Vapers will have heard the magnificent and varied lexicon of flavours, tastes, smells and fantastically elaborate names of e-liquids. They’ll know the feeling in their throat and might be able to compare with the rawness of a cigar or cigarette. They’ll know the costs and the components, and the possibilities. What they won’t know is what the future holds.
Why are people still wary or concerned about e-cigarettes? Surely any alternative to the normal, tobacco and tar-laden alternatives are to be welcomed? Why are mothers such as this concerned parent in Portsmouth complaining to their newspapers?
The answer is simple; ignorance of the long-term effects of vaping. The mother, Claire Marsh, has no idea what will happen to the health of young people exposed to e-cigarettes, and actually neither do we. We can guess, but we cannot exactly know.
There are essentially four components to e-liquid: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavourings and nicotine. All are largely harmless and serve different purposes, from carrying the nicotine and flavourings into vapour form to creating the actual tastes of the e-cigarette.
PG is used to dilute the overall liquid, with a very low toxicity level, and is used in many foods and medicines. VG is a completely harmless organic compound which is again added to some foods – more than 99% is actually vegetable oil, with the remainder being water.
Food flavourings may be natural (obtained from plant or animal materials)
or artificial (created through chemical manipulation or synthesis) , but are certainly harmless assuming the e-liquid has been created and analysed by qualified professionals. And nicotine is addictive, but in itself will cause little harm – it’s the accompanying tobacco and smoke in a cigarette that’s the killer.
E-cigarettes composed using these four elements should theoretically be fine, even if the flavours sound somewhat lethal such as Kryptonite, Heathen, and XXX. We know these are just names to convey excitement and that there are no alien poisons or ungodly thoughts. The trouble comes when companies either claim that a process has been followed that is impossible, or that you have no idea from where the e-liquid even originated.
For the former, consider the words of experts. As for the latter: would you buy medicine or food if it were unpackaged or of dubious origin? If the answer is no, then why would you ingest chemicals when you have no idea of their composition or birth? It is actually all-too-easy to use chemicals such as ethylene glycerol in e-liquids, which would be far more suited to the coolant systems of vehicles than a vaper’s lungs.
Worldwide vaping is a lawless jungle, and to continue the metaphor it has too many rogue vines and stray roots in too many places. Different countries are tackling the issues in divergent ways, and with sometimes-limited success; Health Canada has banned the sale of liquid nicotine, for example, but transactions are still taking place amid a lack of federal regulation. In Minnesota an 800% tax increase has recently been levied on e-liquid.
Googling might alleviate your fears. A hospital or chemist might identify danger, and one failsafe way of checking is to send the chemical to somewhere such as EL Science, which can analyse for nicotine and harmful products. Outside of these choices your options are limited. The best advice would be this: if you don’t know, don’t vape.