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What Is E-Liquid/Vape Juice?

Published 10 August 2022, Updated 7 May 2024

What Is E-Liquid/Vape Juice?

E-liquid, also called vape juice or e-juice, is a solution used in electronic cigarettes that typically contains propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), flavourings, and nicotine (optional). It is heated by the e-cigarette's battery-powered atomizer to produce an aerosol that is inhaled. The vaporisation of e-liquid simulates smoking without burning tobacco. E-liquid is subject to legal restrictions on nicotine levels in some regions, such as 20mg/ml (2%) in the United Kingdom. E-liquid enables the delivery of nicotine and flavours to users via vaporisation when used in electronic cigarettes, providing an alternative to traditional tobacco products by producing an aerosol instead of smoke.

Choosing the right e-liquid is key to having an enjoyable and safe vaping experience. This comprehensive guide will provide extensive information on everything there is to know about e-liquids.

What is E-Liquid?

E-liquid refers to the liquid solution that goes into an electronic cigarette or vape device. E-liquid is heated to produce vapour and typically contains four main ingredients: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), flavourings, and nicotine (optional).

The four main ingredients of e-liquid are covered in more detail below.

  • Propylene Glycol (PG) - A colourless, odourless liquid that is used as a base to produce vapour. It also carries the flavouring.
  • Vegetable Glycerin (VG) - A thick, sweet liquid that also produces vapour. It gives a better mouthfeel than PG.
  • Nicotine (optional) - The addictive stimulant that is naturally found in tobacco. It comes in various strengths.
  • Flavouring - Either natural or artificial flavourings that give the e-liquid its taste. Most e-liquids are flavoured, with options like tobacco, menthol, fruit, dessert, drink flavours and more.

The e-liquid gets heated up by a coil, which is a metallic heating element that conducts electricity from the battery. This turns the liquid into an inhalable vapour that provides a sensation similar to smoking when inhaled.

The ratio of PG to VG, the nicotine content, and the type of flavouring can vary greatly between different e-liquids, providing many options to suit an array of vaping requirements.

Is E-Liquid Safe?

While inhaling anything other than pure air is not 100% risk-free, Public Health England has stated clearly that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes. E-liquids and vaping devices are also strictly regulated under the Tobacco Products Directive in the UK to ensure quality and safety standards.

Additionally, there is now a substantial body of research showing that using e-cigarettes can help smokers successfully quit smoking. In 2022, a randomised clinical trial led by Professor Peter Hajek and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after one year, vaping was nearly twice as effective for smoking cessation compared to nicotine replacement therapy.

There was previously some concern about the chemical diacetyl causing "popcorn lung" from vaping, but this has been roundly disproven. While diacetyl was present in some e-liquids years ago, it has long been banned as an ingredient with today's strict standards. No cases of popcorn lung have ever been medically confirmed for vaping.

So, while no vaping is entirely without risk, it is clear, based on current evidence and regulations, that quality e-liquids pose significnalty less harm compared to traditional tobacco cigarettes.

What are Vape Juices Made of?

E-liquids generally contain four core ingredients: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), flavourings, and nicotine (optional). The four ingredients are detailed below.

Propylene Glycol (PG)

PG is an odourless, tasteless alcohol that is highly efficient at absorbing and carrying flavour. It produces a throat hit that smokers enjoy and also thins out the liquid to help wick and vaporise efficiently.

Vegetable Glycerin (VG)

VG (vegetable glycerine) is a natural liquid derived from vegetable oils. It produces thick clouds of vapour due to its higher density. VG provides a smooth mouthfeel and carries flavour well.


The flavouring used in vape liquids can be natural extracts from sources like fruits and plants or food-grade artificial flavourings. Flavourings allow for a wide variety of tasty e-liquid options.

These core ingredients combine to provide the vapour, flavour, and experience that makes vaping an enjoyable alternative to smoking.


Nicotine used in vaping products is pharmaceutical-grade nicotine, extremely pure and safe to ingest. It provides the stimulant effect that many smokers crave. Most e-liquids come in varying nicotine strengths from 0mg to 20mg per ml.

Types of E-Liquid

The four most desired e-liquid types are nicotine salts, 50/50 e-liquids, shortfills, and 100 VG e-liquids. The main benefit of each is detailed below.

