The e liquid and vape industry has exploded over the past 10 years, so much so that it’s almost unrecognisable from what it was. It's no longer just about tobacco e liquids and basic vape pens.
For new vapers and those looking to switch from smoking, it’s easy to get confused by all of the different vape liquids available.
So in this guide, we’re giving you everything you need to know about modern day e-liquids to make sure you’ve got all of the facts.
So, let’s begin...
WHAT IS E LIQUID?
To put it simply, an e liquid contains nicotine (optional) and flavour. When used with an electronic cigarette, it delivers nicotine to your body, just as a traditional cigarette would, but without the horrible taste, smell and deadly toxins.
You’ll have heard it called different names and seen it spelled different ways, but ultimately it’s all the same thing. So next time you hear or see vape juice, vape liquid, e-juice or mod juice, you’ll know that it’s simply just e liquid at the end of the day.
One of the reasons why there are so many names for it is because people have different vaping styles and sub-cultures almost. But you can forget all of that for now. All you need to know is that if it’s liquid that goes in an e-cig device, then it’s an e liquid.
We’ll cover the different types further down, don’t worry.
HOW DOES E LIQUID WORK?
We know that e liquid contains nicotine and flavour and that it’s used in a vape device. But how does it turn from a liquid in to something which we can inhale?
Well it’s pretty simple really. Most vape devices have 3 components. A battery, a tank which sits on top and a coil within the tank.
When vape liquid is added to the tank, it begins to soak the coil. Then when you fire up the battery, it heats the liquid up so that it turns into a vapour. It really is no different from boiling a kettle, except you inhale the vapour directly in to your mouth and lungs.
It’s just simple science. The only complicated thing about it is choosing the right liquids (explored below) for the right device (read our guide to Buying an Electronic Cigarette).
IS E LIQUID HARMFUL?
Vaping is still a relatively new activity and so we can’t really say what the long-term effects are on the body. Not enough time has passed to allow studies to come to any real conclusions.
But let’s be clear - if you’ve never smoked, then we don’t advise you to start vaping. As with anything going in to your body, there is always a risk.
But what we can categorically state is that when it comes to vaping v smoking, vaping is far less harmful.
Why? Because organisations like the NHS, Public Health England and Cancer Research have told us so.
Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-liquid doesn’t contain cancer causing chemicals like tar and benzene, or the scary sounding carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.
Just in case you are still in any doubt as to how harmful smoking is compared to vaping, take a look at this video. It’s pretty conclusive.
While we can’t categorically say that e-liquid isn’t harmful, we can take certainly take a look at the ingredients to try and decide for ourselves.
WHAT IS IN E LIQUID?
Most approved and licensed bottles of vape liquid in the UK will have a maximum of four ingredients:
• Propylene Glycol – PG
• Vegetable Glycerin – VG
• Food Flavourings
You may well have thought that there’d be a whole selection of crazy chemicals in a single bottle, but that couldn’t be further from the reality. In fact, if you were to open your kitchen cupboard now, you’d probably already have products which contain everything apart from the nicotine already.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these ingredients to see exactly what we’re vaping.
PROPYLENE GLYCOL – PG
This chemical is made to food-safe standard and is fit for human consumption. It’s been used in the food industry for decades as well as medicines that we consume on a daily basis. In an e-liquid, this ingredient helps to carry the nicotine and the flavour.
VEGETABLE GLYCERIN – VG
This thick substance is another one which is food-safe and is used as a food sweetener and thickener. This ingredient is derived from plant oils and helps to produce the vapour when used in an electronic cigarette.
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Across the UK, we consume this daily. Think cakes, cupcakes, yoghurts, ice-cream, drinks…
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and is poisonous in large doses. However, when it comes to smoking and vaping, the real danger of nicotine is the addiction. For this reason we do not recommend taking up vaping if you have not smoked.And that’s it.
While you might think that e-liquid would be a complex thing to create, it’s actually very easy. So easy in fact that hundreds of thousands of people across the globe are making their own juices at home as a hobby or even a side business.
The possibilities for creating different flavours and types of eliquids are absolutely endless and this can sometimes be where vape novices come unstuck.
So let’s take a look at the various types of eliquids that are available and what they mean to you.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF E LIQUID RATIOS
If you’ve already been looking at eliquids, you’ll notice that they come in different ‘ratios’. This refers to amount of PG and VG that is present in the liquid.
For example, a bottle of vape juice stating it’s PG 70/30, this means that it’s 70% PG and 30% VG.
Knowing what these mean and what is right for you is the difference between enjoying your vape or absolutely hating it.
So let’s look at the different ratios in a bit more detail.
PG BASED JUICES
PG vape liquids are commonly used by those wanting to give up smoking. This type of liquid offers higher levels of nicotine and delivers a more intense throat hit.
Typically, these liquids start around 70% PG and are designed to simulate the feel of smoking as opposed to generating big clouds and doing tricks.
This thinner type of liquid is vaped at a lower temperature and allows for higher nicotine strength options up to 20mg.
VG BASED JUICES
VG vape juices are synonymous with creating big, thick clouds and come in a whole range of exotic flavours.
These thicker liquids start at around 60% VG and are vaped at a higher temperature. Because of this, only lower nicotine strengths are available, so you’ll struggle to get anything above 6mg.
