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.
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.
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).
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.
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.