For many people, quitting smoking is part of a broader push to live a healthy lifestyle. That might include getting more active, or watching your diet to shed a few pounds.
That begs the question: with all of the sweet, indulgent vape treats on the market, is the dessert flavor in your tank sabotaging your effort to lose weight?
Yes there are calories, but…
Let's answer the big question first: yes, e-liquid does have calories, and yes you do consume them when you vape. But it's not as big a deal as you might think.
First, the calories in vape liquid come primarily from the PG and VG base, not from the actual flavors themselves. So there's no reason to choose a healthy fruits-only mix over a strawberry cheesecake, other than that fruity liquids are delicious.
Next, the actual calorie count is rather negligible. E-liquid contains between 4-5 calories per milliliter of fluid – if you're vaping 6 ml a day that has you consuming about 25-30 calories, roughly the equivalent of a single carrot. To burn those calories you'd need to take about 600 steps, so take a five-minute walk.
Wait, you might be thinking. I'm inhaling my vapor, not eating it – that means I shouldn't even be digesting those calories. It's a nice idea, but it's not true. Back in the early 2010s a fad of vaping alcohol emerged as a means of avoiding calories, but as it turns out the fact that vaping alcohol causes intoxication (and is actually a pretty terrible idea) proves out the theory that calories can be absorbed by the lungs.
Weight gain? Blame nicotine!
Even if the calorie count in e-liquid is negligible, some people who switch to vaping may still experience weight gain. This isn't unique to vaping, as nearly everyone who quits smoking is susceptible to packing on a few pounds.
The culprit here can be two-fold. First, many ex-smokers inadvertently replace the hand to mouth stimulus of puffing on a cigarette by turning to snacks. That isn't necessarily the case with vapers, however, because you'll still have your mod or cigalike as a handy stand-in.
Instead, consider the properties of nicotine as a drug. Nicotine is a stimulant, which can both increase metabolism and decrease appetite. Since many vapers are seeking to reduce their nicotine dependence, they'll often turn to liquids with lower and lower levels of nicotine after transitioning from smoking. This reduction in consumption in turn can lead to a lower heart rate (this is a good thing!) and increased appetite (not always so great).
If you're using vaping to cut your nicotine consumption, your body reacting to consuming less of the drug over time is simply a fact of life. Take solace in the fact that by cutting the tar and other toxins in cigarette smoke out of your daily lifestyle, you'll have more energy and stamina for exercise to offset the chemical-induced metabolism spike – even if that only means taking the stairs once in a while or walking a little further in the parking lot.
Of course, the opposite reaction might occur if you're using a new-generation cigalike or pod device with ultra-high levels of nicotine salts. Depending on how often you use these products, you might end up consuming even more nicotine than you did as a smoker.
Whether nicotine on its own actually harms adults when separated from tobacco smoke is still an open debate, but it is known to be a highly addictive substance and there are indications it, like other drugs, can negatively impact brain development in adolescents.
Yes, there are calories in e-liquid. Yes, you do absorb those calories even though you're vaping liquid and not eating it. Still, the number of calories involved is so low that it's almost negligible.
If vaping for you is part of a concerted effort to improve your overall health as an ex-smoker, consider the effects of nicotine on the body, as well as the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise regimen, as these are likely to have a greater impact on metabolism than the nutritional content of e-liquid. If you're still smoking, the most important change you can make is to quit completely and permanently, whether you choose to vape or not.