Vaporizers and the voluminous clouds they produce seem to all over the atmosphere: At least 10 percent of Americans report using e-cigarettes and vapes on the daily, according to a Reuters poll, and the global e-juice market is booming.
Many folks have been able to jettison their cigarette habit for vaping, and new research suggests that e-cigs and vapes can cause smokers drop their habit when they aren't even trying. (Are you interested in using vaping to quit smoking? Here's how to get started!)
But most of us still want to know what exactly is the stuff that gets vaporized and makes those big billows of steam: Is it safe? Is it addictive? Will it cause hair to grow out of my ears? Let's find out!
Also known as e-liquid, nicotine fluid or vape juice, e-juice is the substance that goes in the cartridge of your favorite vaporizer. The vape battery heats the liquid to 100–250 °C (212-482 °F; in other words, to a rolling boil) and creates a vapor, which is then inhaled (and exhaled, of course.)
I'm Inhaling What?
E-juice is comprised of just four main ingredients: Water, propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine and flavorings, which provide infinite combinations of tastes and aromas.
We're going to assume you know what water is and that it transforms into a gaseous state when boiled, so let's dial in on the other stuff:
Propylene glycol (PG) is a clear, odorless, flavorless stabilizing liquid synthesized in laboratories for all kinds of uses, including to help the body absorb medicine and as a humectant to keep hand sanitizers from drying out.
While there has been much ado about PG's (non-toxic) presence in anti-freeze, it's approved as safe by the Food & Drug Administration and can be found in essential food groups like ice cream, whipped cream and that ice latte you just grabbed from the corner market.
Together with varying amounts of vegetable glycerin (VG), it forms the base of e-liquids. It's what gives vaping that satisfying mouthfeel.
Vegetable glycerin (VG) has a slightly-sweet flavor and serves a similar role in many of modern life's important consumables: It's what keeps toothpaste goopy and sweet rolls chewy, and it's used as a filler for low-carb snacks. Some VG is manufactured in labs, but most is organic matter derived from plant and animal sources. Think of it as PG's hippie little sister.
Because VG is more viscous than PG, it produces a denser vapor and is what's behind the most glorious lung clouds. Because it's so thick, however, for vaping purposes it has to be diluted with its thinner, more scientific sibling, PG.
Nicotine is a naturally-occurring alkaloid that acts as a stimulant to the mammalian nervous system. Hells yeah, it's addictive, according to every independent research study ever. But some e-liquids are offered with a varying amount of nicotine, giving consumers power over how much nicotine they're inhaling while still maintaining full vape satisfaction.
By lessening the dosage of nicotine in each e-juice variant, vape enthusiasts can decrease their chemical dependency on nicotine and enjoy their lives, addiction-free.
Flavorings are chemicals from natural or artificial sources that are isolated in a lab and compounded for things like bubble gum and potato chip seasonings. They also make vaping e-liquid a delicious experience. Food-grade flavorings do not need FDA approval as all of the processes and ingredients used in their creation are deemed GRAS, or "generally regarded as safe."
So, is e-juice safe or what?
While concerns about vaping e-juice remain in conversation and the effects of long-term consumption have yet to be studied, most of us imbibe some form of its components every day without detriment.
The risk of addiction is real due to the presence of nicotine, though consumers have the option of dialing back the nicotine levels to zero, eliminating the property within e-juice that causes chemical dependency.
Without question, e-juice is not deemed safe for children and young people and we do not condone underage vaping whatsoever. (We use BlueCheck technology to verify that those purchasing e-juice from our site are over 18.)
Keeping that in mind, e-juice is enjoyed by millions without harm. And of this writing, not a single case of ear hair has been documented.