WARNING: This product contains nicotine.
Nicotine is an addictive chemical.

WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.

What Are the Ingredients in Vape Juice?

What is in vape juice? Vape Juice Ingredients.

Vape juice ingredients mainly include propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, optional nicotine, and flavorings. These ingredients are combined in different ratios to create various flavors and vapor production levels.

Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG)

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol (PG) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless synthetic organic compound. It’s used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food products.

In vaping, PG carries nicotine and flavors and produces a throat hit similar to smoking. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says PG is safe for consumption1 “Propylene Glycol | Public Health Statement | ATSDR,” ATSDR. [Online]. Available: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/TSP/PHS/PHS.aspx?phsid=1120&toxid=240. But, some people might be allergic to it.

Properties of Propylene Glycol (PG):

  • Solvent: PG, used in drugs, makeup, and food, is a strong solvent.
  • Moisturizer: PG attracts and retains water, so is used in food, and cosmetics to prevent them drying.
  • Low Toxicity: Groups like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say PG is safe to eat.
  • Stability: PG is steady and doesn’t mix quickly with other things.
  • Non-flammable: PG doesn’t catch fire easily, so it’s safer than some solvents.
  • Antimicrobial: PG stops germs from growing, making products last longer.
  • Low Freezing Point: PG’s low freeze point makes it good for antifreeze.

Effects of PG on E-liquid:

  • Carrier Fluid: In e-liquids, PG carries nicotine and flavors.
  • Throat Hit: PG gives a stronger throat hit when vaped.
  • Flavor Carrier: PG boosts e-liquid taste by carrying flavors.
  • Prevents Residue: PG’s thinness stops gunk from building in vape gear.
Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG)

Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable Glycerin (VG) is a clear, odorless, and slightly sweet-tasting liquid derived from plant oils like palm, soy, or coconut. 

VG is in food, makeup, and drugs because it moisturizes and dissolves things2 “What Is Vegetable Glycerin? Uses, Benefits and Side Effects,” Healthline. [Online]. Available: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegetable-glycerin. In vapes, VG makes thick vapor clouds and feels smooth on the throat.

Properties of Vegetable Glycerin (VG):

  • Moisturizer: VG is a natural moisturizer and helps keep moisture in food and cosmetics.
  • Solvent: VG dissolves things and is in many products.
  • Safe for Consumption: VG is safe to eat and is in many food products.
  • Sweetener: VG’s natural sweetness is utilized in various foods as a flavor enhancer.
  • Thickening Agent: VG is viscous and is used in products to enhance their texture and thickness.

Effects of VG on E-liquid:

  • Vapor Production: VG makes thick vapor clouds, liked by “cloud chasing” fans.
  • Smoothness: VG feels smoother on the throat than PG.
  • Flavor Dilution: VG’s sweet and thick nature can weaken some e-liquid tastes.
  • Reduced Throat Hit: VG gives a softer throat feel than PG, better for those sensitive to strong throat sensations.
  • Consistency: VG is thick, so wicks in vapes absorb it slowly. Can lead to more residue on coils. Higher VG liquids are best suited to sub-ohm tanks or coils with larger wick openings.

Learn more about PG Vs VG Ratios in vape juice, and how the ratio of each can affect your vape experience.

Vape Juice Flavorings

Nicotine

Nicotine is the key ingredient in vape juice for those replacing cigarette nicotine3“Nicotine: How It Works, Uses, Risks, Benefits,” Verywell Health. [Online]. Available: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-nicotine-5075412 or quit smoking. Some people might use nicotine-free vapes, but most choose e-liquids with nicotine levels from 0.3% to 5%.

Historically, e-liquids derived their nicotine from tobacco leaves using solvents like ammonia. This process turned natural nicotine salt into freebase nicotine, which dominated the e-liquid and nicotine replacement markets.

