If you’ve found yourself here, it’s likely that you know a thing or two about vaping. But on the off chance that you don’t, there are a few things you ought to acquaint yourself with.
And among the foremost is the concept of an ejuice.
So, what is an ejuice?
ejuice–also known as e-liquid, or vape juice, or just juice, or just liquid, or by a host of other names that no one expects you to memorise–is the fundamental ingredient in vaping. Without ejuice, your standard vaping rig is just a very small electric room heater, doing no one much good.
ejuices are liquids made with a base of either vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG), and flavoured with just about anything you can imagine, although VG and PG capture sweet flavours the best. ejuices also have small amounts of distilled water and other ingredients which tend to vary by manufacturer depending on the vapour they’re after.
PG vs VG
Let’s get the complicated stuff out of the way first. The main ingredients of ejuice aren’t the flavours themselves, but two compounds that give the ejuice its texture and feel: propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).
PG and VG tend to trip up new vapers, whether it’s because you can never nail down which one is which, or because they sound like the stuff that turned Mark Ruffalo into the Hulk. But the fact of the matter is that neither PG nor VG is particularly dangerous to humans at all.
Propylene glycol is great at binding to flavours and for simulating a ‘throat hit,’ which many ex-smokers seek out to emulate the feeling of cigarettes. PG is much thinner than VG, which makes it perfect for vaping kits with high-resistance, low-wattage coils and smaller batteries, like the Innokin T18.
All of this adds up to a much thinner vapour, however. So if you’re chasing clouds, you’re going to want to check out PG’s chunky brother, VG.
Vegetable glycerin is a derivative of vegetable oil, making is suitable for vegetarians and giving it an extremely low toxicity. It’s also much thicker than propylene glycol, which delivers a much smoother vape and bigger, thicker clouds.
High VG juices aren’t all smooth hits and huge clouds, though. Since they’re thicker, they need much more powerful coils to vaporise them, which means bigger batteries and lower resistances, commonly known as ‘sub-ohming,’ since the resistance on the coils is less than 1 ohm, and the wattage can grow to over 100W and beyond. Try using a high-VG ejuice in some clearomizers, for example, and they won’t work at all.
Very few ejuices are 100% VG or 100% PG, though. Like many things in life, balance is important. Some vape users prefer the throat hit or prefer a stealth vape, and so choose an ejuice with high PG. On the other hand, some vape users chase clouds or compete in cloud trick events, where the higher the VG, the better.
What’s all this about antifreeze?
You may have read about PG on the blog of some conspiracy alarmist or suburban mother advocating something called the ‘virgin grass diet’. Maybe the headline was something like, ‘Quit smoking by vaping antifreeze?’
Here’s the deal with PG and antifreeze.
PG is great at binding to water and lowering its freezing temperature, which makes it a great antifreeze. And it is an ingredient in a lot of commercial non-toxic antifreezes.
Where the confusion arises is when PG is conflated with its toxic relative, ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is also used as antifreeze, and will definitely mess you up if you consume it. But it’s about as different from propylene glycol as you can get.
Which is not to say that it’s completely harmless. In very large quantities, propylene glycol can cause some ill effects. On the other hand, water can also cause some ill effects in very large quantities.
In fact, it’s unlikely that you’d even be able to ingest enough PG to make you sick. Short of chugging two or three shortfills, you’d have to eat a few kilos of ice cream–and by that point, you might find yourself with bigger problems.
E-liquids and nicotine
Both VG and PG bind with nicotine quite well, but might find that high-VG juices tend to have lower nicotine strengths than high-PG ones. This is because high-VG ejuices tend to vaporise so much more liquid than a high-PG ejuice for any given hit—since the wattage is higher and the coils burn hotter. Inhaling that much vapour at, say, 18mg/ml concentration (common in high-PG juices) would just about blow your head off.