What's in an E-Liquid?

In this blog we talk about the raw materials used in E-Liquids and how they are made. We also discuss some safety concerns for E-Liquid consumers and why manufacturing standards are important.

Here at Lion Labs we take great pride in our E-Liquid manufacturing standards. We have a world-class laboratory here in New Zealand! We manufacture all our products in our high-spec clean room and use pharmaceutical grade raw materials in all our E-Liquids. There are currently no regulations for the manufacturing of E-liquids in New Zealand, and this is a big problem for the integrity of the industry as a whole.

Here at Lion Labs we take great pride in our E-Liquid manufacturing standards. We have a world-class laboratory here in New Zealand! We manufacture all our products in our high-spec clean room and use pharmaceutical grade raw materials in all our E-Liquids. There are currently no regulations for the manufacturing of E-liquids in New Zealand, and this is a big problem for the integrity of the industry as a whole.

What is in E-Liquid?

There are four main raw ingredients that go into any one batch of E-liquid: Vegetable Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Flavour concentrate and Nicotine. These are mixed together, bottled into the various sizes and steeped before they are available on the market.

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Vegetable Glycerine

Commonly referred to by vapers as VG, vegetable glycerine is made by heating triglyceride rich vegetable fats such as palm, soy and coconut oils under extreme pressure. The heat and pressure causes the vegetable glycerine to split away from fatty acids and mix together with water, forming an odourless, sweet-tasting syrup like liquid. Vegetable glycerine is widely used in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries, for example in food as a sweetener or to keep cakes moist. Vegetable glycerine is added to E-liquid to produce the dense vapour clouds we love so much. Lion Labs uses VG of the highest quality certified to be 99.7% pure USP pharmaceutical grade (United States Pharmacopeia).

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Propylene Glycol

Otherwise known by the vaping community as PG, propylene glycol is a synthetic organic compound with the chemical formula C3H8O2, making it technically an alcohol. Like VG, PG is also clear and odourless but with a more subtle sweetness. Along with E-Liquid, PG is used for personal care products, ice cream, coffee based drinks, dairy products and soft drinks. PG is an important component that helps carry the flavour in E-Liquid. It produces less visible vapour clouds and provides the soft throat hit that helps replicate the feeling of smoking. You might notice when vaping a high PG E-Liquid that you get a sharper throat hit. The best thing about PG is that it carries flavour, almost all of the flavour concentrates come diluted in PG for this reason. Lion Labs uses 99.8% pure USP grade propylene glycol in all its E-Liquid.


Flavour concentrates/additives

E-Liquid manufacturers use food grade, FDA approved, European Commission approved or equivalent flavourings when making E-Liquid. Flavour concentrates can be natural or artificial, they are the ingredient with the most uncertainty because there are so many different types. It is important to understand the compounds used in flavours and use trusted components in the manufacturing of E-Liquids or vape juice.

An example of an additive with concerns is butter flavouring, which contains diacetyl. This compound is used in popcorn flavouring and is harmless when eaten, but when inhaled all-day every-day by popcorn factory workers it is a health risk. Popcorn-lung (or bronchiolitis obliterans) is a real health issue, however it is a condition that has never been reported by a single vaper from vaping. Regardless, flavours which contain diacetyl are not used by most manufacturers the world over, the EU even outlawed diacetyl from nicotine E-Liquids.

Lion Labs supplies white label flavour concentrates that are imported from the EU. Coming from the EU they benefit from having to comply with the strict E-Liquid regulations in that part of the world. We only supply flavours that have had Toxicological Risk Assessments undertaken to make sure they meet certain Health Criteria Values. This means they have been tested to comply with TPD (Tobacco Products Directive) regulations and all harmful compounds identified are removed before going to market. Emissions testing can be a headache for E-Liquid manufacturers but is most definitely a good thing for consumers. It is expensive, but it’s built confidence in the quality of E-Liquids in Europe where it has done a lot to combat the vacuous “we don’t know what’s in it” argument.


