Well, I'm glad you asked since this site and store is all about vaping. Vaping is inhaling (and exhaling) vapor which is produced by warming "e-juice" or "e-liquid" which consists of a base medium, flavoring, distilled water, and sometimes nicotine in varying strengths reminiscent of full flavored, light, and ultra light cigarettes.
Okay, but what's in it exactly. I mean what's in the base medium for starters?
Another good question but a little tougher to answer. The base liquid is usually mono propylene glycol (PG), or vegetable glycerin (VG), or sometimes PEG400 (poly ethylene glycol with a molecular weight of 400). It can also be a mixture of these. These bases are only used to produce a flavor-ready vapor which looks and feels like smoke. These chemicals have long been used in artificial smoke machines (for theatrical effects), as well as for the delivery of medicines (both ingested and inhaled), and are considered safe if the base chemicals are of sufficient purity and quality, but more on that later.
Uhh... if you don't mind, and even if you do, I'd like to hear about quality a little more. I know a lot of these liquids come from China and I'm a little worried if you get my drift.
Okay sure. First of all, no matter where e-liquid is produced there are a set of international standards in place to assure the quality of the product. You may see a designation for instance of USP which means pure enough for (American) pharmaceutical applications, and approved for internal use. If you really want to check on a particular manufacturer, visit their website and if they are serious about their quality they will have not one but several or many of these quality assured abbreviations. Here is a partial list. GMP Codex Alimentarius ? Good Manufacturing Practice? General Principles of Food Hygiene CAC/RCP-1-1969,Rew.4(2003) KFDA South Korea FDA German Food and Feed Code (Lebensmittel - Bedarfsgegenstande-und Futtermittelgesetzbuch (LFGB))
ISO9001:2008 ISO13485:2003 Canada CAMDCAS European MSDS Certification European CE Certification RoHS Certification Companies earn these certifications by going through inspections and /or submitting their products to rigorous testing in independant and institutional labs. As far as China goes, yes I read the newspapers like anyone else, but no one bothers to report on the Chinese manufacturers who take Quality Control and safety seriously. If you want to be fair, how many boxes of all-American eggs, or jars of (famous maker) baby food, or bottles of over the counter (branded) medicines have been found to be unsafe and recalled? All I'm saying is take each manufacturer individually and if you're concerned do a little due diligence. Aside from these international certifications you can look for keywords like food grade or even Kosher when choosing which manufacturer of e-liquid you can trust. If you want, there are plenty of American manufacturers of e-liquid to choose from as well, but don't be surprised if some of them are simply re-branding imported juice.
Alright but why so many choices? What's the difference between PG, VG and PEG400?
Well most juices are PG based. PG delivers more of whatever flavoring is in the juice, but doesn't generally produce a heavy vapor. VG on the other hand produces a huge amount of vapor but it has a sweet taste of it's own (food grade VG can be used as a sugar substitute), which can mask, mute, or clash with any flavoring used in the e-liquid. Also pure VG is very thick and might not perform well in some vaping hardware. A lot of suppliers of e-liquid (myself included) offer PG/VG mixtures that deliver the ideal balance of vapor production, ease of use, and flavor. Far less common is PEG 400 which is like PG, but a good substitute for people that have an allergy or intolerance to PG. You can google or wiki it if you'd like to know more.
What about the flavors?
Well, some are tobacco extracts or concentrates which can emulate an ex-smoker's last brand of choice. Other flavors are actually food flavorings, concentrates and extracts that people use to cook with. Not all edible flavors are safe for vaping (inhalation) but the industry is pretty savvy when it comes to that. I'm not a chemist and if you really want to know more, you can wiki or google it.
Why should I?
Why indeed. The point is the knowledge is out there. Just like it is concerning cigarettes, but since most smokers concede they're killing themselves anyway, they're not too concerned with exactly how. Most food flavoring manufacturers already know which flavors are vape friendly and some actually market them as such. No self respecting manufacturer of e-liquid would use a flavor that was unsafe to vape, so in a way, you're right not to overly worry about it. Just buy from a well known manufacturer or a supplier that uses the brands you trust, like me. We currently stock geniune DeKang and Kanger in many flavors and strengths, and we blend our own using USP PG, Kosher USP food grade VG and vape friendly flavorings.
