Vape E-Liquid: What’s Really in Vape Juice?

E-liquid is one of the main pillars of vaping. For most people, it’s the fun side of things, and it’s not hard to understand why.

The world of e-liquids is a vast one. So vast, that you would struggle to find such a diverse product category as this one across the board. There are literally thousands of vape flavours available to vapers, which means there is no dull day.

It’s not surprising then to find a section of vapers get into vaping for the flavours, not the nicotine. The availability of nicotine-free juice certainly helps…

Whether you swear by morning cereal or have an insatiable sweet tooth, a lover of fruit or self-proclaimed dessert enthusiast, have a thing for dairy or can’t resist a beverage in whatever form, or simply fancy a good old classic tobacco, the rich array of vape flavours at your disposal is nothing short of amazing.

Suffice to say, without e-liquid flavours, vaping wouldn’t be the same. While data has shown e-cigarettes to be the most effective nicotine cessation tool and the preferred quitting aid for most smokers, the flavours are the icing on the cake; for some people, the star attraction.

Question is, what’s really in e-liquid?

Below is everything you need to know.

Ingredients Present in Vape Juice

E-juice is the liquid solution put in electronic cigarette tanks which, upon heating by the e-cig device, vaporises into the vapour that users inhale.

It is made up of a few main ingredients:

  1. Propylene Glycol (PG)

Propylene glycol is one of the chief ingredients in e-liquid. It is flavourless and has a thin consistency. 100% pure pharmaceutical-grade PG is also clear in colour.

The synthetic compound should be familiar to many as it’s commonly used as a preservative in food products and has also found use in a range of industries, including cosmetics and pharmaceuticals where it’s used in the manufacture of asthma inhalers among a wide range of other applications.

Highly soluble in water and with a low freezing point, PG is a base that acts as one of the basic carriers in e-liquids. It carries nicotine and flavour better than VG (see below) due to the low viscosity and highly miscible nature, and is the ingredient responsible for the throat hit that many vapers are after.

It is for the latter reason that people more concerned about nicotine satisfaction should opt for e-liquids high in PG (think 50:50 e-liquids). But too much PG makes for sharper, unpalatable flavours, which is why you’ll often find it capped at 50% in most e-liquids.

Some juices may use distilled water to thin out e-liquids that rely on VG as a diluent.

It’s also important to note that PG can cause allergic reactions in some users, with itchy throat and sore throat the most common symptoms. If you experience such a sensation, it’s recommended to switch to a high VG mix. Some people might also experience allergies, although these cases are rare.

  1. Vegetable Glycerine (VG)

VG is another ingredient used as a base in e-liquids. Together with PG, they make up about 80-90% volume of e-liquid.

Vegetable glycerine is a polyol compound derived from plants, particularly vegetable oils. Relevant health bodies categorise it as a safe food content, and the ingredient is widely used in multiple fields, including pharmaceutical, food, cosmetic and chemical industries.

Vegetable glycerine is thicker than PG, so e-liquids high in VG tend to be highly viscous in nature. It also produces thick vapour when heated, which is why VG-based e-liquids are used for cloud vaping.

But this thickness can be bad for your e-cig device. High VG juices tend to easily clog up heating coils, which is why you might want to clean your e-cig on a regular.

Unlike propylene glycol which is pretty much plain to the taste, VG has an intrinsic sweet taste and smell. For this reason, it tends to make for a very good base for dessert e-liquid flavours. The downside to the inherent sweetness is that it can mute some flavours.

While PG is a better carrier of flavour, VG lingers in the mouth more due to its thickness, sweet taste and production of thicker vapour. This is why you might find high VG juices (aka sub-ohm e-liquids) more flavourful than their regular counterparts.

A sub-ohm juice is any e-liquid with more than 60% VG. The ratio of VG/PG could be 60/40, 70/30, 80/20 or even 100% VG.

Vegetable glycerine doesn’t cause allergic reactions like PG, but too much usage could also cause sore throat, as well as other symptoms like dry mouth and throat. Vaping high VG a lot will often cause thirstiness, so it’s important to drink plenty of water and take breaks in between your vaping sessions.

  1. Flavouring

Vape flavours number in the thousands, replicating virtually every possible flavour out there. Flavours can be natural or artificial, but the latter are more widely used as they boast a longer shelf life and cost less.

Typically, flavouring accounts for anywhere between 2% and 20% of e-liquid content.

E-liquid manufacturers can either use approved food-grade flavourings or flavours specifically created for vaping. The former tend to have a low concentration so more flavouring is needed in order to achieve the desired taste. Vape-specific flavourings, by comparison, are more concentrated, so less of it is required, the result of which is a purer end product.

Some of the most common additives used to create vape flavours include:

  • Acetylpyrazine – Occurs naturally in corn, peanuts and sesame oil. It’s often used in tobacco, coffee and chocolate-flavoured e-liquids.
  • Malic acid – An organic compound that’s a common additive in fruit-flavoured juices. It’s what adds the tart to grape and green apple e-liquids.
  • Triaceten – Commonly referred to as Smooth, this additive is used to make flavours less harsh while imparting juices with a more rounded taste.
  • WS23 – aka Koolada. A cooling agent that gives e-liquids a minty or menthol taste.

Others include Vanillin (used in vanilla and dessert flavours), Ethyl Maltol (aka Cotton Candy flavour that is used to round out fruit flavours), Menthol (used to give e-liquids a super cold and minty taste), just to mention some of the most notable ones.

  1. Nicotine (Optional)

Not every e-liquid contains nicotine. Some come in 0mg variations whether it’s standard e-juice bottles or short fill e-liquids.

Nicotine is measured in milligrams and different e-liquids will come in varying amounts. For instance, a bottle that reads 3mg means it contains 3 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre of vape juice. This figure can sometimes be indicated as a percentage, so in this case, this would amount to 0.3% nicotine.

The more nicotine present in e-liquid, the more throat hit it gives. However, it also feels harsher on the throat.


There is a lot of misinformation about the composition of vape e-liquids doing the rounds out there. However, the hope is that this post clears the fog and puts you in an informed position to be able to separate facts from fiction.

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