E-liquid, also referred to as e-juice or smoke juice, is the liquid component of an e-cigarette that generates vapor. If you’re using a disposable e-cig or purchasing replacement cartridges then you’re probably not even aware of the liquid inside, but every other type of device will require you to deal with this product. E-liquid is produced by dozens of companies in hundreds of different flavors, here’s how to properly handle and care for it:
The Dangers Of Nicotine
E-liquid is comprised of several core ingredients – propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine and flavorings. Except for nicotine, all of the ingredients are widely considered safe for human consumption. Nicotine, on the other hand, can be harmful to adults, children and pets when ingested outside of its intended use. Although it would take an extremely high dose to be fatal, extreme caution should be used when handling e-liquid to avoid an adverse reaction. High doses of nicotine from tobacco that is eaten or e-liquid that’s been swallowed can be lethal, although the levels of nicotine in a standard bottle of e-liquid are far more likely to make the user ill.
Another less common way to be affected by nicotine is through dermal absorption, which occurs when e-juice contacts the skin and causes nicotine to seep into your blood stream. In high doses, the most common side effects of nicotine exposure via e-liquid include: excessive salivation, increased heart rate, abdominal pain, sweating, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
General E-Juice Safety Tips
Because of the potentially hazardous nature of nicotine, it’s vital to handle your e-juice with care. E-liquid poisonings have become a growing concern, and pets and small children are the most vulnerable to nicotine exposure. To help prevent accidental exposure to nicotine, consider the following tips:
- Storage: Many e-juice flavors have aromas that are appealing to children and pets, so extra vigilance is required to secure them. Treat e-liquid just like you would any dangerous medicine or household chemical. Childproof caps come standard on many e-liquid bottles, but kids have a knack for getting into forbidden places when they’re not properly secured. Buy products with childproof safety caps and secure them firmly after each use. Store them in a locked case or cupboard, high out of the reach of children, to insure that they can’t gain access or tamper with your e-juice bottles.
- Handling: Nicotine is a poison that can be absorbed through the skin, so be careful whenever you refill your device. Clean up any spills immediately, along with affected surfaces, clothes and exposed skin. Most e-juice bottles have a dripper that will help prevent accidents, but you can purchase one separately if one isn’t included. The key to safety is careful application.
Proper Storage Of E-Liquid
For a number of reasons, it’s best to store your e-liquid in a cool, dark place, away from sunlight, humidity and excessive heat. Nicotine oxidizes in the presence of sunlight and may darken in color, but it doesn’t necessarily impact its properties. In the presence of heat, however, nicotine will evaporate, so it’s a good idea to avoid temperatures above 68 °F (20 °C) since it will slowly diminish the potency of your e-liquid. Besides nicotine, e-juice flavorings can also be degraded by environmental exposure, so protect your e-juice from the elements whenever possible.
Keep your e-liquid in the original container in an upright position, avoiding sunlight, extreme heat and humidity (optimal 64-68 degrees). A cool, dark cupboard (out of the reach of children) should work fine for smaller quantities, but refrigerating (or freezing) larger quantities may be the best option to maintain integrity and freshness over the long term, as lower temperatures slow the oxidation process and prevent mold or bacteria growth. Just keep in mind that e-juice will thicken when it gets cold, so give it plenty of time to warm up before you fill your device. It should vape nicely after about an hour.
E-Juice Life Expectancy
There are no established standards for e-juice life, but based on the life expectancy of PG, VG and nicotine, most e-liquid will last 1-2 years (when stored correctly). The shelf life of individual flavors will vary, but even the shortest lived flavors should easily last 2 years under proper conditions. Juice bottles should have expiration dates listed, but that will be heavily impacted by how the e-juice was stored and maintained. Obviously, if an e-juice has been regularly exposed to high temperatures and sunlight, it’s life expectancy will be reduced.
How do you know when your e-juice has expired? If it smells or tastes bad, that’s a pretty good sign. If it doesn’t mix well, even with vigorous shaking, that’s another sign your e-juice may have expired. It’s unlikely that vaping expired e-liquid is going to harm you, but the best advice is to expect 1 to 2 years and not take any chances. Trust your senses; if it smells or tastes funny – DITCH IT.
Be Aware Of Potential Allergies
Some vapers are allergic to propylene glycol (PG), one of the main ingredients used in e-liquid, but it’s possible to be allergic to other components of e-liquid as well. Since PG is the most likely culprit of an allergic reaction, many e-juice companies offer 100% VG-based e-liquid as an alternative. A variety of different symptoms have been reported, but the most common range from wheezing, sore throats, sinus problems, nausea and headaches to more severe issues such as hives, swelling, redness and numbness of the face. Additionally, small bumps may form on the mouth if you’re allergic to PG.
It’s important to note that only a small fraction of vapers are allergic to PG, and since it’s used in such a wide variety of products (including cosmetics, shampoos and food flavorings) you’re probably already aware if you’re allergic to this component. 100% VG products are widely available for those with PG allergies, and if a specific flavoring is to blame (as you might expect if you have a related food allergy), it’s best to avoid flavors that may contain this ingredient.
Interactions & Other Conditions
Although the majority of people experience no problems when using vapor products, there are certain drugs and medical conditions that may react negatively with the nicotine contained in e-liquid. As an ex-smoker, you’re probably already aware of potential problems related to an existing condition. For example, psoriasis is often worsened by smoking, and vaping may cause a similar response. Other conditions such as chest pain, heart disorders (including arrhythmias, angina and recent heart attacks), stomach ulcers, asthma, diabetes (if using insulin), liver or kidney disease and hyperthyroidism may also be affected by nicotine.
Even though electronic cigarettes appear to broadly reduce the risk of health complications when compared to smoking, it’s always worth seeking medical advice if you have a condition that could be negatively affected by nicotine. When taking drugs, potential interactions with tricyclic anti-depressants, theophylline, furosemide, insulin, benzodiazepines, adenosine and other common medicines like phenylephrine (a decongestant), acetaminophen and caffeine are possible. Some interactions, such as those related to caffeine, aren’t particularly worrisome, but for prescription medicines it’s always best consult with your doctor about potential complications and any available alternatives.