I’ve been working in the vape industry for 3 years now and there is one question I get asked from customers frequently, “What exactly are e-liquids made from?” The short answer is simple, there are only 4 ingredients, usually stated on the e-liquid labels: vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavorings and nicotine (optional). Some of you may have heard of these ingredients before, but most of us will read these chemical names with raised eyebrows. So what does it all mean? Let me break it down for you.
Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
VG is usually the core ingredient in most e-liquids, usually making up 50% - 85% of the volume. It is an organic compound derived from plant oils and most commonly palm oil, however, it’s important to note that it is actually not an oil but in fact an alcohol, which makes it OK to vape. VG is non-toxic and commonly used in food products for thickening and moisture retention. The substance is clear, odourless and has a subtle sweet taste. Its favoured among vapers for its cloud producing qualities, the higher the VG content the denser the cloud. It is a thick and viscose liquid, which means e-liquids with high VG content, are not well suited to small vape pens or coils/atomizers with high resistance (ohms) with high ohms. It is however very smooth on inhale with little throat hit so high VG content is recommended for more powerful direct-to-lung mods.
Propylene glycol (PG)
The other base ingredient in e-liquids is propylene glycol. PG is thinner than VG and is required to deliver the flavourings in the vapour. It is a synthetic chemical compound that is also classed as an alcohol. Like VG, it is a clear, odourless liquid can also be found in food products as well as cosmetics and industrial products. It is an ingredient in some antifreeze which has led to a lot of misconceptions about its safety. PG is non-toxic and safe to ingest which is why it is used. The safety of PG has been studied for some time and is the main ingredient in asthma inhalers. Although Propylene glycol has been found to be safe to ingest and inhale, in some cases people can be sensitive to it and may experience irritations when inhaling. If this is the case make sure to use liquids with max VG.
Probably the more exciting aspect of vaping is the wide range of flavours available. The VG/PG base has no flavour on its own so food grade flavours are added. This been said, I wouldn’t go adding flavour additives from the supermarket to your vape mixture, some of these can have oils in them which is no good for vaping. Usually, when concerns about vaping are raised, it’s to do with these additives. For example, Diacytal, a chemical which can be found in some flavour additives is safe to ingest but not to inhale, most commonly known as the cause of Popcorn Lung. Luckily for us, pretty much all vape companies have made sure that no flavours with diacetyl are used in commercial e-liquids.
Most liquids have nicotine in them in varying levels, this is why it is a great substitute for smoking. Nicotine has a bad rap for its association with cigarettes but it might be somewhat comforting to know that on its own Nicotine is a relatively safe drug, It’s inhaling smoke from burning tobacco that has all the harmful carcinogens. The most harmful effect of nicotine is that it addicts people to cigarettes. Don't get me wrong, too much nicotine is not good for anyone. Too much nicotine can lead to headaches and nausea, so if you experience any of these while vaping it's probably time have a break from the vape or lower your nicotine levels.While there are still many more studies to be conducted regarding the long-term health effects of vaping, most world health organisations have concluded that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
CORNER shop owners in New Zealand are being urged to consider stocking e-cigarettes after an increase in violent tobacco-related robberies.
Over 1,200 stores were raided in the past year for cash and cigarettes, which fetch a high price in the country, leaving businesses and workers living in terror.
While mini markets are going to extreme lengths to protect themselves from the armed raids, including fog cannons and security guards, stocking e-cigarettes has now been put forward as an idea to reduce crime.
Dairy store owner Sandeep Patel was forced to install a security cage around his Hamilton shop after two teenagers attacked him with a machete before making off with $20,000 of cigarettes and the entire till.
With cigarettes accounting for 70 per cent of their shop sales, Patel's family claims without selling them their corner stores wouldn’t survive.
"It's really, really scary now. This is happening every day," he said, "It's happening everyday just because of cigarette price. The Government needs to do something for us."
