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The Ultimate Guide to E-liquids in the UK
Did you know that one of the most common questions among anyone who has entered the vaping world is: “where do I even start”? In an effort to clear up your many questions, we will focus on an all-inclusive guide to the most important component of vaping: e-liquids.
What is E-Liquid?
E-liquid, also commonly known as e-juice, is essentially what its name suggests: it’s a liquid based compound made up of four main ingredients – flavouring, glycerin, propylene glycol (PG) and nicotine. It’s important to note that some e-liquids also use vegetable glycerin (VG) and/or use nicotine-free e-liquid. We will expound upon this below. These four ingredients are mixed together, generally in a lab-like environment, by certified chemists, vaping enthusiasts and even amateurs, which is then sold to vapers for individual use. When e-liquid reaches a temperature of around 200°C, vapour is produced in which the user inhales. While e-cigarette devices have improved dramatically over the years and is considered a key factor in vaping’s success, it’s actually e-liquid that is often cited as being the primary driving force behind the vaping industry. The device may provide the power, but the e-liquid provides the experience.
PG vs. VG E Juice
If you have done any type of search for e-juice, chances are you’ve come across the aforementioned terms ‘PG’ and ‘VG’. We already know what the initials stand for; let’s take a look at what type of vape each one gives you.
- PG: before you got into the world of vaping, you may have already heard about PG, or propylene glycol. That’s because it is very commonly used and consumed by people around the globe, notably as an additive in many of our foods. That said, if you were to look at an unmarked PG e-liquid bottle right next to an unmarked VG e-liquid bottle, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. However, one you were to touch it, it becomes clear what’s what. PG e-juice is a much thinner consistency than VG. For all intents and purposes, it moves like water (for example if you were to shake the bottle). This type of liquid provides users with a stronger throat hit and more vape flavour than VG liquid, since propylene glycol is used to carry flavouring.
- VG: here’s an interesting fact about VG – it’s been around for quite some time, and like PG, can be found in our food industry. However, when it comes to vaping, virtually all of the e-liquid pioneers only created PG for their customers. VG vape juice started making a name for itself only a few years ago. When you think about it, this makes complete sense. VG is quite different from its PG counterpart. VG is thick, unlike PG which is runny. It provides for a much smoother throat hit, which, depending on the nicotine level you choose, is almost unnoticeable. It also gives off far bigger vapour clouds, yet with less vape flavour than PG e cig liquid.
If you’d like to get an even bigger picture on PG vs. VG e juice, along with some of the best choices out there, you can read our guide here.
Choosing the Best E Liquid
We won’t sugarcoat it: in principle, choosing the best e-liquid will probably be the hardest part of your quest to experience vaping excellence. Did you know that a few years ago, there were already 8,000 vape liquid flavours on the market? What do you think that number is now? To make matters worse, some providers let you mix and match any flavours you’d like, which can add more than 30,000 variants to choose from. Good luck on finding the “best e liquid”. However, it’s not all doom and gloom for you.
For starters, begin here: whether it be dessert, fruit or good old tobacco, you likely know which style of flavours you enjoy the most. This should eliminate most of the selection to choose from, making it much easier to find the best e liquid for you. Similarly, you can browse the multiple styles of vape juice and select one flavour from each style/category (i.e. one dessert, one fruit, etc.). The good news is that as long as you are purchasing (or making) high quality e juice, even if you stumble across a flavour you’re not so fond of, it won’t be a downright terrible experience. Simply move on to the next flavour you’d like to try.
The above is also a critical element when choosing your e juice. ‘Quality above all’ is our motto. Do not sacrifice on quality in order to save a few quid. You will likely be disgusted by the taste, which may put you off from vaping entirely. So, when you’ve picked out your brand of choice, in addition to your vape flavour, make sure it’s of the highest of quality.
Furthermore, it is important to understand what type of vaper you are. Are you vaping to get your nicotine fix or are you part of the cloud chasing revolution? If you’re vaping because you wanted to kick the nasty tobacco habit, but still need your nicotine fix, you’ll want to purchase PG e liquids. On the other hand, if you’re looking to enter into some cloud chasing competition or simply enjoy blowing massive vapour clouds, you’re going to want need to go with VG e liquid. It is not recommended to use PG e-liquid in order to exhale large clouds. For most people, the ‘kick’ would be too much to handle.
