Vaping 101: What’s in my e-juice?

Those people who are new to vaping often ask the question: What’s in my e-juice?  The Internet is chock full of conspiracy theories, like vape juices are made with formaldehyde (It’s not) to e-liquid is nothing more than water vapor (it isn’t).  Then there are those naysayers who will wrongly claim that no one really knowns what’s inside that tiny, glass bottle (wrong again).

There’s no real mystery here.  Most American-made e-liquids have just four ingredients: vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavorings, and maybe a dash of liquid nicotine solution.  Each of these ingredients are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and some of them are even used as ingredients in your favorite grocery store items.

Vegetable glycerin (VG)

Vegetable glycerin will be represented on your bottle’s label as VG.  Propylene glycol is represented as PG.  When purchasing e-juice online or in your local vape shop, the retailer will often provide the vaper the opportunity to purchase the same vape juice but with varying VG/PG rations.  For vegetable glycerin, the percentage can be as high as 80% VG to 20% PG.

Related Article: Vaping 101: How to pick the perfect PG/VG ratio for vaping the tastiest e-liquids

VG is non-toxic, colorless, and odorless.  It’s also a rather thick substance much like that of maple syrup.  In the non-vaping world, vegetable glycerin is often added to bakery items as a sweetener and to keep them moist.   E-juices with higher percentages of VG tend to produce thicker, more robust clouds.

Propylene glycol

PG is an alcohol, and much like VG, it is nearly odorless.  It’s also slightly sweet, but not enough that you will notice. In the non-vaping world, this alcoholic substance is often used in ice creams and cake mixes. 

Regarding the rumor that e-liquid is laced with antifreeze, this misconception stems for the fact that many brands of antifreeze have propylene glycol as one of their many, many ingredients.  In fact, the inclusion of PG in antifreezes is relatively new.  It was recent added as an alcoholic dilutive because  it is so safe for children and pets to ingest – should they do so by accident, of course.


The multitude of flavor profiles among vape juices is what makes vaping so attractive as a healthier and safer alternative to smoking.  From chocolate covered strawberry vapes to peach-flavored cheesecake, there’s something for everyone.  Unfortunately, many state and local governments are now trying to ban the sales of flavored e-liquids in the name of “teen vaping prevention.”  Be sure to know your legal rights in your region of residence before purchasing.

Liquid Nicotine

To be clear, not all vape juices contain liquid nicotine.  And some e-liquids contain more liquid nicotine than others.  Once again, manufacturers of e-juices will often give the vaper a choice of different variations of nicotine strength.  Options usually include 0ml, 3ml, 6ml, 9ml, and 12ml.  Some brands can go as high as 24ml or better. 

Related Article:  Vaping 101: 5 common mistakes that newbies should avoid

But for the newbie vaper buying their first bottle, choosing a 9ml or 12ml brand is usually best because it will have the same throat hit as a regular combustible tobacco cigarette.  Then – as you grow more accustomed to vaping – you can gradually decrease the nicotine strength until you are vaping zero-nicotine vape juice.  From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from quitting both smoking and vaping completely.


For the vaping novice, we recommend e-liquids that only consist of these four ingredients.  Avoid any vape juice with the ingredient diacetyl because it has been shown to be potentially carcinogenic when used over long periods.  American juice manufacturers never use this ingredient, but some of your foreign-made brands might.  Also avoid vaping “coffee” or “supplements” or “vitamins” or “dry herbs”...until you really know what you’re doing. 

Related Article:  Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson forces FDA to explain deadly e-cig regulations

(Images courtesy of Shutterstock)

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