But some say stocking vape products instead of tobacco could be the answer. While cigarettes have a high retail price, the stores’ insurance costs have rocketed following the attacks which mean profits have dramatically reduced.
Bringing premiums down by stocking e-cigarettes instead, which still provides smokers in the community with a nicotine hit, could be a realistic solution.
Phil Murphy of Liquor Centre Matata was one of the earliest adopters of a tobacco-free policy at his store after a spate of attacks – and says he’s never regretted making the switch.
"As far as business is concerned - markup on cigarettes is very minimal so there isn’t a lot of benefit to business owners when selling them. Since I stopped stocking tobacco products I’ve saved a lot more money purely on insurance costs than I would have made selling cigarettes.
“With a lower risk of robberies, our premiums go right down. Also, we have greater peace of mind."
"This is yet another negative impact cigarettes and tobacco have on life in New Zealand," added QJ Satchell, director of predominant e-cigarette retailer NZVAPOR. "Not only does smoking kill more than 5000 New Zealanders every year and present a huge public health risk, but the sale of these products leave businesses vulnerable to attack. We’re suggesting that instead of stopping the sale of nicotine products altogether, dairy (shop) owners investigate the option of swapping out their tobacco stands for e-cigarette consignment."
Thousands of smokers in New Zealand are now making the move to e-cigarettes for health benefits and in doing so are saving hundreds of dollars every week.
Vaping is significantly cheaper than smoking in the country with a week’s supply of e-juice costing as little as $20 compared to a smoker spending well over $25 per day on just one pack of cigarettes.
"We’re trying to do our bit to help dairy owners stay safe. After all; if a dairy owner stops stocking nicotine products altogether, the end user is the one who is ultimately left out in the cold,” QJ added.
"This is not a silver bullet solution, but it is a great option for those dairy owners who can’t afford to get out of the tobacco market. We shouldn’t have dairy owners fearing for their lives just to earn a living."
VAPING with nicotine is now legal in New Zealand.
The country’s ministry of health has announced all tobacco products (except types that are chewed or dissolved in the mouth) can be lawfully imported, sold and distributed under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990.
The move has been on the cards for over a year after Health Minister Nicky Wagner revealed in March 2017 how it was set to adopt a low-risk approach to legalizing vaping, since "scientific evidence was still being developed".
Last August, the health ministry went further by confirming smokeless tobacco products such as snus and inhaled nicotine were going to be added to the list of legalized products as part of the Smokefree 2025 campaign.
Following the new legislation, Wagner said the government was now looking forward to seeing how allowing people to vape might affect smoking rates.
“There’s a general consensus that vaping is much less harmful than smoking. The Government is taking a cautious approach by aligning the regulations around vaping with those for cigarettes. This ensures cigarette smokers have access to a lower-risk alternative while we continue to discourage people from smoking or vaping in the first place,” Wagner said.
He explained further: “This is an opportunity to see if restricted access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid can help lower our smoking rates, reduce harm and save lives. The Government is strongly committed to achieving our goal of a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025.”
In the meantime e-cigarette sales to under 18s will remain prohibited and vaping in spaces where smoking is banned, will remain forbidden.
Nicotine vaping proponents in Australia meanwhile, where vaping with nicotine remains banned, say New Zealand's latest move is "a victory for common sense".
“Essentially, New Zealand is recognising that ... vaping devices which heat a nicotine solution without smoke or combustion are substantially safer than products which burn tobacco, like cigarettes," said University of NSW professor Colin Mendelsohn who is calling for it to be legalized now in Australia.
"Most of the harm from combustible tobacco is caused by the 7000 chemicals produced by the burning process and these are mostly absent from vapour.
"It is unethical and unscientific to ban a much safer product that could help many thousands of smokers to quit a deadly addiction.
"It would be a mistake to delay these products for another 20 to 30 years. Too many lives are at stake."
What beginners should know when buying a vape and e-liquids.