There are several other minor factors to consider when choosing the best e liquid for you, such as looking at the ingredients, understanding PG/VG ratios (especially if you will be creating e liquid on your own), and others. However, if you stick to the above points, you will have made a good start into the world of e liquid.
Just one last thing to keep in mind: the title of “best e liquid” is highly subjective and is dependent on a wide range of factors, including but not limited to understanding your own taste buds and what they enjoy. The key is perseverance.
DIY or Buy?
For those unfamiliar with the term DIY, you should probably get a better understanding of it, even if you don’t end up initially choosing this route. DIY, otherwise known as “do it yourself”, has become an increasingly popular method in the e-liquid market. Years ago, only a handful of suppliers would sell e liquids. It was a fairly simple process. The company would have their chemists create their own brand of e liquids in a lab. Oftentimes, the number of vape flavours on offer totaled no more than a few dozen. Additionally, this left people relying on these companies supposed quality, which many times didn’t live up to the hype. Naturally, this caused an excessive amount of consumer frustration…which led to “DIY e liquid”. These are regular people just like you, with little to no experience in creating a product like e juice. Sounds like a bad idea, right? Well, not really.
In the age of technology, the Internet and social media, we can now access any information at our fingertips. There are plenty of professional YouTube videos that provide a step by step guide on how to create your own e cig liquid. And, that’s what people did: many followed instructions by watching these videos. Yes, they needed to purchase a few small supplies such as syringes, a graduated cylinder, breakers, etc. However, some people preferred this option largely due to infinite customisation options (i.e. playing with vape flavours and ratios). Having the ability to play with PG/VG ratios shouldn’t be taken lightly, as this is a major factor in quality and overall taste.
There are, however, downsides to DIY e juice. One, it will get messy. Your PG and/or VG substances will probably spill several times over the course of creating your e cig liquid. Speaking of spillage: it can be hazardous to your skin and overall health. For example, if you use too much nicotine (or pure nicotine, which you should never do), you can experience adverse health effects. Moreover, there will be a lot of trial and error, and probably much more error at first. So, if saving money is your key reason for thinking of trying DIY, you may want to think again. Lastly, you will need to factor in steeping and breathing time. Steeping is the process of aging your e juice. Like a fine aged wine, steeping enables you to get the most flavour out of your e liquid. Within steeping there is both pre and post steeping. Then there is breathing, which takes much less time than steeping, but still allots for up to 12 hours. The entire steeping and breathing process can last for several weeks to several months. It is obvious that you will need to show a considerable amount of patience during this process. Granted, steeping isn’t automatically a necessity, as you can go the ‘Shake N Vape’ route (more on this below). However, if you’re truly thinking about DIY e juice, you may as well go all the way and get the most out of your time and efforts.
As for buying ready made e liquid: there are several pros and cons to this as well. The obvious pros are convenience, affordability, and depending on which brand you buy e liquid from, consistent quality. There are no shortage of online outlets and offline vape shops selling many of the flavours and brands that you will likely choose. And, you can have it in as little as a few minutes depending on your location. Also, buying readymade e liquids will probably cost you a lot less in the short to mid-term, while you work out financial efficiency with the DIY e juice method. Additionally, while customisation isn’t as wide ranging as DIY e juice, does it really matter? Are you really going to experiment with creating crazy flavours that aren’t on the market when it seems like you can get your hands on almost any other readymade flavour you can think of?
Yet, like DIY e juice, buying readymade e liquids have downsides, albeit much less. There is no quality refinement process. You will be leaving quality in the hands of a third party. Even if you are a seasoned vaper, there are thousands of e liquid brands to choose from. It could take you weeks, if not months, to find a brand with top of the line quality. In addition to this, you are also limiting yourself to PG/VG ratios. The overwhelming majority of vape juice companies only use three to four ratios. For example, 70/30, 60/40, and 50/50 are the most common ratios offered. If you’re lucky, you’ll find an outlier offering 90/10 or 80/20.
Nevertheless, while there are thousands of people who have decided to take up DIY e juice creation, there are million of e liquid UK users, the majority of whom likely buy readymade e liquid. In our opinion, it boils down to this: if you want to channel your inner Albert Einstein, try out the DIY method. If you’re all about convenience, and put trust in yourself to conduct your due diligence in order to find high quality e juice, stick with what vape juice companies have to offer. It’s highly unlikely you don’t find what you’re looking for.
