in e-liquids are usually expressed as a ratio such as 50/50 or 70/30 on the e-liquid bottles. This shows the mix of PG and VG being used. Looking at the PG/VG ratio helps you decide if the e-liquid is suitable for you and suitable for your e-cigarette device.
VG has a much thicker consistency than PG, VG is like syrup and PG has a thin consistency that's closer to water. By combining the two together manufacturers can create a consistency that will work well in an e-cigarette device. PG is almost tasteless and VG has a natural slightly sweet taste. A combination of both could be vaped on their own, they are the ingredients that create the 'smoke like' vapour, however this would be a very tasteless experience.
Adding flavourings and sweeteners to enhance the taste
Because both PG and VG are virtually tasteless, almost all vapers use flavoured e-liquid. The flavourings used can be both natural flavourings and artificial flavourings. They are often very similar to flavourings used in the food industry.
Some flavour companies such as Flavor Art in Italy started in the food and drink industry a long time before they became suppliers to the vaping industry. They saw where the e-cigarette industry was heading and changed their business model to accommodate the needs of the vaping industry.
The biggest difference between flavourings for e-liquids and food flavourings is that they use PG as a carrier, which means the flavours are held in a PG solution so that they can be easily and safely mixed into the e-liquids PG/VG base. Some food flavourings are in oils and contain other substances that are not suitable for vaping.
The sweeteners used in e-liquid are also the same as the ones found in food, the most common being Sucralose and Ethyl Maltol. Again, these will be suspended in PG so they can be mixed into the e-liquid. There could be anything from one to half a dozen or more different flavourings in your e-liquid. Good flavour manufacturers and e-liquid manufacturers like My Vape Box take their products very seriously and will only use the safest, highest quality flavouring ingredients.
And finally, nicotine…
The final ingredient in your e-liquid is of course nicotine. The vast majority of e-liquid contains what is known as “pharmaceutical freebase” nicotine and is the purest form of nicotine available.
This nicotine is usually extracted from tobacco leaves, simply because it's a plant that contains very high levels of nicotine. The nicotine that is extracted from the tobacco leaves ends up being 99.9% (or more) pure and is considered 'pure nicotine' for that reason. So it does not contain any of the harmful chemicals found in tobacco. It's the same nicotine used in other nicotine 'replacement therapy' products like gum, sprays, lozenges and even patches. Again, the only difference being that for vaping use it is supplied in a Propylene Glycol solution.
You can read more about nicotine in Simon's blog 'Is nicotine bad for you?' here.
To conclude, we all know that flavourings are not nutritionally 'good' for you, banana flavouring doesn't have any of the nutritional value of a banana. Likewise, a bag of mixed fruit flavoured sweets do not count as your 'five a day' as much as we may wish they did!
However, it really is a myth that we are inhaling 'a load of toxic chemicals' as some would have you believe. Used properly all the evidence suggests that e-liquid is relatively benign in that sense and is in no way comparable to the thousands of highly toxic and dangerous chemicals we knowingly inhaled as smokers.
We hope that gives you a bit more understanding (and reassures you!) about how e-liquids are made and the ingredients that goes into them. Of course if you do have any questions please just write them in the comments box below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
The My Vape Box Team x