What Is Vape Liquid? *
Vape liquid, simply put, is the liquid in the cartridge that goes in electronic cigarettes. Also known as e-pens, e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookah and various other names, these devices are often used as an alternative to smoking tobacco products. With increasing popularity and so many products on the market, many people wonder what vape liquid is, how it works and whether it is safe to use.
How Vaping Works *
A cartridge of liquid is positioned into the electronic cigarette. A heating element, called an atomizer, is powered by a battery. The atomizer vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge and produces a mist that contains the nicotine, as well as other substances. The user inhales the mist and exhales the vaporized liquid as if they were smoking. The devices look like a traditional cigarette, a pen or a small LED flashlight.
Vape Liquid Ingredients *
The liquid in the cartridges and its ingredients vary. Most have a base of propylene glycol, which is classified by the FDA as GRAS, generally recognized as safe. Nicotine is extracted into this base. The liquid also contains varying amounts of coloring and flavoring. Cartridge producers offer several levels of nicotine content, including nicotine-free liquid, and numerous flavors, from traditional menthol to fruity flavors. The American Lung Association reports that over 500 brands exist and offer more than 7700 flavors. The ingredients in many of these are not entirely known and their effects not studied.
This leads to some of the controversy that does exist over the ingredients in vape liquids. With little to no regulation , the quality of ingredients varies greatly. Some studies have shown carcinogenic chemicals, like formaldehyde and anti-freeze ingredients in the products. It is also unknown if the amount of nicotine reported in the liquid is accurate.
The Safety of Vape Liquids *
These concerns lead to further questions on the safety of using e-cigarettes, particularly their liquid ingredients. While proponents say they are safer than traditional methods of smoking, the counter argument is that too little is known about their safety. Additives in the products might prove just as harmful as the additives in tobacco products. Also, the lack of regulation can allow suspicious ingredients to turn up in the liquids.
Some of the safety concerns of vaping liquids include:
- Unknown chemicals might be in the ingredients. Until tighter regulations occur, there is a concern over the chemicals in the ingredients and the lack of regulation.
- Carcinogens can be in the liquid, like the previously mentioned formaldehyde. Some studies have shown harmful chemicals, but proponents point out these occur in only a small sampling of products. This is definitely a safety concern for users of vape liquid and an area where quality control is needed.
- Flavor additives, while considered GRAS, are only labeled that way for safety in eating, not necessarily safe for inhalation. Further testing will help decide on the actual safety of these types of ingredients for inhalation. Until then, flavoring added to the vaping liquids should not be considered safe for inhaling.
- Poisoning by excessive consumption of nicotine can occur. How much nicotine is in the cartridges isn’t well-regulated. The CDC has reported an increase in nicotine poisoning with the use of electronic cigarettes and e-liquid. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include nausea and vomiting, and in extreme cases, seizures. Proper dosing, labeling and use reduce the risk of overdosing.
- Targeting children and teenagers with the flavors, creating an addiction in younger people, has many concerned. With flavors like bubble gum, red hot and gummy candy, e-cigarettes have some appeal to younger users who might dislike the traditional flavors of tobacco products.
Fortunately, studies are continuously being conducted on e-pens and their liquid to determine safety. This will also help provide some quality control as fears of chemical additives arise from the studies. Users can also take steps to ensure they use vape pens safely and in moderation.
Legality and Secondhand Exposure *
It is worth noting that many localities and states are banning vaping in public the same as they do smoking. Little is known about the safety of secondhand inhalation of e-cigarettes and their safety. Asthmatics and others with breathing difficulties might find the chemicals in the e-cigarette liquid irritating to inhale. Secondhand aerosol from vaping can contain nicotine, toxins, metals and ultrafine particles. All of these can cause health problems and are a primary reason for laws changing to include e-pens in smoking bans.
Secondhand aerosol has also been shown to contain at least 10 chemicals known as carcinogens and reproductive toxins. People who choose to use e-cigarettes should practice the same etiquette as smokers and avoid using around others who might be affected by the products, like children and pregnant women. People with lung conditions, asthma and pregnant women should treat e-pens as cigarttes and avoid their use.
Most vape liquid will contain nicotine, which is among the primary concerns of opponents of e-pens. Nicotine in any form is an addictive substance. While users believe vaping to be a safer form of using tobacco, the products containing nicotine are still addictive. This could prove a problem, especially to younger users, who would not otherwise develop an addiction to nicotine. They use e-pens believing they are safe and don’t realize the same addictive properties might be present.
While addictive, nicotine alone isn’t necessarily any more harmful than caffeine or other commonly used substances, and in some cases, even has positive benefits. It is the way it is used that is harmful. The substance, like many others, when used in moderation has little long-term consequence. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know exactly how harmful nicotine alone is because it is most commonly used in tobacco products that also contain other ingredients, from the additives in cigarette filters to the liquid components of electronic cigarettes.
Using Vape Liquid *
Liquid cartridges and flavor additives are available in many tobacco shops and Internet stores. To use any of the liquids, one must have one of the electronic devices to vaporize it. These are available for multiple uses or single uses and are also found in the same shops.
While not approved for use as an aid in smoking cessation, many do use e-cigarettes to reduce the amount they smoke tobacco. In some cases, they have assisted people in quitting. users can slowly decrease the amount of nicotine in the cartridges they use, weaning off of the addiction. Switching to e-pens can also reduce the health risks associated with smoking tobacco products, but further testing is needed to prove both the reduction in health risks and the use for smoking cessation.
Purchasing E-Pen Liquid *
To avoid some of the safety concerns, always purchase vape liquid from a reputable supplier. Look at reviews, check for tests and listen to word-of-mouth suggestions. This can reduce the risks of harmful chemicals or inaccurate labeling of nicotine levels. Because of the possible risk of GRAS ingredients, you might consider avoiding the flavored varieties until more accurate data is available on safety. As with any product that can potentially be harmful, use caution and common sense when purchasing vape liquid.
Can You Make Your Own Vape Liquid? *
The short answer is yes, but not without risk. The Internet is full of information on formulating e-liquids. As with most things, going the DIY route does have some benefits and risks. If you do make your own, you’ll have the quality control you desire to ensure every ingredient is safe and to your standards. Getting mixes exactly right, however, can be tricky. Nicotine poisoning is a risk and liquid nicotine can be extremely harmful. Always use safety precautions and the proper equipment if you make your own. Measure ingredients carefully and take your time. As with purchasing, use care when following a recipe. Make sure the recipe is well-tested and has evidence supporting the measurements.