Understanding E-Liquids: A Comprehensive Guide

In recent years, vaping has emerged as an effective tool for smoking cessation. Vapes, also known as e-cigarettes, come in various forms, including vape pod systems and re-fillable devices. They are only available on prescription in Australia. Central to the vaping experience is the use of e-liquids, also known as vape juice or vape liquid. But what exactly are e-liquids? In this article, we will delve into the world of e-liquids, exploring what they are, their composition, and how they contribute to the overall vaping experience.

What are E-Liquids?

E-liquids are the fluids used in e-cigarettes to produce vapor. These liquids typically consist of a blend of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine and flavorings. The combination of these ingredients creates the vapor that users inhale.

Propylene Glycol (PG)

Propylene glycol is a colorless and odorless liquid that is commonly used in food and pharmaceutical products. In e-liquids, PG serves as a base to carry flavorings and nicotine. It contributes to the throat sensation.

Vegetable Glycerin (VG)

Vegetable glycerin is a thicker, sweeter liquid derived from vegetable oils. It is responsible for producing dense clouds of vapor and adds a smoothness to the overall vaping experience. VG is often used in combination with PG to achieve a balance between throat hit and vapor production.


Nicotine is the addictive component in cigarettes. Vapers can choose the nicotine concentration in their e-liquids, ranging from nicotine-free options to high-strength formulations. This allows users to gradually reduce their nicotine intake and makes vaping such an effective tool for smoking cessation. Nicotine comes in two different forms: nicotine salts and free base nicotine.

  1. Freebase NicotineComposition: Freebase nicotine is the standard form of nicotine found in traditional cigarettes. It is extracted from the tobacco plant and processed into a pure, alkaline state. In this form, nicotine is more volatile, which makes it easier to vaporise and inhale. Freebase (high VG) e-liquids generally produce more vapour, making them popular among those who enjoy producing large clouds.Harshness: Free base nicotine is known for its harsh throat hit, especially at higher concentrations. This characteristic can be intense for some users, leading to discomfort and irritation during inhalation.

    Absorption Rate: Free base nicotine is absorbed less efficiently by the body compared to nicotine salts. The slower absorption rate means that users may need higher concentrations to achieve the desired satisfaction, which can contribute to the harshness associated with free base nicotine.

  2. Nicotine SaltsComposition: Nicotine salts, on the other hand, are created by combining nicotine with an organic acid, typically benzoic acid. This chemical transformation results in a smoother and more stable compound. Nicotine salts are closer in composition to the natural state of nicotine found in the tobacco leaf.Smoothness: The addition of benzoic acid in nicotine salts reduces the alkalinity of the nicotine, resulting in a significantly smoother throat hit. This characteristic allows for higher concentrations of nicotine without the harshness associated with free base nicotine, making nicotine salts an appealing option for those looking to replicate the sensation of smoking.

    Absorption Rate: Nicotine salts are absorbed more efficiently by the body, providing a quicker and more satisfying nicotine delivery. This efficiency allows users to achieve the desired satisfaction with lower concentrations, making nicotine salts an excellent choice for individuals seeking a smoother experience with higher nicotine levels.

The Potential Dangers of Poorly Made E-Liquids

Not all e-liquids are created equally, it is essential to be aware of the potential dangers associated with certain ingredients in poorly manufactured vaping products.

  • Unknown and Harmful Chemicals
    Poorly made e-liquids may contain undisclosed and potentially harmful chemicals. Illicit manufacturers, seeking to cut costs, may use low-quality or unregulated ingredients that can have adverse health effects when inhaled. These unknown substances may lead to respiratory issues, allergic reactions, or even long-term health complications.
  • Contaminants and Impurities
    The lack of quality control in poorly made e-liquids can result in contamination with impurities such as heavy metals, pesticides, and residual solvents. Inhaling these contaminants can have serious health consequences, including respiratory problems, organ damage, and other adverse effects.
  • Inconsistent Nicotine Levels
    Properly labeled e-liquids indicate the nicotine concentration, allowing users to make informed choices. However, poorly made products may have inconsistent or inaccurate nicotine levels, leading to unintended overconsumption or underestimation. Nicotine toxicity can result in symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and, in extreme cases, seizures.
  • Diacetyl and Acetyl Propionyl: Respiratory Concerns
    Some poorly made e-liquids may contain diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, compounds associated with respiratory issues. Prolonged inhalation of these substances has been linked to a condition known as “popcorn lung,” characterized by damage to the airways. Reputable manufacturers avoid the use of these compounds, but in substandard products, their presence is a serious health risk.
  • Unregulated Flavorings
    E-liquid flavorings, while intended to enhance the vaping experience, can be problematic when they are not properly regulated. Poorly made e-liquids may contain excessive amounts of artificial flavorings, which can cause irritation and allergic reactions. Some flavorings may also undergo chemical changes when heated, producing additional unknown byproducts.
  • Lack of Child-Resistant Packaging
    Proper packaging is crucial to prevent accidental ingestion, particularly by children. Poorly made e-liquids may lack child-resistant packaging, increasing the risk of unintentional exposure and ingestion. Nicotine poisoning in children can have severe consequences and requires immediate medical attention.

When choosing an e-liquid, it is essential to purchase from a reputable manufacturer. Their products will comply with TGO110, the standard set by the TGA for vaping products.


E-liquids play a central role in the world of vaping, providing users with a customisable and more palatable alternative to traditional smoking. Understanding the components of e-liquids and how they contribute to the vaping experience empowers users to make informed choices.

Want to know more about accessing e-liquids in Australia? Book an appointment with a Quitmate doctor today to explore the options.