Vape Juice Fundamentals 2022
If you are new to vaping or are looking upgrade your favorite device, you may be surprised by how much vaping technology has changed in the last five years. Usually a Google search is enough to clarify most questions but vaping is a different story. Much of the basic vaping information available online is outdated or the undiluted propaganda vaping prohibitionists ready to cite debunked studies and eager to deny adults the smoke free electronic nicotine delivery systems they prefer.
This is a crash course on vape juice in 2022. While the basic technology is recognizable, the options and challenge that confront the modern vaper have changed.
Check out of feature on vaping in 2022 for information on the hardware and styles of vaping which are most popular with adult vapers.
What Is In My Vape Juice?
Vape juice is the liquid which is heated to produce vapor. Vape juice is made from a blend of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavors. Most vape juices also contain nicotine but there are zero nicotine vape juices as well. The amount of nicotine contained in a vape juice can vary greatly and will be listed on the bottle.
While the US government and more specifically lobbyists like Michael Bloomberg have put vaping in the crosshairs, this is far from universal. The Philippines dealt a heavy blow to the meddling of the anti-vaping lobby, with Bloomberg's meddling resulting in a national scandal. In the UK, vaping is promoted by the NHS. Their website, Using E-Cigarettes to Quit Smoking, is a snapshot of how health care looks when profit is not the primary motive.
How Is Vape Juice Sold?
Vape juice sold to legal age adults in squeezable bottles, or it is prefilled into a pod or disposable vape. Tobacco-21 is the law of the land and we have no interest in selling to minors. Underage use poses an existential to vaping and has already denied many adult vapers access to their preferred products.
Nic salts ate re usually sold in 30ml bottles. Regular ejuice is sold in a variety of sizes, with 60 and 120ml being the most popular sizes. Prefilled pods range from 0.7ml to less than 2ml. Disposable vapes hold from 1 to 15ml vape juice depending on the model.
Where Does Nicotine Come From?
Nicotine at one time was extracted exclusively from tobacco but non-tobacco nicotine is now an affordable option. This innovation allows the vaping industry to cut the cord with Big Tobacco and their industrial agricultural practices. There are several reputable manufacturers with patented processes who manufacture the synthetic nicotine and tobacco-free nicotine used in vape juices.
What Are the Different Kinds of Vape Juice?
There are two primary forms of vape juice. There are nic salts and regular/freebase vape juices. Nic salts are more potent and designed to be vaped out of refillable vape pods. They are also found in disposable vapes and the prefilled vape pods sold in gas stations. While it is possible to make a lower nicotine vape juice with nic salts, most are sold in strengths between 20 and 50mg.
The key feature of nic salts is that they have a lower pH and can thus be added in greater quantities without making a vape juice intolerably harsh. At lower nicotine levels, this advantage is not relevant. Nic salts are perfect for mouth-to-lung (MTL) vaping, a topic we cover below.
Regular vape juice has lower nicotine concentrations and higher amounts of vegetable glycerin. This style of eJuice was formulated for vapor production and is designed to be vaped from vape mods and higher wattage vape devices. Vaped from a high wattage mod, high-VG vape juices are formulated for direct-to-lung (DL) vaping.
What Does PG/VG Ratio Mean?
The ratio of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin in a vape juice is referred to as the PG/VG ratio. Most nic salts have a 50/50 VG/PG ratio while freebase nicotine vape juices are 70 percent VG. The ratio of PG to VG has a huge impact on what device an ejuice works best with.
E-liquids with high PG ratios are largely gone from the market. These were the old e-cigs cartomizers from a decade ago. Large, powerful vape mods work best with high VG juices (70 percent VG) that have a lower nicotine strength. A higher percentage of VG results in greater vapor production. But VG is also thicker than PG, so larger coils and higher temperatures are needed to properly vape it.
Fortunately, this PG/VG distinction is becoming somewhat academic. Most adult vapers either use nic salts or freebase nicotine vape juices. Nic salt vapers will then vape their juice of choice in a vape pod and freebase nic vapers will use either a vape mod or a more powerful vape pod with a lower resistance coil. The VG/PG ratios within these styles of vape juice can vary slightly but are close to standardized.
What Is High-VG Vape Juice?
