What is an e-liquid?

Behind its futuristic name, e-liquid refers to the solution used by vapers in electronic cigarettes to create vapor similar to that of traditional cigarette smoke. Composed of several chemical, organic and vegetable elements, the e-liquid carries aromas, nicotine and additives that will be released in the form of an aerosol once vaporized. It is from the dosage of these different components that the flavor, the texture and the sensations released by the e-liquid change. Let’s take a closer look!

The e-liquid and its components

Many people are asking questions about the content of these famous solutions for electronic cigarettes, particularly in terms of their chemical formulas, their contribution to vapor and, to a large extent, their effects on health (toxicological report ).

To answer these questions, we are going to list the different elements that make up e-liquids, starting from the base, the flavors, the nicotine and finally the additives.

1-      The base

The concept of the electronic cigarette is centered on the imitation of the texture of the smoke of the traditional cigarette. In this case, the objective of any electronic cigarette is to create vapor faithful to the image of smoke, without transporting the 4000 toxins from combustible tobacco.

To do this, the e-liquid intended for vaporization must include elements capable of bringing out this thick and dense vapor, and it is from a mixture of Propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable Glycerin (VG) that this can be made possible. Used together as the base of any e-liquid, these two elements are both responsible for creating vapor and diluting other accessory elements.

- What is Propylene Glycol?     

This may be the first time you’ve heard of propylene glycol, yet it’s found every day in a variety of household and industrial products. Registered under the code E490, propylene glycol is notably present in our gourmet sauces, our seasonings and even our shampoos and other face creams.

Chemically, the product is classified in the family of alcohols in the form of diol. Its role of emulsifier, preservative and dilution will allow the ingredients to weld together and prevent all kinds of mould.

In the field of vaping, propylene glycol is therefore the chemical element that will allow the aroma, nicotine and additive molecules (alcohol, water, sweetener, etc.) to fit together to form a whole during the vaporization.

Of course, heating and inhaling propylene glycol does not expose the vaper to the risk of poisoning, given that it is used in many food formulas. In the same section, vaporized propylene glycol is also present in nightclubs through smoke machines, so anyone who has visited this kind of place will have already vaped once in their life.

- What is vegetable glycerin?      

A faithful companion of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin is the other base of any e-liquid. In everyday life, it is encountered as a humectant for cosmetic products, because its architecture allows it to retain water. As a result, it is products that require constant hydration that are affected by vegetable glycerin.

On the chemical side, vegetable glycerin is known as propane 1,2,3-triol, trihydroxypropane or even E422 according to the information printed on the bottles and boxes of food products. And yes ! vegetable glycerin is edible and in no way exposes the consumer to toxic risks!

In the world of vaping, vegetable glycerin helps in the dilution of accessory ingredients, in the extraction of active ingredients, in the sweetening of the solution and finally in the creation of vapor. The viscous property of vegetable glycerin in particular allows the cigarette to create a lot of vapors, once the solution is exposed to the heating resistance.

- How to dose the PG/VG base of an e-liquid?       

Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin act differently on the rendering and texture of electronic cigarette vapor. On the one hand, the PG will be called upon to release and accentuate the flavors and sensations such as the hit (tingling sensation in the throat when inhaling the vapor). On the other hand, VG will be recommended to make the vapor denser and sweeter.

To find the right PG/VG configuration of an e-liquid, you have to take into account the type of aroma, as well as the dose of nicotine and the additives used. The more an e-liquid base will be rich in PG, the more the hit and the flavors will be explosive, also the less expressive flavors such as drinks, mint, candies will no longer need PG, only VG. Otherwise, an e-liquid flavored with fruit, tobacco, or gourmet aromas (gourmet dishes, pastries, etc.) is more appreciated through a thick and crunchy vapor… so no more VG!

In the end, the PG/VG dosage depends on what the vaper expects from his e-liquid. In the majority of cases, the bases are balanced (50/50% – 40/60%) for a better experience. That said, some e-liquids intended for the creation of vapor, or flavor can have more extreme ratios like high-PG or high-VG solutions (ratio 10/90% or even 100%).

2-      Flavors

The electronic cigarette is acclaimed by smokers seeking weaning due to its nicotine supply system, which is substantially similar to traditional cigarettes, but also due to the use of flavorings as substitutes.

In practice, the electronic cigarette allows the vaper-smoker to gradually quit nicotine by discovering the flavors and sensations offered by e-liquids via aromas. Generally, first-time vapers can rely on so-called tobacco flavors to avoid too abrupt a transition and continue the experience with more exotic flavors and sensations.

