E-liquid is very important in vaping – after all, you can’t vape without it!
If you’re not sure what e-liquid is and haven’t gotten to grips with the terminology, choosing the right one can be tricky.
To help with this, we’ve put together a handy guide to all things e-liquid – answering the most common questions to get you completely clued up
Put simply, e-liquid is the liquid you put into your vaping device. The e-liquid inside your device is what produces the vapour you inhale and exhale and also provides flavour and nicotine (if applicable).
How does e-liquid work?
E-liquid is poured into the pod or tank of your device. When the device is fired, the heating element increases temperature and heats the liquid to create vapour. This vapour is then inhaled by the user through a mouthpiece before being exhaled.
Is e-liquid the same as vape juice/vape liquid?
This question always arises when someone is new to vaping. E-liquid has many alternative names – with ‘vape liquid’, ‘e-juice’, ‘mod juice’ and ‘vape juice’ being some of the most common. But, these are all referring to the same thing – the liquid you use in a vaping device.
How much does e-liquid cost?
Another common question – but one without a definitive answer. Like any product, e-liquid does not have one single price. Depending on the brand, product, quality etc, a bottle of e-liquid can cost anything from a couple of pounds up to £12+ a bottle for more premium brands. As is the case with any consumer product – it’s up to you to choose how much you want to spend and what you choose to buy.
What ingredients are in e-liquid?
E-liquids are typically created with 3 or more components. The primary ingredients you’ll find in most e-liquids are:
Vegetable Glycerine (VG)
Vegetable Glycerin (VG) is a water-soluble, non-toxic chemical that you will find as a sweetener, thickener and moisture retainer in many foodstuffs, medicines and cosmetics. It is a thick, odourless, colourless liquid which has a slightly sweet taste and is used within e-liquids for its thickening properties. In e-liquid, VG is what produces vapour clouds.
Propylene Glycol (PG)
Propylene Glycol is an odourless liquid that you will find as an ingredient in many foods and medicines. Thinner than Vegetable Glycerine, its purpose within e-liquids is to carry flavour (and nicotine) as well as providing a ‘throat hit’ when vaping.
Flavouring makes up around 10% of an e-liquid. The flavouring in e-liquid is vital to the experience of vaping – providing vapers with flavours that replicate foods and drinks to make the process more enjoyable.
Nicotine (Optional ingredient)
The final (optional) ingredient in e-liquids is nicotine. Nicotine is the addictive ingredient you find in cigarettes and is included in e-liquids at different strengths (see below) to satisfy the cravings of smokers who are switching to vaping. For non-smokers who are vaping purely for enjoyment, it is best to avoid e-liquids containing nicotine due to its addictive quality.
VG:PG ratios in e-liquid
You’ll find the ratio of Vegetable Glycerin and Propylene Glycol in e-liquids displayed as VG: PG XX: XX – adding up to 100 (e.g VG: PG 50:50 / 60:40 / 70:30).
The VG:PG ratio of your vape juice will determine many factors of your vaping experience – including how flavoursome it is, how much vapour it produces and how strong the ‘throat hit’ is.
Choosing the right VG:PG ratio
The VG:PG ratio of e-liquid you choose depends on what you are looking for in your vaping experience as well as the device you are using. Do you vape for the flavour, the vapour clouds or the throat hit?
For flavour: If you’re looking for maximum flavour from your e-liquid you would want to choose a vape juice with a ratio of around 50:50 as PG is the liquid that carries and enhances the flavour of a blend, whilst VG produces the vapour which makes the flavour more intense. However, a higher VG e-liquid, such as shortfill blends can provide very intense flavour due to its large vapour production.
For vapour: For an e-liquid that produces larger, denser clouds of vapour, you would want to choose a blend with a higher VG ratio. If you’re looking to be more discreet when vaping, a higher PG liquid will help keep cloud production lower.
