E-liquid is a key part of the vaping experience, it’s one of the biggest talking points when it comes to law and regulation in the world of vaping. E-liquid is heated by a kit until the point it turns into vapour, which is then inhaled. From this simple premise, a huge amount of products have been created, to suit different tastes and even different experience levels.
The two main ingredients of e-liquid are VG (Vegetable Glycerin) and PG (Propylene Glycol), you’ll find both of these widely used in food and medicine. In e-liquid, VG serves as a thickener while PG is used to carry flavouring and nicotine.
Every e-liquid will carry a mix of both VG and PG, which will be recorded as a percentage that always adds up to 100%. Common mixes include 50% VG / 50% PG, 70% VG / 30% PG and 60% VG / 40% PG. In order to better regulate what goes in your e-liquid, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) imposes strict guidelines on e-liquids that are sold in the UK. Through testing and a certification process, we can better ensure the quality of e-liquid.
The MHRA enforces laws set up in the TPD (Tobacco Products Directive), a larger EU directive that moderates vape products and outlines a list of banned substances amongst larger legislative activity. This regulation carries to flavours and blends as a whole, with full toxicology and emissions reports having to be published before an e-liquid even reaches the market.
As well as VG, PG and flavouring, the majority of 10ml e-liquid (under the TPD e-liquid that contains nicotine can be no bigger than 10ml) available contains nicotine. As you may know, nicotine is the addictive chemical in cigarettes and it is nicotine addiction that causes the symptoms we know as cravings. In order to satisfy these cravings and to stop you moving back to cigarettes, e-liquids will contain nicotine. This is of course where the less harmful nature of e-liquids come into play, they contain and produce no tar and contain no carcinogens. This is one of the main reasons as to why PHE (Public Health England) have found that e-liquid and vaping, on the whole, is 95% less harmful than cigarettes.
E-liquid is safe when used and handled correctly. As discussed earlier, a set of regulations are in place to ensure the safety and quality of e-liquid sold in the UK. You also need to take measures to keep yourself and those around you safe as well. Nicotine-containing e-liquid should always be kept out of sight and reach of children and animals.
In the UK, as long as an e-liquid meets the parameters laid out by the TPD and is purchased and used by a person over the age of 18 - it is not illegal. There have been instances of black market e-liquids being mixed and sold, this is why we always recommend you purchase products from a reputable retailer. If you have any doubts about the quality of an e-liquid we recommend you stop using it immediately.
By using different levels of VG and PG, manufacturers can create a thicker or thinner e-liquid. They do this to support different vape kits. E-liquids with a higher VG percentage (60% VG or higher) will require more power and heat to be turned into vapour, to accommodate this you will need a more powerful kit. If you’ve just started vaping we recommend you’ll be using a less powerful kit and because of this, you will require an e-liquid that has a higher PG content, one that’s 50% PG or higher.
A mouth to lung vape kit is one that has been designed to emulate the process of smoking a cigarette, you are expected to inhale vapour into your mouth, carry it into your lungs and then exhale. To enable you to do so, these kits will produce a small amount of vapour. When using a mouth to lung vape kit, you’re going to want a thinner e-liquid that produces less vapour. We recommend a 50% PG e-liquid or higher as the ideal starting point.
A direct to lung kit works slightly differently, it will produce a far greater amount of vapour, the most common type of DTL kit is a sub ohm kit. To use one properly you will need to adopt a direct to lung vaping style, this is where you inhale vapour directly into your lungs and then exhale. This style will require an e-liquid that is capable of creating more vapour, in this case, a thicker e-liquid that’s 60% VG or higher will work best, with the most popular being 70% VG e-liquid.
The TPD set certain limitations on what products that could be sold, perhaps the most pertinent being the limit on the size of a nicotine-containing e-liquid. Any e-liquid containing nicotine can be sold in a container no larger than 10ml. This meant that purchasing nicotine-containing e-liquid became more expensive. To remedy this, the shortfill was created. A shortfill e-liquid is a nicotine-free e-liquid in an underfilled bottle, for example, 50ml of e-liquid in a 60ml bottle. The idea is that there is space in each bottle for you to add a flavourless high-nicotine e-liquid, called a nicotine shot. These are usually available in an 18mg or 20mg concentration, to be added to the larger bottle, where the 0mg e-liquid will dilute the high-nicotine booster. For example, adding a 10ml, 20mg shot to a 50ml, 0mg shortfill will create 60ml of 3mg e-liquid.
The traditional nicotine in e-liquid is called freebase nicotine, salt nicotine e-liquid is different in both its effect and chemical make-up. Freebase nicotine e-liquids deliver a noticeable throat hit, salt nicotine, on the other hand, does not. This can be regarded as both a pro and a con. Newer users may gravitate towards salt nic as they might not want a harsh throat hit, but some may be looking for an e-liquid that emulates the feeling they experience when smoking (particularly heavy smokers), in this case, we would recommend a traditional freebase. Take a look at our comprehensive breakdown of salt nicotine and how to use it.
CBD or Cannabidiol is appearing in e-liquid more and more. It is the non-psychoactive element of the cannabis plant and has grown in popularity. CBD e-liquids are available in different concentration levels, if you’ve just started using CBD e-liquid we recommend trying a lower strength, to begin with, you can find more information here.
CBD e-liquids can be vaped in much the same way as a standard e-liquid, they will still have a confirmed VG / PG ratio so you’ll know exactly which kind of device they can be paired with. They generally have a high PG ratio and so will work best with mouth to lung kits. It’s also worth noting that they generally need to be used at lower wattages, we recommend no higher than 15W.
When picking an e-liquid flavour, it’s going to need to be one you’re going to feel comfortable using all day. In the UK at least, the top three flavours are tobacco, menthol and strawberry. In our experience, it’s always best to start off with something simple, a one-note flavour is often the best option. As you progress in stopping smoking, you’ll begin to notice a vast improvement in your sense of taste. When this occurs you may discover an appreciation for flavours that may have previously tasted muted. Trying new flavours is a tested way of making sure you don't move back to smoking.
Picking the correct nicotine strength is perhaps the most important part of choosing an e-liquid. You’re going to need to find one that satisfies cravings but isn’t too harsh. This will largely come down to how many cigarettes you smoke per day. You can use the handy table below to get started.
While only recommended for advanced vapers, you can mix your own e-liquid. DIY e-liquid is a hotly debated topic, with vapers across the world creating unique blends. Not only does it allow you to get creative with flavours, you can also create larger amounts of e-liquid at a lower price. To create your own e-liquid you’ll need a flavour concentrate, VG, PG and nicotine (if you wish). To support the growing DIY market, top e-liquid brands are now producing flavour concentrates based on their most popular blends. Take a look at our guide explaining exactly what you need to mix your own e-liquid.
There’s more to e-liquid than just flavours, and if you follow this guide you’ll be in a much better position when it comes to choosing your new liquid of choice. For more information on e-liquids and vaping in general, please contact us directly.