- Flavors classified by origin       

Like propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, the aroma used in the electronic cigarette is subject to debate among new vapers. It should therefore be known that the aroma for e-liquid has multiple origins (organic, vegetable, synthetic), however, its dilution then its vaporization in an electronic cigarette does not put the vaper in danger.

On the one hand, we will therefore list the so-called food flavors, which represent the majority of the flavors used in vaping solutions. Here, the solution is similar to that found in pastries, confectionery and other basic food products, such as yogurts and all products requiring a certain personality. In a general context, industrial e-liquids use these food flavorings to reassure customers of the healthy nature of the juice, this being said, the latter are not healthier than those manufactured for other purposes (industrial and other).

On the other hand, the aromas used in the vape can be synthetic, that is to say chemically designed in laboratories. Of course, synthetic flavors are no less effective and healthy than food flavors, so the difference between the two will mainly lie in a budget framework (flavor synthesis is less expensive for large-scale e-liquid manufacturers ). To obtain a synthetic aroma, the laboratories proceed to the flavoring preparation resulting from chemical substances, that is to say artificial molecules which do not exist in the ecosystem of the earth. To this end, flocked “tequila”, “cotton candy”, “pizza” or even “popcorn” flavors can only emerge on the basis of synthetic flavours.

- Aromas are classified by flavor   

The exploitation of aromas knows no limits in the world of vaping. Unlike the cosmetic field, the world of electronic cigarettes affects both the sense of taste and the sense of smell, so the aromas of e-liquids play several roles in satisfying the human brain. In this perspective, e-liquid manufacturers have engaged in a frantic search for aromas that can cover unorthodox flavors in order to trigger different feelings in vapers. Here are some representative categories of current e-liquid flavors:

So-called ” classic ” tobacco (white, brown),  gourmet (pastries, confectionery, gastronomy in general),  fruity (all exotic and seasonal fruits ranging from simple mangoes to East Asian dragon fruits), drinks  (famous soft or fruit drinks, alcohol, beer, etc.), and much more…

3-      Nicotine

Nicotine is the raison d’etre of the electronic cigarette, at least in its original design. Indeed, the first designers of e-liquid rarely asked themselves the question about the type of flavor to introduce into their formulas, because at the very beginning, the electronic cigarette was perceived as a provider of a healthy nicotine substitute.

For the majority of vapers-smokers in the process of transition, access to the nicotine present in e-liquids is essential. In the design (artisanal or industrial) of e-liquids, manufacturers thus use liquid nicotine to satisfy the needs of tobacco addicts in remission.

Like the aromas and basic ingredients of e-liquid, nicotine is subject to a precise dosage so as not to affect the efficiency of the rendering. On the other hand, nicotine is an addictive substance and harmful to human health in case of overdose. Indeed, an inhalation of nicotine up to 35 mg / ml could cause a lot of damage in the immune system and the brain of man. In the case of European Union countries, a specific law on tobacco products prohibits the dosage of nicotine in e-liquids at less than 20 mg/ml, which is quite reasonable for any smoker-vaper, knowing that A cigarette stalk contains on average between 6 and 17 mg.

Note that e-liquids sold by approved manufacturers (and subject to the Tobacco Products Act) offer a variable nicotine range ranging from 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 16 to 18 mg per ml. In this perspective, the vaper will have the opportunity to calibrate his vape nicotine with the one he is used to inhaling through tobacco smoke.

Moreover, the role of nicotine is not limited to satisfying the brain during vaping sessions. In this case, this substance also acts on the taste and the sensation perceived by the vaper by accentuating the hit, which is none other than the sensation of scratching in the throat (just to simulate the inhalation of smoke). By putting more nicotine in an e-liquid (or when it is pre-nicotinized at more than 12 mg/ml by the manufacturer) this sensation of hit is more present. However, some first-time vapers do not support the overly aggressive scratching effect of certain e-liquids, so it is possible to choose nicotine-based formulas called “salts” which are less characterful compared to basic liquid nicotine. .

4-      Additives

Aromas like nicotine are therefore enough to give personality to an e-liquid. But what about when a composer is looking to accentuate a particular flavor in their in-house formula? In this case, there are accessory products (sold by electronic cigarette professionals) intended to multiply certain characteristics such as acidity, sugar, freshness, spiciness, etc.

Among the most famous additives used in the e-liquid market, we find flavor enhancers, alcohol and water. Initially, the enhancer acts on the molecules of the e-liquid, like multipliers of the active principle. Thus, a fairly bland e-liquid can be sweetened more than 600 times thanks to an additive like the ”  sweetener” while a gourmet e-liquid can be adorned with a vanilla and cinnamon flavor through additives like ” vanillin “. In a second step, the sensations can also be accentuated by adding alcohol, or reduced by adding water. Be careful, however, not to experiment with these additives without knowing the dosages and their effects.