For throat hit: A big factor for former smokers who want to replicate the physical feel of smoking, those looking for a stronger throat hit when will need a higher PG e-liquid. See more about throat hit below.
The device you choose to use your vape juice in and the coil resistance within the device will also influence the VG:PG ratio you choose as certain devices and coils will work best with certain e-liquids depending on their ratio.
Types of e-liquid
As each vaper is different, the e-liquid market has had to expand its product offerings to suit their diverse needs. This is why there are now a range of different e-liquid options out there.
The most common e-liquid variety on the market are 10ml e-liquids. Known as ‘freebase’ nicotine liquids, they are available in a range of flavours, VG:PG ratios and nicotine strengths and traditionally deliver a substantial throat hit. These liquids were, at first, available in larger sizes but were eventually restricted to the 10ml bottle size due to TPD regulations.
Who would use 10ml e-liquids?
10ml e-liquids are suitable for vapers who require nicotine in their e-liquids.
While traditional e-liquids contain freebase nicotine, this variety of e-liquid contains salt nicotine. Salt nicotine has a different chemical makeup which delivers the nicotine to the bloodstream more quickly. Salt nicotine e-liquids deliver a different vaping experience to traditional e-liquids that more closely resembles the strength of cigarette smoking – with a more intense hit of nicotine per inhale and a smoother throat hit.
Nicotine salts are, again, available in 10ml bottles and in a variety of flavours and strengths to suit your preferences.
Who would use nicotine salts?
Nicotine salts are ideal for vapers who are looking for high levels of nicotine per puff without having to endure a super-harsh throat hit. This is a great option for former heavy smokers.
Nicotine salts vs Freebase e-liquid: What’s the difference?
As mentioned above, the difference between freebase nicotine and salt nicotine lays in both their chemical makeup and their effects. In basic terms, salt nicotine is stronger and absorbs nicotine into the bloodstream more quickly, providing a more intense blast of nicotine with a smoother throat hit than freebase nicotine e-liquids.
Shortfills are the name for nicotine-free e-liquids. As the regulations placed on 10ml bottles do not apply to nicotine-free e-liquids, you will find shortfills in larger bottles (usually 50ml servings). Whilst shortfills are nicotine-free, you can add nicotine content to them with the use of nicotine shots (see below). To facilitate this, the bottles come in a larger size than the 50ml serving to leave space for nicotine shots (hence the name ‘shortfill’).
Who would use shortfills?
As Shortfills usually come in higher VG ratios, they are perfect for those vapers who want large vapour clouds and those who use powerful devices. Thanks to their larger size, they are also more economical for use with more ‘juice thirsty’ devices as they will last longer.
Nicotine shots, also known as ‘nic shots’ or ‘nicotine boosters’, are bottles of flavourless, liquidised nicotine usually provided in 10ml bottles. Nicotine shots come in a range of strengths (the most common being 18mg) and are designed to be mixed with shortfills to add extra nicotine at your discretion to create a larger bottle of nicotine-inclusive e-liquid than the standard 10ml versions.
As most 50ml shortfills are provided in 60ml bottles, this leaves room to add a 10ml nicotine shot to your desired strength. For example, adding a 10ml, 18mg strength nicotine shot to your 50ml shortfill will create 60mls of 3mg strength e-liquid.
Who would use nicotine shots?
Nicotine shots are great for vapers looking to add extra nicotine to their favourite shortfill blend and want control over how much nicotine their e-liquid contains.
E-liquid concentrates are ready mixed flavourings that replicate popular blends and can be added to base e-liquid to create your own blends. Unlike flavourings made for food items, e-liquid concentrates are created specifically for vaping and do not contain PG, VG or nicotine – meaning they fall outside of the 10ml restrictions of TPD regulations and can be sold in larger bottles (usually 30ml).
Who would use e-liquid concentrates?
E-liquid concentrates are great for vapers who like to mix their own blends but want to take some of the guesswork out of trying to replicate their favourite flavours. Please note: e-liquid concentrates shouldn’t be vaped directly and should only be used when mixed with e-liquid.