Nic Salt E-Liquid

Nic salt e-liquids use a salt-based nicotine formula for a smooth hit to the throat. This allows higher nicotine strengths than standard freebase e-liquid. Nic salts work best in pod vape devices and other low-power systems to satisfy those nicotine cravings.

50/50 E-Liquids

These contain a 50% PG, 50% VG ratio. This balanced ratio allows good vapour production and flavour, while maintaining a throat hit that smokers like. 50/50 liquids work well in both MTL and DTL style devices.

Shortfill E-Liquids

Shortfills contain zero nicotine and come in 70% VG or higher ratios. They are designed to be mixed with a nicotine booster shot for the desired strength. Adding the nic shot turns a shortfill into a regular e-liquid.

100% VG E-Liquid

As the name suggests, these e-liquids contain 100% vegetable glycerin without any PG. Maximises cloud production but can mute flavours slightly. Mostly used by cloud chaser vapers in rebuildable atomizers. Requires device that can handle thicker VG liquid.

Always check specifications of your device to see what e-liquid types are compatible. This ensures good performance and avoids potential tank cracking from using the wrong juices.

Nicotine Types: Freebase E-Liquids vs Nic Salt E-Liquids

While standard e-liquids use freebase nicotine, newer modern salt nicotine versions called "nic salts" are also popular options:

Freebase Nicotine

  • The traditional nicotine used in early vaping products
  • Can provide harsh throat hit at high strengths
  • Works well in sub-ohm devices around 3-6mg/ml levels

Nicotine Salts (Nic Salts)

  • Smoother throat hit at any strength
  • Allows higher strengths up to 20mg/ml
  • Best suited for low powered MTL style devices
  • Fast nicotine delivery like smoking a real cigarette

The innovation of nic salts has made vaping even more attractive for smokers looking to switch. The smooth hit at higher strengths compared to freebase 10ml e-liquids provides that satisfying cigarette-like quick nicotine delivery.

This makes nic salts ideal for new vapers and small, compact pod-style devices. The variety of strengths lets vapers start high with 20mg/ml options and gradually step down strengths comfortably.

What VG/PG Ratio Should I Choose?

The ratio of vegetable glycerin (VG) to propylene glycol (PG) in an e-liquid has a significant impact on the vaping experience. It affects factors like throat hit, vapour production, flavour intensity and device performance.

Choosing the right VG/PG ratio for your needs depends on two main considerations:

  1. Vaping Style - Mouth-to-Lung (MTL) or Direct-to-Lung (DTL)
  2. Device Type - Rebuildables, SubOhm tanks, Pod systems etc.

Mouth-to-Lung vaping involves taking a puff into the mouth first before inhaling, just like smoking a cigarette. This style requires higher PG juice for efficient wicking and throat hit.

Direct-to-Lung vaping involves inhaling the vapour straight into the lungs, requiring more VG for maximum vapour production.

For MTL devices like pods and cigalikes, a 50PG/50VG or 60PG/40VG ratio is recommended. For powerful DTL tanks and drippers, a 30PG/70VG ratio works best.

Check your device manual for the recommended PG/VG ratio. Ultimately finding your perfect ratio comes down to personal preference through trial and error.

What Nicotine Strength Should I Get?

If you are switching from smoking to vaping, matching the right nicotine level is important, especially at the start. Too low and you might get cravings leading to vaping more or smoking again. Too high and the harshness can put you off vaping.

Here is a general guide based on smoking habits:

  • Light Smoker (5 or less cigarettes per day) - Start with 0-10mg/ml nicotine strength
  • Moderate Smoker (10 cigarettes per day) - Start with 10-18mg/ml nicotine strength
  • Heavy Smoker (20+ cigarettes per day) - Start with 18-20mg/ml nicotine strength

The good news is you can start high and gradually step down the nicotine level over time. This helps avoid any cravings as your body adjusts. It's common for vapers to start at 18mg/ml and after a few months drop to 12mg/ml and lower.

Pay attention to any lightheadedness, nausea or throat irritation as signs to lower your nicotine strength. Ultimately you'll find your "sweet spot" - the perfect nicotine level where you feel satisfied without negative effects.

What are the Best E-Liquid Flavours?

With thousands of flavours available, the options can seem limitless and even overwhelming. Sweet dessert flavours and fruity flavours are amongst the most popular. Menthol and tobacco flavours are also vaping staples.