However, the vaping industry landscape has evolved, bringing two new nicotine types:

  1. Nicotine Salts: Developed to cater to smaller vaping devices, like pod vapes and disposable vapes. Nicotine salt e-liquids offer a strong nicotine hit without the harshness. Freebase nicotine can be harsh at high concentrations, so nicotine salt e-liquids incorporate a mild acid to revert the nicotine to its gentler salt form, making it ideal for compact MTL vapes.
  2. Synthetic Nicotine: The vaping community has long sought to distance itself from the tobacco industry. Making synthetic nicotine without tobacco was once too costly. By the 2020s, better methods and high demand made synthetic nicotine common. Now, many e-liquids worldwide use this non-tobacco nicotine in freebase or salt forms.

Learn more about nicotine salts and synthetic nicotine.

Benefits of Nicotine in E-liquid:

  1. Throat Hit: Provides a sensation in the throat similar to smoking tobacco, which many vapers find satisfying.
  2. Stimulation: Nicotine can boost alertness and focus for a brief period.
  3. Mood Elevation: Vaping nicotine can uplift mood for some users.
  4. Relaxation: Despite its stimulating properties, many users feel relaxed after consuming nicotine.
  5. Appetite Suppression: Can reduce the feeling of hunger, which might be seen as a benefit by some users.

Side Effects of Nicotine:

  • Addictiveness: Nicotine is addictive, leading to cravings and regular use.
  • Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: It can raise heart rate and blood pressure for a short time.
  • Dizziness: New users or those using strong e-liquids might feel dizzy.
  • Nausea: Using too much can cause nausea or even vomiting.
  • Dependency: Regular use can lead to needing nicotine.
  • Tolerance: Users may need more over time to feel the same effects.
  • Withdrawal: Cutting back or stopping can cause mood changes, anxiety, and cravings.

Users should think about these side effects when choosing e-liquids with nicotine4“Biological effects of nicotine exposure: A narrative review of the literature,” PubMed. [Online]. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7308884.1/.
Learn more about nicotine strengths and percentages, and find out how much nicotine is in traditional cigarettes.

Vape Juice Flavorings
Flavorings in Vape Juice

Flavorings in Vape Juice

Vape juices are characterized by their unique flavorings. These flavors come from a mix of both natural and synthetic food-grade ingredients. They align with those used in the culinary, confectionery, and beverage sectors. This is why:

  • Some vape juice flavors can mimic the tastes of popular candies, drinks, or other treats.
  • When e-liquid makers capture the essence of a well-loved product, it offers vapers a reminiscent experience of the actual item.

The base ingredients, Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin (PG & VG) have a subtle taste. However:

  • When combined with flavoring concentrates, they produce richer and more delightful flavor profiles.
  • Flavorings usually constitute 3-7% of the vape juice, but rarely exceed 10%.
  • It’s typical to blend different flavor concentrates to craft unique or layered flavors, especially for fruit-inspired e-liquids.
  • Popular vape flavors include Strawberry, Watermelon, Banana, Menthol, Custard, Bubblegum, and Tobacco.

Besides the core flavors, many e-liquids also contain sweeteners to cater to the sweet-toothed vapers. It’s worth noting:

  • Sweeter e-liquids are often more effective in aiding smokers to switch to vaping than those mimicking tobacco.
  • Sucralose is a prevalent sweetener, giving e-liquids a sugary taste.
  • It’s wise to opt for e-liquids with less sucralose, as high amounts can wear out vape coils faster.

Benefits of Flavoring in E-liquid:

  1. Variety: Flavorings provide a wide range of taste profiles, catering to diverse preferences and allowing users to switch between flavors.
  2. Enhanced Experience: Flavorings enhance the overall vaping experience.
  3. Smoking Transition: Flavorful e-liquids can help smokers transition to vaping by offering a tastier alternative to the taste of tobacco.
  4. Customizability: Users can blend e-liquids to create unique flavor combinations tailored to their liking.
  5. Familiar Flavors: Some e-liquids taste like known foods, drinks, or sweets, making them feel familiar.

