Many people today are considering smoking alternatives to cigarettes with allegedly healthier, trendy new technologies such as electronic cigarettes. Early evidence suggests that e-cigarettes may be helpful for quitting smoking. Electronic cigarettes use special liquid solutions known as e-liquids which are vaporized by a battery powered atomizers that produce the sensation of smoking. Here is an overview of these solutions, what they are made of, how they taste and how to use them.
E-liquids are made of three primary ingredients: an atomizing base, flavoring, and nicotine. Liquids of a variety of flavors, base mixture, and nicotine strength are available. If the e-liquid is too thick for vaping, additives including distilled water, vodka or pure alcohol are used to dilute the solution.
Make sure to research the additives if you’re concerned about the health or flavor effects they may have. The base or carrier liquids, which makes up between 80 and 90% of the e-liquid formula, is either vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG) or a mixture of the two. VG and PG are non-toxic compounds found in, among other things, common food additives.
Propylene glycol has no taste or odor of its own, although it tends to have a stronger throat hit than VG. For this reason, some people choose VG for more sensitive throats. PG is runnier than VG, and is, therefore, more easily absorbed by the filter or wick in your ecig, they also mostly have lower densities which leads to less build-up of the heating element than with VG.
Vegetable glycerine is a thicker liquid with a sweeter flavor and potential to produce thicker vapor clouds than PG. Mixes of the two are most commonly sought as they mix vapor and throat hit. Common pre-mixed e-liquid ratios are 100% PG or VG, 50-50 PG/VG and 80-20 PG/VG.
With the FDA steadily banning flavored cigarettes, and many looking to avoid the health risks of hookahs, more are looking to browse e-cigs. The smoke and tobacco flavors combine with the vapor and throat hit to complete the experience. You can find almost every flavor imaginable, from tobaccos (e.g. American, Turkish) to fruits (e.g. pineapple, strawberry), nuts (e.g. almonds), spices (e.g. cloves) to green tea and gummy bears. Some flavors are more re-usable than others, as some can be very strongly flavored or sweet and so sit better with a few puffs. You can also mix flavors, making your own e-cig cocktails to discover new flavors and share them with your friends.
The paraphernalia used can subtly change the taste or vividness of the flavor. Unlike smoking, vaping doesn’t produce an unpleasant smoke for third parties and spares the risk for children, ex-smokers and the elderly of second-hand smoke. Furthermore, ecigs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, with a catalog that is steadily growing including some fashioned after cigars and pipes.
Finally, liquid nicotine makes up the end product. The amount of nicotine is printed on the bottle or packaging and is typically denoted as “mg/ml”. You can find all levels of nicotine, from 0 to 36 mg. Lower solutions range from 5-10 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid and are equivalent to ultra-light cigarettes. Medium strengths range from 10-14 mg. High or average smoking strength is 18mgs and extra-high juices range from 24-36 mg. Doses above 40 mg can be lethal. People can work their way up or down, going higher if you’re a heavier smoker or lower is you are smoking socially or going to zero if you want to quit the nicotine.
Finding your right nicotine level can be hard. Light-headedness or nausea is a good indication that you should lower your level, whereas if you are smoking to compensate you may want to increase your level. You will generally want to keep your nicotine levels in the same band or range irrespective of which flavor you are using, as you don’t want the flavor to mask and feeling nauseous. You may want to try experimenting with different levels of nicotine throughout the day in order to get better alertness at work, better sleep and other lifestyle goals.
There’s plenty more information online and vaping stores are more than happy to take your questions. If you are looking to transition from cigarettes or just getting started, consider what base mixture, flavor options and nicotine levels may be good for you!