If you’re a smoker or former smoker, chances are that “vape juice” is a term that’s very familiar to you – even if you haven’t made the switch to vaping yourself yet. If you’re not a smoker, though – and are just a concerned parent – you might hear the term from your children or your children’s friends. Is vape juice something that should concern you? Is it something that your children should be buying or using? In this article, we’re going to answer the question “what is vape juice?” from a parent’s perspective.
What Is Vape Juice?
Vape juice is the fluid used in an electronic cigarette, vape pen or other vaporizing device. The user adds the vape juice to the tank of his or her vape pen, and the device vaporizes the liquid for inhaling. The user then exhales a cloud of vapor that looks like smoke. Users typically refill their tanks with vape juice several times daily. People use vape juice as a substitute for tobacco smoking.
Does Vape Juice Have Nicotine?
Yes. Although nicotine-free vape juice does exist, the vast majority of vape juice does contain nicotine. In most cases, the nicotine is extracted directly from tobacco leaves using a solvent such as ammonia. There are a few e-liquids that use lab-created nicotine, but synthetic nicotine is more expensive than naturally extracted nicotine and therefore isn’t used by many vape juice companies.
Some vape juice contains a different type of nicotine called nicotine salt. Nicotine salt is the result of a chemical reaction that occurs when an acidic compound is added to vape juice. Most vape juice is slightly alkaline, so it can cause throat irritation when inhaling if the nicotine concentration of the vape juice is high. Nicotine salt, in comparison, has a more neutral pH. Nicotine salt vape juice generally has a much higher nicotine concentration than standard vape juice, and it is potentially far more addictive as a result. E-cigarette brands such as JUUL use nicotine salt.
Who Should Buy Vape Juice?
Vape juice is for adults only. Children should not ever be allowed to buy or use vape juice – even if it contains no nicotine. In the United States, federal law requires all people purchasing vaping products to be at least 18 years of age, although many states and cities have higher minimum ages for vaping. As of 2019, the federal government is considering raising the minimum vaping age to 21 nationwide.
Vaping products are intended for use by adult smokers only – and only by those smokers who either can’t – or won’t – quit with traditional stop-smoking aids. Research suggests that vaping may be a less dangerous alternative to cigarette smoking, and millions of people around the world have switched to vaping with the hope that it might be better for their health. Vaping does still have potential health risks, though, and nicotine is a powerfully addictive chemical. Those who are not already addicted to nicotine should not vape.
An additional reason why people buy vape juice is because it’s usually dramatically less expensive than cigarettes – especially in areas such as New York, where high taxes have pushed cigarette prices well over $10 per pack. Some people spend thousands of dollars each year on cigarettes. Vaping, on the other hand, can potentially cost less than $1,000 per year.
What Is In Vape Juice?
In addition to nicotine, most vape juice contains three ingredients: vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and flavors.
The flavors used for vape juice are the same food-grade flavoring agents that companies use when making products like candy, gum, soda and other snacks. It’s known that those flavoring agents are safe to consume in moderate amounts because people have been consuming them for decades in the foods that they already eat. The potential health risks of inhaling food-grade flavors, however, are presently unknown.
Vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol are common ingredients in foods, cosmetics and body care products. In those products, they serve several purposes. In cosmetics and body care products, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol keep ingredients mixed, so the products don’t need to be shaken before each use. In foods, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol retain moisture and inhibit microbial growth. Glycerin is also sometimes used as a mild sweetener in foods.
Like the flavors used in vape juice, it’s known that vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol are safe to touch and to consume in moderate amounts because they’re already in many of the products that we use every day. It is not known, however, whether inhaling those products has any long-term health consequences.
As mentioned above, many experts believe that vaping is potentially less harmful than smoking in terms of the likelihood of causing the diseases commonly associated with smoking. Vaping is relatively new, though, and there is a possibility that vaping could present some other risk that isn’t yet known.
What Does Vape Juice Taste Like?
One of the reasons why so many people have switched successfully from smoking to vaping is because vape juice often tastes very good. Since vape juice makers use the same flavoring compounds that companies in the food industry use, it’s possible to create a vape juice that tastes almost exactly like a popular candy, baked treat or other snack.
The one thing that a vape juice can’t taste like is a tobacco cigarette. Vape juice doesn’t contain tobacco, and it doesn’t burn or produce smoke. Many companies do produce “tobacco” vape juices, but those products simply contain various aromas and flavors that mimic tobacco.
Because vape juices often have sweet flavors, some have speculated that flavored vape juice makes vaping attractive to children and causes minors to take up vaping. In 2019, the U.S. federal government proposed a possible ban on all vape juice flavors other than tobacco. The potential ban is highly controversial among those who vape, however, because surveys have consistently shown that flavored vape juices have helped millions of people around the world quit smoking successfully. Most adult former smokers who now vape do not use tobacco-flavored vape juices because those products don’t truly taste like tobacco.