Vape juices higher in VG generate more vapor. This makes them perfect for powerful vape mods. Because so much vapor is produced by these powerful devices, it is possible to use lower nicotine vape juices. Some vapers even use nicotine free vape juices in their vape mods. You should not vape nic salts from a sub-ohm, high wattage tank system. These powerful devices are designed for lower nicotine strength e-liquids. Most vapers use 0, 3 or 6mg strength vape juices in their vape mods.
Types of Nicotine
The nicotine in ejuice comes in two forms, there is regular (freebase) nicotine and nicotine salts. Regular nicotine is the original form of nicotine that has been used in vaping since the first commercially available vapes hit the market over a decade ago. Today, freebase nicotine is found in high-VG vape juices that have been formulated for sub-ohm tanks and vape mods. Most vape pod kits include a pod or coil option designed for high-VG and low nicotine vape juices.
Nicotine salts are a more recent innovation and allow for higher nicotine levels. Nicotine salts should not be vaped out of sub-ohm tanks and vape mods at high wattages. They are formulated for use in less powerful vape pod designs.
What Are Nicotine Salts?
Nicotine salt is a form of nicotine used in nic salt vape juice. Salt nic is created by adding benzoic acid to freebase nicotine. This lowers the pH level. A lower pH level allows vape juice manufacturers to put higher concentrations of nicotine in vape juices. With its higher pH freebase nicotine begins to be very harsh at strengths of over 18mg/ml. Nicotine salts remain smooth and palatable at over twice that strength and are available in strengths up to 50mg. This greater nicotine strength allows underpowered devices ranging from disposable vape pens to smaller vape pod kits to provide satisfying performance.
The feature of a higher nicotine vape juice is that you need less vapor for a satisfying experience. Less vapor means that less e-liquid is being vaporized. Lower vapor production also means that less power is required and allows the use of higher resistance coils. All of this means that far less battery power is used when vaping nic salts versus a cloud chucking sub-ohm mod. To summarize, nic salts allow smaller devices to provide a satisfactory performance. The tradeoff is that the actual nicotine strength can be much greater.
Vape Juice Safety
One thing that nicotine vape juice does not contain is vitamin E acetate. This adulterant was associated with an outbreak of lung disease in the fall of 2019 that was eventually almost immediately linked to black market cannabis cartridges. Multiple sources, ranging from the New York Department of Health to the cannabis trade magazines Leafly made this link by Labor Day 2019. In fact, months before the outbreak the appearance of this contaminant in the supply chain of black market cannabis carts was noted.
Vitamin E Acetate
Ill-informed media coverage falsely implicated legal nicotine vape products until well into the fall and this misinformation prompted a number of emergency orders that restricted access to electronic nicotine delivery systems and vape juices.
The CDC was very slow to clarify the cause and only revealed that the outbreak was entirely due to cannabis carts on the Friday before Christmas on a classic slow news day. Failing to follow science or protect the public, this was the first of dozens of scandals that have rocked the CDC and FDA since fall of 2019.
This misleading attack on commercially available vapes drove many blameless mom and pop vape operations out of business. You do not need to take our word for it. The CDC failed to find a single drop of vitamin E adulterants in any commercially available nicotine vape juice. There is a reason for this. Pure THC oil and vitamin E acetate have similar viscosities, which is why black market cannabis cart vendors cut their products with this oil. The combination of PG and VG used in vape juices is simply not compatible with this disreputable practice, which in any event was associated with black market products.
According to the CDC: “The viscosity of vitamin E acetate makes it undesirable as an additive to nicotine solutions; the propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin in nicotine solutions create a fluid with a much lower viscosity than that of vitamin E acetate.”( Centers for Disease Control, " Vitamin E Acetate in Bronchoalveolar-Lavage Fluid Associated with EVALI", 12/20/2019).
Debunked Heart Attack Study
The absurdly unfair and damaging conflation of legally purchased nicotine vape products and black market THC cartridges was only the most famous example of vaping information. A study that linked vaping and heart attacks has also been debunked. There are countless other myths that have also been dismantled repeatedly yet reappear like zombies and refuse to die. These are beyond the scope of this crash course on vape juice in 2022 but worthy of closer examination.