Mouth to lung vs direct to lung.
An often overlooked aspect of vaping, is how you vape. Specifically the way your mouth interacts with the vapour when inhaling. Many don’t give this a second thought, but a little knowledge could greatly improve your experience. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at each method, and help you decide which is best for you.
The two main ways of taking a hit when vaping are Mouth To Lung (MTL), and Direct Lung Inhale (DLI). Each technique produces very different results, with MTL regarded as most similar to smoking a cigarette, while DLI can be compared to the hit from a shisha pipe or bong. Various factors come into play, such as ohm resistance, battery strength and airflow, but it also depends on the way the user interacts with their kit. Different methods give different results, helping with anything from cloudchasing, chain-vaping or increased flavour.
Mouth To Lung (MTL)
How – Mouth to lung vaping is much as it sounds – you take the vapour into your mouth first, before inhaling to the lungs. It’s similar to sucking on a straw: you take a long draw and let your mouth fill with vapour. Then you inhale, sucking in extra air into your lungs. Smokers and ex-smokers will recognise this as similar to the way cigarettes are usually smoked. Long-time vapers will be accustomed to this technique, as the technical limitations of early commercial e-cigarettes suited this type of inhale.
Results – The sensation is more subtle compared to direct lung hits but as vapour remains in the mouth for longer the flavour is more apparent. Cigars and cigarettes are usually smoked this way, so it can be especially useful for those trying to quit. Chain-vaping is easier as the leisurely intake of vapour means a reduced throat hit, particularly when using vape juice containing nicotine.
Equipment – This technique works best with tanks that use high ohm coils (1.2 ohm and above) such as the Aspire Zelos kit and Nautilus Mini, low battery strength (15w and below) and with a narrow drip-tip. E-juice will usually contain a substantial proportion of PG (anything up to 100%), with whatever nicotine strength you prefer. It is possible to use the MTL draw technique when using a sub-ohm set-up but the vape tends to get uncomfortably hot.
- Uses less juice– Due to the slow inhalation, the e-liquid is vaporised at a slower rate meaning your favourite juice will last longer.
- Cooler vape– As it usually involves lower battery power, this reduces the risk of the vape becoming too hot.
- Useful for quitting smoking – The technique is similar to way cigarette and cigar smoke is inhaled, which is useful for those trying to quit. The overall sensation is more gentle than DLI, making it more suitable for beginners and casual vapers.
- Better flavour– The prolonged exposure to the tastebuds, along with an increased use of PG – a better flavour-carrier than VG – means the taste can be more noticeable when using this method.
- Weaker – In comparison to a direct lung inhale, a mouth to lung hit is less intense, and arguably less satisfying.
- Outdated – The increased focus on sub ohm vaping in recent years has led to MTL inhalation being associated with inferior technology. Indeed, most modern tanks on the market focus on sub-ohm vaping at the expense of tanks more suited to MTL.
Direct Lung Inhale (DLI)
How – A direct lung inhale involves drawing the vapour straight down into the lungs, much like breathing in deeply or sucking the air from a balloon. This way dense vapour quickly fills the lungs, similar to the sensation of using a shisha pipe. This draw method is most commonly associated with sub-ohm vaping.
Results – DLI gives a more intense hit than MTL, which many vapers find more satisfying but can sometimes feel overwhelming. Best results require heating the e-liquid at high temperatures so you need to draw quickly to avoid a hot vape. As a result, the throat hit is more intense so levels of PG and nicotine need to be reduced appropriately. If cloudchasing is your thing, DLI is the key to producing thick billowing clouds of vapour.
Equipment – An optimum direct lung hit requires a vape mod with an RDA or sub-ohm tank, such as the Smok Stick V8 kit or the Aspire Cleito tank. Subsequently, this means a juice that’s high in VG and low in PG. Nicotine levels of 6mg and below are advised, to counter the increased intake of vapour and resulting throat hit. It is possible to lung inhale with plus-ohm coils but it’s less common as the vapour production is less and the sensation more muted.
