There’s no point in talking about vape juice and vape juice flavors as separate entities, since they rely on each other exclusively.
However, the other driving factor of success is the idea that vaping is completely safe, unlike smoking tobacco.
But honestly, that’s an extreme view, much like saying vaping is the biggest cancer-causing danger faced by modern smokers. The truth is actually somewhere in between.
Vape Juice Composition: How Flavor Plays Its Role
Therefore, to understand how safe or unsafe vaping itself is, we must have some clear yet basic ideas about the general composition of vape juice or e-juice. The four basic components are:
– Vegetable Glycerin
– Propylene Glycol
Glycerin is a substance that you may obtain by processing almost any kind of fat. For vape juice, the source is vegetable fat.
VG usually makes up more than half of the juice for modern vapers. It’s colorless, non-toxic and odorless alcohol that has a sweet taste and is completely safe for inhalation.
The heavy eruption of vapor that often follows vaping attributes to the viscosity of VG. However, it doesn’t have many hits.
Like VG, Propylene Glycol (PG) is almost odorless alcohol with a very slight sweet taste.
It’s not sweet enough to be used as the food sweetener, unlike VG. But very often used as a moistener.
There is a misconception that PG is used as an antifreeze, which isn’t true.
It is, however, one of the components used in making antifreeze. But that line of reasoning can also be used to say water is poisonous because it can be poisoned.
Another ingredient that is thought to be the bane of vaping’s safety. Nicotine is actually a very safe drug.
The amount required to cause nicotine poisoning is so great that most of us can’t actually even imagine it.
Almost all the health hazards caused by smoking cigarette attribute to tobacco combustion, and the massive amount of carbon dioxide inhaled.
On the other hand, nicotine is the driving factor that helps regular smokers during the transition.
This is the ingredient that pushes the conceivable boundary of popularity for vaping. There are literally thousands of flavors available in the market right now, and they can satisfy the palate of almost any practicing and potential vaper.
These flavors consist food-grade additives, which are perfectly edible and safe.
However, the same can’t be said about inhaling them.
Some extremely popular flavors actually directly link to known health hazards, albeit within definite context, and is quite difficult to predict about their immediate effects.
Some react to other ingredients of the solvent and create by products that simply aren’t possible to foresee while still others react differently to vapers differently.
The success factor of flavors is that they pack a good enough punch and make the whole vaping experience tasty. But the chemical experience isn’t always as safe, or unsafe, as is thought.
Experiments on Vape Juice Flavors: What We Have
The honest answer is, currently there aren’t a lot of experiments being conducted through which a definite conclusion can be drawn about the risk factors of vape juice flavors. Therefore, we draw our conclusion based on a few recent experiments and some historical facts.
Studies on Aldehydes
As mentioned earlier, the food grade additives used in flavors are all safe, which is another way of saying they’re in the FDA’s GRAS safe list. It was also said that they’re not always safe for inhalation and that’s because they contain aldehydes.
Generally, harmless aldehydes are organic components often associated with aromas: the odors that we can taste.
However, recent studies on aldehyde show that when heat or vaporization is put in the equation, formaldehyde is formed along with other similar components.
The troubling news is, in addition to causing inflammation and irritation of lungs, formaldehyde is quite infamous for causing cancers.
Experiments on Endothelial Cells
These are the cells that line the inside wall of blood vessels and the heart. Under the supervision of the American Heart Association, this recent experiment observed the effects of the nine most popular vape juice flavors on these cells.
The nine flavor components in this experiment are acetylpyridine (burnt flavor), cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon), diacetyl (butter), isoamyl acetate (banana), menthol (mint), eucalyptol (cooling), vanillin (vanilla), eugenol (clove) and dimethyl pyrazine (strawberry).
There are exposed endothelial to these components for a maximum of 90 minutes; at their worst, the cells started dying. Cinnamon, spicy cooling, clove, strawberry, and banana cause cell deaths much quicker than others with strawberry’s effect being the quickest.
At their highest level, all the nine flavors also impaired the production of nitric oxide – the chemical responsible for keeping the blood vessels relaxed.
In addition, clove, burnt flavor, vanilla, and cinnamon also showed the character of causing inflammation even at low levels.
However, the bad news is, inflammation of endothelial cells and reduced production of nitric oxide are the most basic and common precursors of cardiovascular diseases.
Historical Fact About Diacetyl
Diacetyl is the component that leaves the buttery tastes during vaping. But there is historical evidence that continuous and regular exposure to this substance could be lethal.
In a popcorn manufacturing plant in the U.S., diacetyl has caused bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition more commonly known as “popcorn lungs” in workers. This condition scars the lungs and narrows the airway. Some of the workers unfortunately even died.
Limiting Factors of the Experiments
However, before you decide that vape juice flavors are definitely lethal, we must take on a more balanced view. The results aren’t full-fledged enough to be conclusive, and they have problematic limitations.
First of all, the sample size for the aldehyde studies isn’t big enough to draw a more general conclusion. The law of average is the actual decisive factor of any modern experiment.
Besides, the number available at the moment is simply not big enough to calculate a reliable average. The experiment with the endothelial cells, on the other hand, is not completely realistic.
The cells were in a petri dish and the affecting components at their highest strengths. And all that for 90 minutes. In real life, it’s very unlikely that a vaper would be exposed for so long to such strength.
On the other hand, diacetyl was definitely present in the popcorn plant’s air during the investigation, but we can’t call the result with complete certainty either.
It’s a potential candidate, definitely, but quite impossible to say if it is THE candidate since there were a lot other chemical components to which the workers were exposed.
Vape Juice Flavor: What's the Situation?
All in all, there are almost 8000 vape juice flavors available right now. The risk factors often associate with them verges on the impossible.
The problem is, the completely legal and harmless components which are inherently reactive in nature.
They comprise the flavors, which means while harmless in themselves.
They do react to the solvent, in addition to exposing them to heat and vaporization, and produce byproducts that simply weren’t foreseen or even listed as a possibility.
The possibility range could be enormous, a lot of which may not even have a carryover factor meaning, they wouldn’t even have any effect on the vaper.
However, the same line implies there could be effects. So the flavors could pose risks. Risks that can only be ascertained as the body of experiment and study grows.
Given the popularity of vape flavors and in light of the available facts, the FDA has recently expressed its intention to restrict the selling of vape kits and flavors in traditional brick and mortar shops, like cigarettes.
For online purchases, there is an expecting for a better affected age restriction policy. These are intended to minimize the number of underage vapers.
On the other hand, manufacturers are becoming more and more compliant to national and international codes of conduct that is being updated as new evidence emerges.
Vaping doesn’t pose the same risk as smoking tobacco, which doesn’t mean it has no risk at all.
However, with the help of legal authorities, manufactures and the users themselves, it is can be better managed and identified the actual risks.