Understanding the Science Behind Vaping


While the whole industry of electronic cigarette smoking, or vaping, as many people call it, is subject to a lot of scrutiny from public health officials. What most of them don’t fully understand is how the act of vaping can help save people from tobacco use. Yes, electronic cigarettes have been proven to be one of the best alternatives for people who are trying to quit using tobacco. The logic behind it is really simple.


Tobacco and cigarettes contain the chemical called nicotine. Nicotine is chemically defined as a nitrogen-containing chemical – an alkaloid – which is made by several types of plants, including the tobacco plant. Nicotine can also be produced synthetically. Either way, there are statistics that should be revealed about this chemical.

For one, nicotine is one of the most heavily used addictive drugs in the U.S., and the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death. Cigarette smoking accounts for 90 percent of lung cancer cases in the U.S., and about 38,000 deaths per year can be attributed to secondhand smoke. Most cigarettes in the U.S. market today contain 10 milligrams (mg) or more of nicotine, and the average smoker takes in 1 to 2 mg nicotine per cigarette.

Vaping allows users to take in nicotine in a much more controlled manner. Many innovations with concentrate vapes allow not only voltage and wattage adjustments in the system, but also with the overall experience using the device.

The secret behind vapes’ alluring user experience is the E-Juice or concentrate. E-Juice typically contains three main chemicals – propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and nicotine. Know more about these key ingredients, understand E-Juice at its chemical level, and be enlightened how vapes can really be beneficial.

Propylene Glycol

The first important component of E-Juice is propylene glycol. The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry defines the chemical in a more in-depth sense; propylene glycol is a synthetic liquid substance that absorbs water and is used to make polyester compounds, and as a base for deicing solutions. Also, propylene glycol is used by chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries as antifreeze to prevent contact with food in case of leakage. True enough, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is “generally recognized as safe” for use in food.


It is used to absorb extra water and maintain moisture in certain medicines, cosmetics, or food products. It is a solvent for food colors and flavors, and in paint and in plastics industries. Propylene glycol is also used to create artificial smoke or fog used in fire-fighting training and in theatrical productions.

Other names for propylene glycol are 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 1,2-propanediol, methyl glycol, and trimethyl glycol. Propylene glycol is clear, colorless, slightly syrupy liquid at room temperature. It may exist in air in vapor form, although propylene glycol must be heated or briskly shaken to produce a vapor. Propylene glycol is practically odorless and tasteless.

Its safety is reassured by different chemists in the industry. Unlike its dangerous and frequently lethal cousin, ethylene glycol, PG is easily metabolized by the liver into normal products of the citric acid metabolic cycle, which are completely nontoxic to the body. Approximately 45 percent of any ingested PG is excreted directly from the body and never even comes into contact with the liver.

The elimination half-life for propylene glycol is approximately four hours, and there is no bioaccumulation (buildup in the body over time). A few rare incidents have occurred when a person ingested a large quantity of propylene glycol and suffered physiological neurological effects as a result, but these cases are short-lived and subsided once the material was metabolized and excreted.

As such, the next time one asks about the safety of E-Juice, be sure to make it a point to enlighten them regarding its primary component – propylene glycol. It is safe, DFA approved and generally applied in other common products.

Vegetable Glycerin

The next major component of any concentrate juice used in vaping is vegetable glycerin. Vegetable glycerin, or glycerol, is a clear, odorless liquid produced from plant oils, typically palm, soy, or coconut oil. Palm and coconut oils are natural triglyceride mixtures. Each triglyceride is composed of three fatty acids esterified with glycerin. Vegetable glycerin has a number of valuable applications that include cosmetic products, foods, and as a replacement for alcohol in herbal and botanical tinctures.


Nutrients Review delves deeper into chemical’s metabolism and absorption rate, stating that glycerin is chemically classified as a sugar alcohol, but it is more similar to sugars. It is readily absorbed and is probably converted into glucose in the human body providing 4.3 kilocalories of energy per gram. In terms of how it reacts to the body, glycerin is not one of the FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols), because it is absorbed in the small intestine and does not pass to the large intestine where it would be fermented by intestinal bacteria.

Its applications are of great variety as it can be added as a humectant (wetting agent), thickener, solvent or sweetener for dairy products (cream), canned goods, confections, fondant, processed fruits, jams, energy bars, and other foods. The source of glycerin (animal or vegetable oil, corn syrup, petroleum) used in a food product is usually not revealed on the food labels. The health benefits of vegetable glycerin are also noted, as in some studies, glycerin in doses about 30 mL/kg body weight has slightly (by 2.6 percet) increased hyperhydration and endurance performance.

Glycerin as a food additive is considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Glycerin is expected to be safe to use for adults and children and has no known cancer-promoting (carcinogenic), DNA-damaging (mutagenic) or birth defect-causing (teratogenic) effects.

Another reason to believe that E-Juice and vaping in general are safe is that vapors are way less toxic than cigarette smoke.


While one may argue that vapors do not differ from cigarette smoke because it similarly has the nicotine in it, the main difference about this is that one can tweak the levels of this chemical in vaping. A variety of vape juice offers a wide array of nicotine levels one can choose from. From 12 mg down to 3 mg (sometimes, to no nicotine at all), vape juice allows a user to select from this wide range depending upon his or her preference.


This is definitely an important consideration when it comes to vaping, especially for a newbie vaper. Getting the wrong nicotine strength is a good way to fail in one’s attempt to switch. Too much nicotine can make anyone sick and leery to continue vaping. Too little nicotine can leave one still craving for cigarette, making a person fail during the switch. The secret lies in finding the right level and sticking with it.


Just like any other substance, nicotine causes long term users to develop a tolerance to the chemical. Most users settle into a comfortable level and rate at which they ingest nicotine and don’t adjust to a higher rate of use when smoking cigarettes. What happens when one goes from lower nicotine strength to a higher one is that the body becomes tolerant to the higher nicotine E-Juice. In other words, going to a higher nicotine strength to reduce the frequency that one vapes can only normalize the person to the new nicotine level, not make anyone vape less. The best thing to do is to go in a downward slope and not have an above average intake.