- Satisfying – A direct lung hit is more powerful than mouth to lung. This can feel more fulfilling, particularly for smokers and ex-smokers who want a more striking throat hit.
- Clouds – DLI is the best method for producing thick plumes of vapour.
- Stealth-vaping– When using a high ohm coil, taking a deep lung hit and holding it in for a few seconds makes the vapour dissipate before you exhale. Useful if you want your vaping to be low-key.
- Risk – This form of inhale brings added risks. You need to draw quickly to keep the vape cool, and tweak your level of PG and nicotine to avoid harsh throat hits. Make sure your e-juice doesn’t run dry as a lung hit of burnt cotton is the stuff of vaping nightmares. DLI requires some basic knowledge of vaping, so isn’t recommended for beginners.
- Overwhelming – A direct lung hit can sometimes feel overpowering as you’re taking in more vapour in one hit, along with nicotine. It’s less relaxed and casual than MTL.
- Limitations – This method reduces your flexibility when it comes to PG and nicotine. Reduced levels of each are required to avoid a harsh throat hit.
Nicotine salts. It’s the new thing on the block and smokers and vapers alike are flocking to it to quit cigarettes for good.
If you haven't heard of it before, nicotine salt basically allows you to vape at higher nicotine strengths without getting the rough throat hit you’re typically used to. This also means you get more bang for your buck! You end up vaping less because you get a lot more nicotine. So, if you love that light headed feeling, but hate having to vape 24/7, nic salts may be right for you.
As you may already know, the higher nicotine level you go, the throat hit becomes harsher. It can turn off a lot of smokers transitioning into vaping if they have to endure the harsh throat hit while also not getting the level of buzz that you would otherwise get in a cigarette. Not to mention, it can be a hassle for new vapers to figure out how to get a simple nicotine fix with the advancements in vaping technology in the past several years.
For those who are interested in learning more about salt nicotine and what it can do for you, you’re in the right place. So, what’s the difference between salt nicotine and what people are vaping now?
WHAT IS FREEBASE NICOTINE?
The nicotine in your vape juice that you are familiar with is something called freebase nicotine. It is a method that tobacco companies have been using since the 60’s.
Freebase means that the nicotine is in its purest form compared to the other nicotine derivatives. In turn, the nicotine is much more potent when heated and it can be absorbed much faster in your lungs and in your brain.
This method was found in the 1960’s by Phillip Morris, the company that owns Marlboro. What they found is that if they manipulate the pH levels in nicotine, it can provide more of a kick than the previous cigarettes in the 1950’s without increasing the dose, making Marlboro cigarettes more addictive. This was a major breakthrough for Marlboro and they enjoyed this competitive advantage for years as they became one of the most popular brands or addicting cigarettes in the world.
THE CHEMISTRY BEHIND IT
In order to understand what nicotine salt is, it’s important to understand how freebase nicotine works. About to get science-y here so bear with me.
Nicotine in tobacco leaves has the chemical composition of a salt. A salt is made up of a chemical reaction that has a positive charge (Acid) and negative charge (Base).
Nicotine’s chemical nature is a weak base and made up of negatively charged particles. As a base, it seeks to find positively charged particles (Protons) to find stability and become Ionized. Nicotine in tobacco leaves or ions is not the most effective way of delivering nicotine into our bodies because ions have a harder time moving across organic membranes and are not easily vaporized.
This is where freebasing comes in. Phillip Morris found that if the nicotine was de-protonated (via ammonia) or to remove its positive charge, it can go back to its free state where it will be much easier to travel across membranes in our bodies. In a nutshell, nicotine in its freebase form makes it more bioavailable to your lungs and to your brain which makes it more potent.
Phillip Morris found that impregnating tobacco with a salt like diammonium phosphate releases ammonium when the cigarette is combusted thereby freeing the nicotine into free base form.