You will find nicotine in many E-Liquids and this is what makes vaping such an effective replacement for smoking tobacco cigarettes. Although, if you read the headlines you might think nicotine is a dangerous drug, it really is as harmless as caffeine when consumed in the low concentrations found in E-Liquids. Smoking causes cancer from breathing in combusted tobacco smoke and other harmful additives that make cigarettes burn faster. Nicotine is not a carcinogen and is not harmful when used responsibly. You can find nicotine in tomato, potato, eggplant (aubergine), and green peppers, but, nicotine used in E-Liquid manufacturing is still derived from the tobacco plant. Tobacco is grown all over the world from the USA to India to Zimbabwe. Lion Labs sources its liquid nicotine from the USA, Switzerland and the EU.

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New Zealand Government Endorses Vaping to Quit

The New Zealand Government launched an initiative to set the record straight about vaping and demonstrates how smokefree 2025 is achievable

The Ministry of Health — Manatū Hauora and the Health Promotion Agency/Te Hiringa Hauora have launched Vaping Facts, an initiative designed to dispel the myths and rumours surrounding vaping.

The website is written for the general public and provides clear and accurate information on the different types of vaping products available on the market. Importantly, this move gives a clear position of the status of vaping from the Government and dispels the misinformation around vaping safety.

The site is broken down into three sections:

1. Vaping facts - The vaping facts section gives clear evidence-based information on the known benefits of vaping E-Liquids as a smoking cessation tool. There is also general information around vaping including the various types of E-Liquid devices on the market.

On her Journey to quit smoking Kura talks to Professor Hayden McRobbie about vaping as an option to quit. (Credit to vapingfacts.health.nz)

2. Vaping vs smoking – This HPA demonstrates the benefits of switching from smoking tobacco to vaping E-Liquid. It covers information about nicotine consumption and the feel and costs & benefits of switching. The relative harm graph below (taken from the vaping facts site) shows that vaping is 95-98% less harmful than smoking – a fact made know by years of Public Health England research. This information is helpful for ex-smokers and for never-smokers that question those making the switch (we have all heard someone say “I hear vaping is worse for you than smoking”, which is, of course, wildly incorrect).

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3. Vaping to quit smoking - Here the Government compares vaping to other ways of quitting smoking like nicotine replacement therapy, cold turkey and stop smoking medicines. Its outlines how you can keep the social side of smoking by vaping to quit and shows evidence that vaping is almost twice as effective for people trying to quit.

“E-cigarettes were more effective for smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, when both products were accompanied by behavioral support.” -   A Randomized Trial of E-Cigarettes versus Nicotine-Replacement Therapy

“E-cigarettes were more effective for smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, when both products were accompanied by behavioral support.” - A Randomized Trial of E-Cigarettes versus Nicotine-Replacement Therapy

Overall, this initiative from the Government is positive. It signals progress on regulatory compliance process in New Zealand. It also highlights the lack of quality assurance and E-Liquid manufacturing standards in the current state of the market.

The next step in the process is for proposed E-Liquid regulations to be released for consultation. Keep an eye on our site for our next update where we explore the lack of standards in the E-Liquid industry, what we can expect from vaping regulations and how this will impact vapers, E-Liquid retailers and E-Liquid manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia.

Cahn McKenzieComment
A Short History of Vaping

All we have today in terms of Vaping can be traced back to one single visionary, Hon Lik a Chinese pharmacist and tinkerer. Hon was spurred on not only by his steady decline in health, but the fact he had seen his own father die early due to lung cancer he knew there had to be a solution. Hon started his quest in early 2003 and by 2006 had the worlds first smokeless cigarette that was ready to go to market. The first E-Cigarette was relatively simple: it contained a battery, a single cartridge which held the first coil and a mix of nicotine solution suspended in propylene glycol. No flavour was included in the first prototype as Hon deemed it unnecessary, oh how things have changed!