Nicotine strengths in e-liquids
As mentioned above, some e-liquids contain nicotine at different strengths. For vapers to satisfy their nicotine cravings, particularly when applied to those switching from a smoking habit to vaping, it is important to choose the correct nicotine strength e-liquid.
The nicotine strength someone chooses will depend on the level of nicotine required to satisfy their cravings – with a heavier smoker needing a higher strength than a lighter smoker.
Nicotine strength is determined by the amount of nicotine per ml of liquid – with a higher value meaning a higher nicotine content. You will find the nicotine strength of your e-liquid displayed on the packaging – with common strengths being 3mg, 6mg, 12mg and 18mg.
One big difference between vaping and cigarettes is the flavour element. Whilst cigarettes only come in tobacco flavour (especially since the banning of menthol cigarettes in the UK in 20202), e-liquids come in an almost unlimited variety of flavours which make them a lot more tasty than smoking cigarettes. You will find e-liquids with a single flavour or a mixture that layers multiple flavours (known as ‘blends’).
Whilst there are tobacco-flavoured e-liquids available which replicate cigarette smoking, many blends will replicate the flavours of popular foods and beverages. Some of the blend options you will find include; fruit, candy, dessert and beverage flavours.
Which e-liquid flavour is best?
Like most things in life that you consume (food, drink etc) the flavour of vape juice you choose is, ultimately, down to your personal preference.
The trend for most former smokers switching to vaping is to start with tobacco or menthol flavours as these most closely replicate the experience of smoking. As they continue to vape, many will start experimenting with other flavours and creating their own flavours through mixing. However, some research has found that beginning with a non-tobacco flavour can make switching more successful. So, it may be worth opting for a different flavour than tobacco for your vape juice.
E-liquid throat hit
When switching from smoking to vaping, missing the physical sensations that come with smoking can be one of the hardest parts. This includes missing the ‘throat hit’ – that feeling you get at the back of your throat you get when inhaling smoke from a cigarette. To prevent former smokers from reaching for a packet of cigarettes to achieve this sensation, e-liquids need to provide an adequate throat hit.
E-liquid for a stronger throat hit
E-liquids with a higher nicotine strength (such as nicotine salts), will provide a bigger throat hit than lower nicotine blends. The VG:PG ratio and flavour of your e-liquid will also impact the throat hit you get – higher VG liquids will give a more noticeable hit than higher PG liquids and tobacco- flavoured or sweeter blends (such as dessert or candy varieties) will also give a stronger sensation on the throat when vaping.
How to store e-liquid
The general rule of storing e-liquid is to try and keep it in a cool, dark place (think a drawer, cupboard or even a fridge) and to ensure the lid is kept on tightly.
As with any consumable product such as food and drink, how you store your vape juice will affect its condition and how long it lasts. Storing e-liquid in the wrong conditions can affect the liquid’], its taste and colour.
The three elements that will affect your vape juice are; heat, light and air. Extended exposure to too much heat or light (particularly UV rays, such as in direct sunlight) will cause the chemical elements to start ‘breaking down’ into smaller molecules – which will eventually affect the taste of the liquids. Meanwhile, air exposure will affect your e-liquid by exposing the liquid to oxygen – which reacts with nicotine to create cointine. This oxidation will then cause the nicotine to break down over time. This can be easily avoided by ensuring you tightly replace the lid after use.
Another issue when storing e-liquid is safety – due to the potentially harmful effects of the nicotine in e-liquids and the risks if swallowed, e-liquids should be kept safely out of reach of children and animals.
Does e-liquid expire?
Yes, e-liquid, like any consumable product, has an expiration date, which can be found on the packaging. The expiry date for e-liquid is usually 1-2 years from when it is made. The expiry of e-liquid is attributed to the VG and PG chemicals within it, most of the ageing effects are due to the disintegration of flavourings and oxygenation of the nicotine.