If freebase nicotine is more potent, then why are smokers gravitating to nicotine salts?
WHAT IS NICOTINE SALT?
Nicotine salt as we explained above is the natural state that nicotine is in tobacco leaves.
We also mentioned that nicotine salt is much more stable and not as volatile as the freebase form. Salt nics also take higher temperatures to vaporize and the ions don’t easily travel to your nicotine receptors in your body.
To put simply, it’s not the most effective way to deliver nicotine to your body compared to the de-protonated freebase form.
So, what’s all the craze about?
Pax labs, the innovator of this new vaping method found a way to use nicotine salt as a means to make 50 mg nicotine palatable while making it more bioavailable than what we have currently in the vaping market. Their goal was to mimic the sensation of smoking a cigarette as closely as possible and so far, it looks like it’s working.
How is this possible? Many of you are probably a little confuddled right now. The secret ingredient that makes all of the magic happen lies in the use of benzoic acid. Benzoic acid serves two key purposes in salt nicotine:
- It helps nicotine salt vaporize at lower temperatures as well as lowering the pH levels in the salt nicotine which results in a smoother throat hit
- A chemical reaction occurs that makes the nicotine more absorbable like free base nicotine
What this means is that you can vape comfortably at high nicotine levels such as 50 mg and it also makes it easier for your body to absorb nicotine contrary to the nature of nic salts. It seems from Pax’s patent that it only works on specific salt nicotine formulation with certain types of acids. As you can see in the graph provided by PAX labs, the nicotine salt e-liquid can help you deal with your cravings more effectively than regular vape juices.
If you look at the purple and green line above, the amount of nicotine absorbed into the bloodstream is comparable to smoking a cigarette and can provide greater nicotine satisfaction than traditional e-liquids in the market.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FREEBASE NICOTINE AND NICOTINE SALT?
From a vaping perspective, the difference between freebase nicotine and nicotine salt is a matter of how it affects your vaping experience.
One noticeable difference is the harshness induced by higher nicotine levels. Freebase nicotine has a higher pH level which affects the alkalinity. What this does is that it makes freebase e-liquid taste harsher as you climb the nicotine ladder. Whereas, salt nicotine have a lower alkalinity due to the benzoic acid which gives you a reportedly smoother throat hit and makes vaping at 50 mg nicotine bearable.
The second difference is how the two travel through your body. Even though nicotine salts are known to be not the most effective way to deliver nicotine, Pax Labs have supposedly figured out a way to make it more effective than freebase nicotine. This is due to the benzoic acid added to the salt nicotine as the nicotine becomes much more readily available and more effective than traditional freebased e-liquids.
WHAT DEVICE TO USE FOR SALT NICS
One thing to keep in mind is that salt nics operate in lower wattage devices. It is strongly recommended to avoid using high powered devices to vape salt nicotine. Using sub-ohms to vape salt nicotine at 50 mg nic levels will give you excessive amounts of nicotine and would be fairly unpleasant.
As we have stated above, the salt nics are designed to be used in lower wattage devices due to the higher amount of nicotine absorbed as well as not requiring to vaporize at higher temperatures.
Not only are the devices low profile and sleek, most of the low wattage devices are autofire meaning you only get vapor when you inhale it. This makes it a user-friendly device for any smokers who are new to vaping without the investment in figuring how all of the current devices work.
The low wattage, high resistance devices that are currently on the market come with two available options:
- Open System - you can refill manually by buying nicotine salt e-liquids
- Closed System - you can buy cartridges/pods that contain e-liquid which usually come in packs of 4 without creating a mess :)
Side note: You can also consider getting lower nicotine levels like 3 mg and 6 mg in nicotine salt form for your sub-ohm device. As far as it being more effective at delivering nicotine than freebase nicotine as PAX lab claims in their study is up to debate. What you may notice is a smoother throat hit than freebase nicotine e-juices.