Almost forgot, what about the nicotine?
Aye there's the rub. Let me say first off that it would be best if you didn't vape nicotine at all, but for some ex-smokers non-nicotine juice just won't cut it. Personally, I started with 16mg strength and within two days found a non-nicotine flavor I enjoy so much that I haven't looked back. I vape only non-nicotine e-liquid now and don't miss nicotine one bit. Although vaping nicotine is far safer than getting it from a cigarette or arguably even from gum or patches, it's still a potent toxin and would be a good thing to avoid. That said, the quantities of nicotine we're talking about are miniscule. If you want to know something, tomatoes, potatoes, and many other vegetables naturally contain nicotine. Tobacco's just a plant after all. Also nicotine has been looked into as a drug therapy for ADD and various other maladies. Look, even tylenol will kill you if you take too much. It's alarming but most cases of acute liver failure are due to overdoses of acetaminophen. Bottom line with nicotine. If you can do without, skip it. If you gotta have it, find the lightest strength that satisfies your need. Be aware that because you can vape anywhere, anytime and feel relatively safe doing so, many of us (guilty as charged) vape a lot more than we ever smoked, especially in the beginning so keep that in mind. And remember vaping is not a nicotine replacement therapy, although it can be a pleasurable, relatively safe and still legal way to use nicotine without exposing yourself or those around you to the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Yes, you can conceivably use vaping to ween yourself off of nicotine but that's just a personal choice, like cold turkey.
Okay, so I kinda know what e-liquid is now but how to do "vape" it?
Well... not to be funny, but in a vaporizer, a personal vaporizer (PV) which is just another word for electronic cigarette or e-cig, and there are many different types. The first designs consisted of three components. A battery, an atomizer (atty) and a cartridge which is filled with e-juice. The battery powers the atomizer, (which is more accurately a vaporizer) that vaporizes a small amount of the e-liquid which is inhaled from the mouthpiece end of the cartridge and voila. As a matter of fact virtually all PV's work this way, but there are some variations. The first e-cigs, were shaped and sized like cigarettes and even painted up to resemble cigarettes in some cases. Another type of cigarette-resembling PV is a two piece design. Same principle, but the atomizer and cartridge were combined into a cartomizer or carto. The atomizer in these cartos is marketed as disposable but in truth depending on the manufacturer, you can refill a carto many times before it needs to be discarded. Care should be taken however to keep your cartos clean and germ free. If you don't want to fuss over them, throw them out when they're empty to be safe. In response to their popularity, cartos have been retro designed to replace the atomizer and cartridge on what were originally three piece e-cigs, giving the vaper more options than ever before. Cartos are a good way to vape for most people and certainly for people just getting into vaping. They're already cheaper than regular cigarettes if you throw them away, and way way cheaper if you learn how to sterilize and refill them yourself.
3 piece design
Here you see the three main variations on electronic cigarettes or PV's. The one at the top is what we've already described. It's often called a mini because it's the smallest of the PV designs. I neglected to mention that these e-cigs usually have a manual (button operated) or automatic (draw sensing) battery option. Next we have the "pen" style e-cig, and it resembles a pen much more than it does a cigarette. The components work the same way. The extra length enables this type of hardware to have a larger battery and cartridge. Also if you don't want people to know you're vaping, you can stealth vape and look just like you're chewing on a pen. To do this you'd need an e-liquid with very little vapor production and have to hold in the vapor for a bit before exhaling. Just below that we see what I'll call the mega style, just because it's huge. These resemble cigars more than anything else. They sport a high capacity 650mah-900+mah manual battery, and the cartridges (or cartomizers) used with these mega's can hold a tremendous amount of e-liquid. The mega's in general provide a massive amount of vapor. Actually with the right juice so can a mini-cigarette, but you'll have to refill it more often. In addition to these, there are modified devices (mods), usb passthroughs and a few other new additions to the family, but we'll go into those elsewhere.
pictured here is a JoyeTech eGo
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