Most vape shops allow customers to try e-liquids first before buying, so experimenting is easy. Ultimately flavour preferences are highly subjective to the individual. Finding your perfect all day vape (ADV) may take some trial and error.

Here are some of the best e-liquid flavour categories to consider trying:

  • Fruit Flavours - These include refreshing options like Strawberry, Grape, Mango, Blueberry, Lemonade, and exotic tropical fruits like Guava, Lychee, and Passionfruit.
  • Sweet and Dessert Flavours - For those with a sweet tooth, flavours like Custard, Vanilla Cake, Funnel Cake, Cinnamon Roll, Milkshake and Candy are extremely popular.
  • Menthol and Tobacco Flavours - Classic flavours like Menthol, Spearmint, Wintergreen, American Tobacco, and British Tobacco provide familiarity for smokers looking to switch.
  • Beverage Flavours - E-liquid mixes like Coffee, Tea, Cola and even Alcohol flavours like Whiskey and Pina Colada provide an array of drink-inspired options.

The flavour percentages, quality of the vape juice ingredients, and complexity of the recipes vary greatly between different e-liquid brands. This affects how accurate and tasty flavours are. Check e-liquid reviews for feedback on which flavours stand out from which brands.

What are the Best E-Liquid Brands?

With vaping having grown exponentially in recent years, the number of e-liquid brands and flavours now available is staggering. From huge manufacturers to small craft "mixologists", there is lots of choice when deciding which e-liquids to purchase.

Some of the most reputable and top-rated UK e-liquid brands include:

  • Double Drip - Moreish dessert flavours like Strawberry Whip Cake and Vanilla Custard Donut in classy bottles.
  • IVG - Premium range of fruity and icy menthol flavours in 50/50 PG/VG ratios.
  • Dinner Lady - Best selling dessert flavours like Strawberry Custard, Lemon Tart and Rice Pudding.
  • Nasty Juice - Trendy Malaysian brand with flavours like Mango Smoothie and Cush Man go global.
  • Doozy - Complex layered fruit and dessert flavours like Doozy Legends and Tropix provide all day vapes.

The most important factor is finding flavours you thoroughly enjoy vaping from brands that work for you. With so many to choose from, experimenting is part of the fun to discover new favourites!

How Should I Store my Vape Liquid?

Properly storing your e-liquids is important for maintaining quality and safety. Follow these vape juice storage tips:

  • Keep bottles away from heat and direct sunlight, which can damage nicotine content. A cool, dark place like a cupboard is ideal.
  • Store e-liquid vertically with the nozzle tip facing down. This keeps the liquid saturated in the cotton wick.
  • Make sure all bottle caps and lids are tightly sealed to prevent leaks or nicotine oxidation.
  • Do not store in places that can get extremely cold like the car or freezer. This can make VG juice too thick.
  • Check bottles regularly for any changes in colour or consistency which may indicate expired juice.
  • Keep e-liquids safely out of reach from pets and children.

Can E-Liquid Expire?

While PG and VG themselves have long shelf lives, other ingredients like nicotine and flavourings can degrade in quality over time. As a general guideline:

  • Unopened - E-liquids can last up to 24 months before expiring if stored properly. Nicotine will slowly oxidize, affecting smoothness.
  • Opened - Duration depends on bottle size, but around 6 months is typical before noticeable flavour loss.

Signs of expired vape juice include darkened colour, peppery taste, and muted flavours. It's advisable to buy e-liquids in smaller bottles you can finish rather than large batches that expire before using.

Proper storage along with buying reputable e-liquid brands with high-grade ingredients ensures getting the most lifespan out of your vape juices.


E-liquids contain 4 key ingredients (PG, VG, nicotine and flavourings) that combine to provide the vapour, throat hit, and taste that make vaping enjoyable. With so many options available, it may seem complicated finding your perfect e-liquid, but understanding the types, ratios, strengths and flavours goes a long way in getting the most flavour and satisfaction out of your device.

The most important things are finding flavours you love, the right nicotine level for your needs, and the correct VG/PG ratio for your vape kit. While the process involves some trial and error, once you discover your ADVs (all day vapes) that suit your preferences, you'll benefit greatly by switching from smoking to this healthier and tastier alternative!