50/50 VAPE JUICES
50/50 eliquids incorporate the best of both worlds - 50% PG and 50% VG. The result is a liquid which is full of flavour, has a more than adequate throat hit and produces more vapour than a PG liquid. An added bonus of 50/50 e liquids is that they can be used in pretty much any device and any tank.
Nicotine levels for these liquids range from 0mg to 11mg, so they are ideal for light to medium smokers.
SHORT FILL E LIQUIDS
Short fills are larger bottles of nicotine free eliquid. There is space left in the bottle for you to add your own nicotine by way of a nicotine shot.
Short fills were introduced as a way of getting around the TPD regulations, as eliquid with nicotine can’t be sold in bottles of more than 10ml.
As you can see, each of these eliquid types caters for slightly different vaping preferences, and it’s important to note that not all liquids will work across all devices.
So let’s have a look at what the best ratios are for certain types of devices and vaper types.
WHAT IS THE BEST E LIQUID RATIO?
We're often asked what the best PG to VG ratio is, but the truth of the matter is that there isn't one. The way a person vapes is very much down to their own taste and motivation, so there is no one BEST ratio. However, we can recommend the most suitable ratios based on what device is being used and what kind of vaper you are.
BEST E LIQUID RATIO FOR VAPE PENS
Traditional style vape pens are commonly used by smokers venturing in to vaping for the first time, or those who just need a simple device to satisfy their nicotine cravings. These devices tend to have less surface area in the tanks and heat the liquid at a relatively low temperature.
For vape pens, an 80% PG e liquid is a good starting point. Anything lower than 50/50 ratio might see you needing to change your coils more frequently as the juice might be too thick.
BEST E LIQUID RATIO FOR MODS
If you see someone vaping and they are blowing out huge clouds, then it’s likely they’re using a sub-ohm mod kit. These devices come in many shapes and sizes, but ultimately they are high powered vapes which heat liquid at a higher temperature.
E liquids with a higher VG content are ideal for this and anything over 50% VG will be suitable. When vaping at higher outputs on these devices (e.g. 50 watts), an 80% VG ratio is ideal.
However, it’s important to note that the resistance of your coil and the wattage that you output will impact how compatible the liquid is. The higher resistance a coil has, the less power it requires and vice versa.
BEST E LIQUID RATIOS FOR DIFFERENT COILS
So if you’re using a standard 1.8ohm coil, your ideal output should not really be more than 10 watts. At this relatively low power, a thinner PG liquid is perfect and will handle higher nicotine strengths effectively. Using a thick VG liquid on these coils at this low temperature will result in an extremely unsatisfactory vape.
At the other end of the scale, a 0.5ohm coil requires more power (30 watts+) and heats to a higher temperature, so a thicker 80% VG e-liquid would be ideal. Using a PG liquid in a sub-ohm tank would result in lots of leaking and probable burning of the liquid.
So between these extremes is a sliding scale where you can adjust the ratio of your liquid, but you need to adhere to the following principles:
Low resistance coils need more power. More power results in higher temperatures. A higher temperature requires a thicker VG liquid.
Whereas higher resistance coils need less power. Less power results in a lower temperature. A low temperature requires a thinner PG liquid.
Follow this advice and after a bit of experimentation, you’ll find the best PG/VG e-liquid ratio for your device and your needs.
So that’s the lowdown on vape juice ratios, but what about nicotine strengths?
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT E LIQUID NICOTINE STRENGTH?
As we’ve seen already, choosing the right liquid type is very much based on what kind of device you use and what your motivation for vaping is. And when choosing the right nicotine strength, all of these elements come into play.
So to make things easy, let’s break it down into what kind of smoker you are/were:
ELIQUID NICOTINE STRENGTH FOR A HEAVY SMOKER
We’ll class a heavy smoker as anything above 15 cigarettes a day, as that is quite frankly more than enough cigarettes for one day!
While you might think you should head straight for the highest possible strength, it’s not necessarily going to provide you with the most satisfaction. So it’d be worth experimenting with 11mg, 16mg, 18mg and 20mg to see what satisfies your cravings over the course of the first few weeks of vaping.
These nicotine strengths are only generally available in 70% PG and above, so you’ll need a vape pen or a non-sub-ohm device to put them in.
ELIQUID NICOTINE STRENGTH FOR A LIGHT SMOKER
Light smokers tend to have up to 10 cigarettes a day, so while there are definite nicotine cravings to be satisfied, the need for high strengths isn’t as crucial.
As a result of this, there is much more flexibility in terms of what type of liquids you can vape while successfully stifling those nicotine cravings.
The lowest strength nicotine is generally 3mg and this is available across all e-liquid types including PG, VG and 50/50.
However, it’s probably recommended that you begin a little higher, so a 6mg strength would be a good choice to still give you flexibility over what kind of liquid you use. You can easily pick up 6mg in PG and 50/50 e-liquid, but VG might be a little more scarce.
ELIQUID NICOTINE STRENGTH FOR A NON-SMOKER
If you’re not already a smoker, you do not need nicotine.
Therefore, if you are going to vape, always select the 0mg option. These are available across all eliquid types and also come in short fill bottles (which are all nicotine free).