Potential Side Effects or Health Risks of Flavoring in E-liquid:

  1. Allergic Reactions: Some individuals might be allergic to specific flavoring agents, leading to reactions like itching, swelling, or respiratory issues.
  2. Unknown Long-Term Effects: The long-term effects of inhaling certain flavorings are not fully understood, and more research is needed.
  3. Diacetyl Concerns: Some flavorings, especially buttery or creamy ones, previously contained diacetyl, which is associated with a condition called “popcorn lung.”5“Pulmonary effects of e-liquid flavors: a systematic review,” PubMed. [Online]. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36154615/ Most reputable manufacturers have since eliminated diacetyl from their products.
  4. Chemical Changes When Heated: Some flavorings might undergo chemical changes when heated, producing potentially harmful compounds.
  5. Respiratory Irritation: Certain flavorings, like cinnamon or menthol, might cause irritation to the respiratory tract when inhaled. 

Vapers should know what’s in their e-liquids and only buy from trusted brands who adhere to safety standards.

Organic and Natural Vape Juice
Organic and Natural Vape Juice

Organic and Natural Vape Juice

Never heard of organic e-liquid? You’re not alone. A lot of people don’t know that this kind of vape liquid exists.

For a product to be labeled “organic” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it must adhere to specific agricultural practices, such as conserving biodiversity and minimizing synthetic materials6“Labeling Organic Products,” U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). [Online]. Available: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling.

However, finding a fully certified organic e-liquid is rare. Reasons include:

  • Most nicotine in vape products is lab-extracted, conflicting with organic guidelines.
  • Many flavors are lab-created rather than derived from natural sources.

VG, derived from plant fats, is the closest to being organic. If you’re seeking a genuinely organic vape liquid, consider a 100% VG blend. While these might lack flavor and nicotine, they align with organic standards.

Custom E-liquid Mixes
Custom E-liquid Mixes

Custom E-liquid Mixes

Many vapers have turned to creating custom e-liquids at home, seeking personalized flavors and more nicotine control. 

While this DIY approach offers customization, it’s essential to tread with caution. Accurate nicotine measurement is crucial to avoid harmful concentrations. Additionally, not all edible flavorings are safe to inhale. 

When venturing into DIY e-liquids, it’s vital to source ingredients from trusted suppliers and understand the potential effects of each component. We have a full guide on how to make DIY vape juice to help you.

Vape Juice FAQ

What if I swallow vape juice?

– Small amounts with low nicotine: Likely minimal long-term effects.
– Ingesting more juice with higher nicotine: Call poison control7“Nicotine Poisoning: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention,” Cleveland Clinic. [Online]. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21582-nicotine-poisoning.
– Juice without nicotine: Generally no need for concern.

Does all vape juice contain nicotine? 

No, there are many e-liquids that are nicotine-free.

Will vape juice stain my clothes?

Most vape juices will not stain. But some types with certain additives might. Dish soap often removes any marks.

How do I clean an e-juice spill?

Wear gloves to protect from nicotine absorption. Wipe up with a kitchen towel and clean the area with a surface cleaner.

How should I store my vape juice?

Keep it in a cool, dry place like a pantry or cupboard. If your e-liquid is in a dark bottle, direct sunlight isn’t a concern, but avoid heat sources. Always keep your vape juice stored away from the reach of children8“How to Properly Store E-Liquids and Prevent Accidental Exposure to E-Liquids in Children,” FDA. [Online]. Available: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/how-properly-store-e-liquids-and-prevent-accidental-exposure-e-liquids-children.

Sources

Jules Martinez
Jules Martinez
Jules Martinez, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of our vaping site, brings a decade of expertise in vaping, CBD, and cannabis. His comprehensive knowledge and editorial rigor ensure high-quality, accurate content, positioning us as a trusted resource in the community.
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