Vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol and nicotine. These are the three base ingredients that all e-liquids have in common. Individually, they can be found in products that we encounter every single day; whether it's food, medicine, household products, or if you visited the hospital today - in the very air we breathe.
If these substances are so common and harmless, what's the big deal about everyone vaping it? Surely if the government wants to treat these devices and the liquids that go in them like actual cigarettes, they must be terrible, right? Let's talk about that.
With one of the oldest and largest research data volumes of any non-food substance that we encounter frequently, propylene glycol (PG) is what I believe to be the most important ingredient in e-liquid.
It does the heavy lifting: Keeping the solution together, carrying flavour and nicotine, as well as delivering the retired smoker that ever-sought-after throat hit. Too much of it, however, will make it uncomfortable to vape, while too little will cause certain parts of the liquid to fall out of solution and separate.
In effect, propylene glycol is inert, and can be found in a whole gamut of pharmaceutical applications: inhalers, injected with medications that cannot mix with water, and pumped into hospital air for purification are just a few of its uses.
Given that, it is worth mentioning the substance comes with absolutely no health-related concerns when used in any form. None. While it is possible to be sensitive to PG, it is not at all possible to be "allergic" or "intolerant" to it. The absolute worst thing that it does when vaporized is dry out your upper respiratory tract. Fortunately, it is not the only thing in e-liquid and one of the other major components helps counteract the dry throat.
Vegetable glycerine (VG) is major component No. 2. It can be considered mainly a filler, as it is less expensive than propylene glycol, and significantly smoother to vape.
When this industry was in its infancy, e-liquids were predominantly found in mix ratios that contained more PG than VG. These days, however, devices are leaps and bounds more powerful and are capable of producing more vapour at higher temperatures.
This has seen e-liquid manufacturers flip the mix ratio around completely. This is mainly because on its own, PG is harsh on the throat. The VG counteracts this harshness, providing a more of a moist feel in the mouth and throat.
VG is actually an alcohol and is not technically made from food products at all anymore. In fact, most manufacturers use pure synthetic pharmaceutical-grade glycerol these days.
Nicotine is the third and final ingredient absolutely all e-liquids have in common.
While nicotine itself is an addictive substance, its effects on the body are actually not much different than caffeine. They are both stimulants that increase heart rate, blood pressure and will absolutely make you sick in large enough dosages.
If you're not a smoker, but a heavy coffee drinker and you're reading this, think about that terrible headache and crankiness you feel when you haven't had a coffee yet. The lethargy, irritability and the feeling like you could snap on anyone for even the smallest reason - that's how a smoker feels when they go from lots of nicotine, straight down to none.
Clearly, it's not at all ideal to be addicted to anything. However, there are significantly worse things to be addicted to. Nicotine is not the bad guy here - it's the thousands of other chemical compounds that can be found in cigarettes that are released by combustion, or burning, the tobacco.
Matt Boucher is a vape enthusiast in Greater Sudbury. You can find him dispensing vaping wisdom and advice at Juice on the Loose on Barrydowne Road.