Propylene Glycol – Is it Safe?
I’ll admit, when I first heard of e-cigarettes a few years back, I was naturally intrigued, yet skeptical too. One of the main sources of my skepticism had to do with the fact that one of the main ingredients of the nicotine vape juice was propylene glycol or PG.
My initial reaction was of alarm and bemusement at how inhaling a substance containing PG could not be harmful.
Part of the negative conception regarding propylene glycol is an ingredient found in antifreeze (…more background on that later). PG though is found in many things we use every day. I could list hundreds of them – from prepared foods to cosmetics to fog machines to inhalers for people with asthma, COPD, lung disease, and other respiratory ailments. The substance is also found in IV meds among other things.
Once you’ve been vaping for a while, you’re sure to discover it takes a little work (…or money) to keep vaping. By this, we mean the maintaining a steady supply of nicotine liquid that’s necessary to enjoying your electric cigarette.
In short, PG is safe for humans to inhale.
Personally, I was convinced of this since many with asthma use an inhaler daily. Propylene glycol itself is a relatively simple chemical substance containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen – C3H8O2 or HO-CH2-CHOH-CH3
Discovered in 1942 and approved for use around 1950, many studies have been commissioned to study the effects of PG. One study commissioned by Time Magazine used monkeys to determine the impacts of the substance. No negative effects were discovered except for one group of monkeys who gained weight after inhaling heavy concentrations of PG.
Another study took place over a 3-year period in a pediatric hospital. Rather than using tri-ethylene glycol in the facility’s air filters, PG was used. Concurrently, respiratory infections in the hospital dropped from 132 cases to 13.
The U.S. Centers for Disease classifies PG as ‘GRAS’ – or “generally recognized as safe” as a food additive.
Why do so many think PG is harmful?
It’s hard to say. Some people, including myself, were confused between propylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which is most definitely a toxic substance.
Up until recent decades, all antifreeze contained EG rather than PG. EG was known to be very dangerous to pets and small children since it made antifreeze smell real sweet. Pets and unsupervised kids could smell it and ingest the substance. Needless to say, the outcome most of the time was tragic.
Today antifreeze contains PG and doesn’t give off the inviting smell.
In the end, unawareness is what drives much of the negative perception of propylene glycol. Countless studies though have shown that only in very large quantities does it make any noticeable impact in people.
If someone asks you about the safety of your best vape juice and has a concern about PG specifically, be sure to direct them here or kindly explain it’s a common substance in numerous everyday items.
Advantages of PG
PG liquid tends to give you a better throat hit and a lot more flavor. VG on the other hand, allows your atomizer to produce a lot more vapor. Now, VG is a thicker and more sticky fluid, and although most people do not show signs of allergy with VG, there are minority groups who complain about having phlegm buildup in their throats. The more VG juice you use, the less of a throat hit you’re going to get – that’s a general idea.
As mentioned before, this can be overcome with a higher nicotine strength vape juice as well as a higher voltage e-cigarette or a low resistance atomizer.
Most people get into vaping and mixing their own E-juices tend to use a mix of both PG and VG in particular ratios, such as 70% PG/30% VG. This is the optimum ratio for most each uses as it provides a nice throw hit, good flavor as well as tons of vapor production. I preferred the 80/20 mix. I find that going with 30% VG reduces the flavor of my e-juices considerably. But don’t forget, you can also offset this with a low resistance atomizer (or “atty”) to increase the amount of flavor. More on this in a later article…
Buying Pre-made E-Juices
Lots of places sell juices these days and more and more juice retailers are sprouting up every couple of months or so. This is good for us ex-smokers because that means we have more varieties of e-juice to choose the best vape juice. More competition in the market equals cheaper e-liquids for us consumers.
Although of the renown retailers of e-liquid are based in the USA and China, there are also some excellent companies in Canada as well as the UK.
Expect to pay about USD $15 for a bottle of 30 ml pre-made juice, and add a little on top of that for shipping costs. A lot of these sellers will ship internationally depending on which country you reside in. Some have given up on international shipping due to the Customs issues in various countries where the sale of electronic cigarettes is banned.
The easiest way to find out is to probably check the FAQ or “shipping” sections of the company’s website. They will tell you if they only ship locally. I will try to compile a list of the best e-liquid retailers over the next few weeks, so you don’t have to do all the hard work yourself.