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It is a question that every vaper has most certainly asked themselves once.  “What do e-liquids contain? This question is legitimate and we should all know. We will thus detail each of the components used in the manufacture of the liquid and explain its role.

This will also make it possible to answer this very annoying phrase that we often hear: ” The electronic cigarette is dangerous, we don’t even know what’s inside ” 

If there are two elements that immediately come to mind for the development of e-liquid, they are propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).

Let’s first look at PG, which is most often the main component of the liquid.

Propylene glycol (PG):

Propylene glycol is a colorless, slightly viscous, low volatility, practically odorless and particularly hygroscopic liquid (which absorbs moisture from the air).

If knowing that it is used in the manufacture of synthetic resins, that it is a component of antifreeze, and other brake fluids, that it is used as a solvent in the printing ink industry or still as a constituent of products such as detergent, scares you, perhaps you will be reassured to know that PG is also widely used as a solvent, emulsifier, humectant or preservative in the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics and personal hygiene products.

In the food sector, PG is considered an additive. You will find it on many labels under the number E1520. It is also used as an emulsifier for sauces and other seasonings. It is found in many products containing flavourings, such as yoghurts and jams for example.

In cosmetics and pharmacology, it appears under the number E490 and if you consult the labels of your soaps, hair gel, shampoos, lipsticks, toothpaste, etc… there is a good chance that you will see it appear on most of these products.

Finally, it is this same propylene glycol that is used in the entertainment industry to power the famous smoke machines.

Each of us therefore uses and consumes PG daily. But what is its use in the liquid for electronic cigarettes?

Well, it has several functions. First of all, it is partly responsible for what is commonly called in the jargon of the vape: the “hit”, this famous sensation of contraction of the throat that the smoker seeks to keep because it imitates the effect produced by inhaling cigarette smoke. Although the hit comes purely from nicotine, the PG makes it stand out nicely. Furthermore, it also acts as an aroma enhancer.

Propylene glycol therefore brings out the power of nicotine (the Hit) and the power of the aroma (the taste) while creating a little vapor.

Let’s now focus on vegetable glycerin, which generally goes hand in hand with PG.

Vegetable glycerin (VG):

It is a colourless, viscous and odourless liquid.

It is used in many pharmaceutical compositions as a moisturizer and in suppositories or certain cough syrups.

It is also found in cosmetics as a moisturizing agent, solvent and lubricant. It is found in toothpaste, moisturizers and mouthwashes. It is also a component of glycerin soaps such as Marseille soaps.

In the food sector, vegetable glycerin can be found as an additive under the name E422. It is also used as a humectant (to retain moisture), solvent or emulsifier in many food products.

It is also good to know that the JECFA “Joint FAO-WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives” has assigned it an acceptable daily intake that has not been specified for many years. In other words, VG does not represent a health hazard when used in the proportions required to obtain the desired effect.

Also used as a plasticizer and lubricant in the manufacture of paper, in chemistry, etc… the list is very long. In short, as with propylene glycol, we use and consume VG daily.

Regarding its use in e-liquid, the VG allows obtaining a large volume of vapour. But not only. It also reduces the sensation of hitting and softens the aromas. In short, it gives your e-liquid a rounder and smoother side.

To sum up, it is the percentage of these two components that will somehow define the character of your e-liquid:

The more PG it contains, the more pronounced the flavour of your aroma, the more Hit you will have, and the less vapour you will have.

Conversely, the more VG it contains, the more vapour you will have but the less aroma and hit you will have.

PG, VG is a bit like the base of the liquid for e-cigarettes. But these liquids also include flavor components (food or natural), sometimes water and/or alcohol and (often) nicotine.

The aromas :

The aroma does not have a primary role in the manufacture of e-liquids and is nevertheless, as you can imagine, essential. It is he who will give his taste to your favorite liquid and there are therefore two types of aromas in the composition of the e-liquid. Food grade flavouring and natural flavouring, which as its name suggests is exclusively composed of elements of natural origin. These aromas are the same as you find in the food sector.

Alcohol and water:

Alcohol and water do not systematically enter into the composition of liquids and their role is similar. Both play the role of thinner. When they are present, know that it is in tiny quantity and that if there is presence of alcohol, this one does not have time to penetrate in blood because it evaporates instantaneously.

Nicotine in e-liquids:

The last element we will see is therefore nicotine. Former smokers that we are, we vape nicotine liquids because we are addicted to them and of course, the stronger our addiction, the higher the level of nicotine in our liquids.

The effects of nicotine are multiple. It can depend on the dose administered, either stimulate or calm. In small doses, it stimulates while in high doses it calms. Almost instinctively, the smoker or vaper knows what dose to administer.

Moreover, nicotine is also responsible for the hit. The more nicotine the e-liquid contains, the stronger the hit. This hit will be increased by a high PG rate and decreased by a high VG rate.

Nicotine brings us to another question that many of us have probably asked ourselves:

Why is there a skull on the e-liquid bottles?

It is indeed because of the presence of nicotine that we find this little design to make you shudder. Nicotine is considered a very toxic product (this in high doses) , so liquid manufacturers are obliged to bring the T+ marking (very toxic) on the bottles of liquid. The legislation makes this marking mandatory for any product containing nicotine. It is therefore nicotine and it alone that is responsible for this marking. You will therefore notice that there are no skull and crossbones on the nicotine-free bottles.

It is also this legislation on T+ products which obliges the manufacturer to put the indications on the bottles: “wear gloves, protective glasses,…, in the event of contact with the skin, call the doctor,…” these indications are not on the bottles of liquids without nicotine and they are in any case not at all suitable for a bottle of e-liquid.

There you go, you know almost everything about the components of your favourite liquids, thank you for spreading the message.

Happy vaping to all.