With so many e-juices and e-liquids on the market, it can be hard to tell what’s safe and what’s not. Labelling practices aren’t exactly stringent at the moment, although impending FDA regulations filed in October 2015 may change that in the U.S.
So how do you tell what’s in a vape juice and (even more important) what’s not, and what’s the safest e-juice? Let’s break down the basics to find out.
Glycerol, or glycerin is a simple sugar alcohol used in food and pharmaceutical formulations. It can either be synthetic or derived from plants or animals (or a mixture of any or all of the above).
Vegetable glycerin is a vegan glycerol made strictly from plants, and the product can also be made organic and kosher, though it must be labeled as such. U.S. FDA regulations (along with laws in other countries) regulate what is allowed to be labeled organic, kosher, vegan, etc.
For gray area products, such as glycerin, which can be used as a food, pharmaceutical, topical, etc., standards are created by the U.S. Phamacopeial Convention. The USP determines whether or not vegetable glycerin is food grade, so only trust vegetable glycerin-based e-liquids that are USP-certified.
A synthetic liquid, propylene glycol is often the PG listed in VG/PG levels on e-juice bottles. It’s odorless and is used in food processing. It is generally regarded as safe for vaping by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fireball whisky was recently recalled in Scandinavia due to high content of propylene glycol, but the U.S. has higher dosage limits as toxicity through vaping is impossible in a single dose.
Like vegetable glycerin, look for propylene glycol that is USP-certified Kosher or organic, which have high level of food standards, along with minimal usage of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
Natural and Artificial Flavorings
The flavorings used in vaping are often no different than those used in food, though one in particular, diacetyl, a buttery flavor common in microwave popcorn, is harmful when inhaled through vaporizers. Many e-juice manufacturers and labs have taken steps to reformulate recipes to protect its customers from any harmful occurrences.
No other flavorings have had reported injuries, illnesses, or fatalities attached to them, though the popularity of vaping is still relatively new. Caution must still be exercised when vaping to ensure it’s done in moderation like anything else in life.
Like PG and VG, look for vape juices that use kosher and organic flavorings.
Like any essential oil, liquid nicotine is obtained through a tobacco extraction technique. This extraction process may use chemical solvents, and quality testing should be performed during each phase of the extraction process to ensure consistent quality.
The Vape Chemist line uses NicSelect liquid nicotine, which is naturally extracted from tobacco plants and includes batch analysis for molds, heavy metals, and pesticides.
Nicotine is the deadliest chemical found in e-juice, and safe dosing matters. This is why it’s vital that you avoid homemade e-liquids and opt for commercially processed e-juices.
Safe Handling in Commercial Labs
Though anyone can technically buy VG, PG, nicotine, and flavorings to mix their own vaping concoctions, safe food-handling techniques must be employed to ensure the consistent quality of products and their ability to be safely consumed by humans.
Only purchase e-liquids that are produced and bottled in a sterile laboratory setting. With this type of attention to detail, it can be trusted that the e-juice business is made of vapers and interested in promoting a healthy vape lifestyle.
Others are simply green-rushing for money and it shows with cheap plastic bottles leaking chemicals into juices that were likely already contaminated by dirty processing equipment and tainted ingredients made with plants riddled with pesticides and other poisonous and carcinogenic ingredients.
All equipment used to make e-liquid should comply with standards set forth by the International Organization for Standardization. ISO 7 specifically lays out cleanroom standards, and all e-juices should be made in an ISO 7 clean room to ensure organic, kosher ingredients aren’t contaminated during processing.
Do Your Due Diligence
Before purchasing from a vape company, do some background research. How did they get rated in vape forums, vape magazines, and other vape consumer review sites?
Look up the company that owns the vape brand and learn what you can about the owners (articles of incorporation should be publically filed). Be sure the company is who they say they are.
Don’t be afraid to email customer service to ask specific questions about how they source their ingredients and produce their vape juices. If the vape company sounds sketchy, move on to the next one. There are plenty of legitimate vape businesses out there – don’t get stuck doing business with one you don’t trust.
Vaping is healthier than smoking, but there are still risks involved. Proactively mitigate many of these risks by purchasing natural, clean e-liquids from trusted sources who adhere to standards and regulations to ensure consumer safety.
Contributor: Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, consultant, troll doctor, and writer. He’s featured on The Huffington Post, Mainstreet, Lifehack, Money Side of Life, Gaiam, HardcoreDroid, and more.