Whilst Hon’s E-Cigarette was revolutionary, like all good things it has improved over time. Box-mods, Mech-mods, Sub-Ohm, DTL, MTL, Salt NIC, Freebase and Squonking is one hell of a mouthful. The acronyms can seem intimidating to the first time vaper but they needn’t be, each device was developed to suit a certain type of E-liquid. This blog will take a look back at the evolution of E-liquid and subsequent Vaping devices.

The dark ages of vaping

The dark ages of vaping


Disposable E-Cigarretes (Cig-A-Likes)

Much like Edmund Hillary’s first climb was at his school playground todays high end vaping device had to start somewhere too. Sleek and modeled off a Tailor made Cigarette the first Cig-A-Likes were Slim and similar in shape and size to a conventional cigarette. Unfortunately, they were only single use with tiny battery capacity and once the E-liquid ran out you had to throw away the cartridge. It was unlikely the battery would last you longer than a day and carrying around the wall charger was hardly ideal.

The e-liquid range itself was very limited in flavour and cloud production. It wasn’t long before users demanded something better and their thirst for new technology meant both devices and their E-liquids simply had to evolve.

Gen 2: The first evolution

Gen 2: The first evolution


Due to the demand for new and wonderful flavours and variable nicotine strengths the next evolution in vape devices needed a refillable tank and replaceable coil.

Now that you could add any type of e-liquid into these devices a whole new subcategory of vendors would flourish. E-liquid manufacturing companies started to pop up all over the place. These new manufacturers started making e-liquids that had complex flavours, higher/lower nicotine strengths and even mixed up the PG/VG ratios.

Vaping had just become customisable, vapers could decide how much nicotine they needed, and in which flavour they liked to vape this with, not only that but they could also decide how much throat hit they wanted by adjusting the PG level!

A common myth with vaping is for first timers to choose their device first and then pick and e-liquid they like to go in it, this is absolutely the wrong way to do it! You need to choose an e-liquid that suits your vaping palate first and then find a device that will work well with your e-liquid. Too often vapers will buy the wrong device for the wrong e-liquid and end up back smoking their old reliable Port Royal pouch within the week.

There was already a thriving community of vendors who operated in a somewhat legal grey area, but in June 2018 a court case known as Ministry of Health v Philip Morris made it clear cut: vaping (and heat-not-burn tobacco products) were legal! Despite winning the case, Phillip Morris bowed out - citing uncertainties around the unregulated market. We should be proud of the first E-Liquid manufacturing companies in New Zealand. They took the pioneering steps to build the industry from the ground up and it has been a long road from 0 to over 200,000 vaping, ex-smokers at NO cost to the tax payer! Impending regulations will raise the standard in E-Liquid manufacturing, marketing and devices, the New Zealand Government is finally getting its act together to protect vapers and not demonise them.


E-liquid development has evolved rapidly in the last few years. Nicotine salts have surpassed flavour chasing and sub-ohm vaping as the most talked about breakthrough since Hon Lik puffed away on his first Cig-a-like. There is big future for all of these useful tools for ex-smokers to live healthier lifestyles.

Current legislation in some parts of the world associates E-Liquid with tobacco and this means sharing the same harsh penalties that tobacco smokers face. We need to break the association with tobacco smoking if we want vaping to come out of the shadows and into the limelight it deserves in the medical world. If you can help your vaping brothers and sisters around the world then do what you can, recommend flavours, devices, sign a petition, or even write a letter to your local politician if you live in one of these places.

The future of E-liquids in New Zealand will see a major change in the manufacturing standards. Vapers need to know the juice they are puffing on has been made in strict quality controlled conditions, simple things like batch tracking, clean production environments and emissions testing are on the horizon. Keep an eye out for the opportunity to submit your opinion on E-Liquids and vaping to the NZ Government when they formally announce the proposed regulations in late 2019.

It’s been less than two decades since Hon Liks first cloud and we have already achieved so much together, where do you see vaping going in the next two decades? Let us know in the comments below.