What is E-Liquid?
To beginning e-smokers, the term “e-liquid” is among the most mysterious e-cigarette-centric terms. While it’s not hard to figure out that e-liquid is liquid containing nicotine and a small assortment of flavoring agents, that definition only barely begins to describe what e-liquid truly is or how it affects e-smoking for you.
It’s our opinion that the e-liquid you choose to use with your e-cigarette can be more important than the e-cigarette itself. Let’s take a look at why it’s probably one of the most influential factors on your e-smoking experience by exploring the basics and elaborating on some things to look for in a quality e-liquid.
The Basics of E-Liquid
E-liquid generally contains three major parts: nicotine (unless you’re using nicotine-free e-liquid), natural and artificial flavors and a carrier liquid.
The carrier liquid holds the flavors in and vaporizes at a certain temperature within your e-cigarette. Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are the two types of ingredients used for this purpose. You may find just one ingredient in your e-liquid, but most e-liquids contain a mixture of both.
We’ve found that many e-smokers begin by purchasing pre-filled cartridges. While these cartridges are only $2 to $3 each for 1 mL of e-liquid, you’ll find that you can save a decent amount of money by purchasing e-liquid in bottles for under $1 per mL.
The best part about e-liquid is the fact that the market offers so many choices. Small variations in fairly simple ingredients can result in tremendously different flavors, the amount of vapor produced and the way vaporized e-liquid feels when it hits your throat.
The Carrier Liquids: Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin
If your e-liquid had nothing but flavor and nicotine, then it would be incredibly thick and likely much too dangerous for you to use in your e-cigarette. Carrier liquids are vital to providing the right taste and mouth feel for e-smoking.
Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are the two carrier liquids used to dilute e-liquid to the desired strength. Both have low vaporization temperatures and a taste that you can barely detect, both of which are important qualities in keeping the flavors of your e-liquid pleasant.
You’ll most likely see propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin referred to as “PG” and “VG” by e-liquid retailers and manufacturers.
While we elaborate upon the differences between each in detail in the link further above, here’s all you need to know for a basic understanding: PG provides for a thinner vapor that tends to not create “dry puffs” and produces more accurate flavors than VG does. VG is a slightly sweet and thicker liquid, which means that it can produce thicker vapor. In a few e-cigarette models, an all-VG e-liquid performs poorly because the thick liquid has difficulty flowing through small holes.
Most e-liquid companies will use a mixture of PG and VG to create a unique smoking experience that works in as many e-cigarette models as possible.
Are the Ingredients of E-Liquid Safe?
We’ve found that the one of the biggest reasons smokers of traditional tobacco products switch to e-smoking is because they believe that e-cigarettes are safer than real cigarettes.
We can’t really say if e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. While there’s been some studies that have produced evidence that support e-cigarettes being safer, there’s not enough evidence to come to any kind of real conclusion. All we can base our assumptions on are the few types of e-liquid flavors that have been tested for safety.
For example, the use of diacetyl in some e-liquids caused a serious pause for concern. While diacetyl is readily used as a low-fat substitute for butter flavoring in food products and is thus safe to consume, it can be very hazardous when inhaled in large amounts. Among other things, it can cause irreversible lung damage.
This caused many e-liquid manufacturers to reduce the amount of diacetyl present in their products or to eliminate it entirely. We like to bring up diacetyl as an example because it’s a good example of why it’s so important to be informed about e-liquid ingredients.
Another potential issue with some e-liquids is the fact that they contain extracts from real tobacco. You’ll commonly find e-liquids that do this labeled as “tobacco absolute”.
Tobacco absolute is a fairly thick extract that tastes bitter and ashy when it hits your taste buds. It can add an extra dimension of depth and texture to your e-liquid, but it’s uncertain whether its consumption has any long-lasting health effects.
Quality Control of E-Liquid
E-liquid should only be mixed under laboratory conditions with the strictest controls allowable. This is to not only improve the quality of the e-liquid, but also to ensure that it is as safe as possible when consumed.
For example, V2 Cigs prints batch numbers on every bottle and every cartridge of e-liquid. V2 goes one step further and allows customers to enter a batch number on their website to see a quality control report. Black Note also has quality control reports that you can view online.
Though V2 is currently the only e-liquid manufacturer that provides such a feature, other companies plan to add similar capabilities in the near future.
It’s our strong recommendation that you should try to support companies that take those extra little steps to help ensure that your e-liquid contains nothing but quality.
Chinese, European or American: Where is the Best E-Liquid Made?
It’s vital to keep in mind that most e-liquid is really made in China. E-liquid companies tend to purchase e-liquid manufactured in China, put their own label on it and then sell it.
You’ll find that almost every company that specializes in selling e-cigarettes will usually have e-liquid that originates from China. VaporFi is a major exception.
If a company doesn’t say where their e-liquid is made, then it’s safe to assume that it was made in China.
While Chinese e-liquid isn’t necessarily bad, most e-smokers will tell you that it doesn’t taste as good as e-liquid made in America or Europe. You’ll find that most companies who specialize in e-liquid tend to produce their own product rather than purchasing it from China.