Shake N Vape
While the above section pointed out some glaring negatives regarding DIY e juice creation, it really only stems from one problem: time and patience. Many people are willing, if not happy, to try and create their own e liquid. They would be willing to overlook almost all of the negatives that DIY comes with. For most people, DIY e liquid creation becomes a hobby; a fun activity. However, many people refuse to wait around for the long steeping process to be completed. This is where ‘Shake N Vape’ comes in.
As its name suggests, Shake N Vape is the process of putting all of the ingredients together, shaking the short filled bottle, and then vaping straight away. The whole process can be done in as little as five minutes. This method has become increasingly popular, mostly thanks to the draconian TPD regulations, which we discuss in the section below. With Shake N Vape, there is no necessity for you to allocate time for steeping. Shake it and vape it. It’s as simple as that. However, keep in mind that if your ingredients contain ethyl alcohol, it will require a long steep. So as long as you steer away from ethyl alcohol, go ahead and try out Shake N Vape.
E Liquid UK Regulations: Quality Assurance or Hindrance?
The Tobacco Products Directive, commonly referred to as the TPD, are essentially a set of e liquid UK regulations that were supposed to greatly benefit public health primarily through heavy tobacco restrictions. These regulations were actually created in 2001, however the TPD was amended in 2014 to include the e liquid UK industry. Prior to it coming into effect in May 2017, there was a lot of debate taking place all over Europe within vaping circles. Would the TPD help further the vaping cause by ensuring better quality and safety for consumers, or would it create an adverse effect on the e cigarette and e liquid UK market growth? To answer this question, we need to understand what changes are imposed on vaping as a result of these regulations. Here is a list of main changes that we have seen so far:
- Bottles containing pre-filled nicotine vape juice cannot exceed 10ml
- E liquid tanks restricted to 2ml capacity
- Nicotine strength also restricted to 20mg per ml
- Vaping devices and e cig liquids must now be registered with the MHRA before being sold
- New labelling and warning requirements on packaging
- The banning of certain ingredients, including caffeine and colourings
- E juice packaging must be child-resistant
If you’re interested in learning more about the TPD, here is an excellent article breaking down the main points of the TPD.
In any event, overall, many in the vaping world were not pleased by these regulations, which were deemed excessive, an annoyance, and mostly pointless by numerous people. Sure, child safety would improve but that’s frequently cited as the only positive to the TPD. People were also told by pro-TPD lobbyists that by e liquid UK manufacturers having to register and pay for every product with the MHRA, this would surely bring about an end to low quality vape juice being sold to unsuspecting vapers. Now that we’ve had some time to digest the effects, let’s take a look at the actual outcome aside from safety improvement.
Generally speaking, the biggest impact for vapers is the max e liquid bottle size of 10ml. But, this has turned into an annoyance rather than outright despair. This specific regulation has led way to the rise of DIY, Shake N Vape and Short Fill/Nic Shot methods, the latter being an integral part of vaping’s current culture. E liquid UK manufacturers can no longer sell these 10ml nicotine vape liquids, so they get around it by selling, for example, 50ml of nicotine-free vape juice in 60ml bottles – 10ml of ‘free space’ for a ‘nic shot’. Vapers purchase a separate 10ml bottle of ‘nic shot’, with the ability to choose from all nicotine strengths, that they add to the 50ml bottle, for a total of 60ml of nicotine e juice in one bottle. Voilà – e liquid UK regulation #1 sidestepped.
Another annoyance is the 2ml max tank capacity. The so-called reasoning behind this specific rule was that nicotine is toxic in high dosages. While true, a 4ml tank could not hold enough nicotine to kill or cause major health damage to a vaper. The TPD has essentially severely reduced the number of tanks available on the market, since many tanks pre-TPD held 4ml of vape liquid capacity. All this means is that you will need to refill your tank more often.
Though, none of the above compare to the max nicotine of 20mg per ml restriction. This is, at best a severe hindrance, and at worst a potential killer. Until fairly recently, vapers could choose from these nicotine levels: 0mg, 6mg, 12mg, 18mg, 24mg and 36mg. With the current TPD regulations, 24mg and 36mg (and higher) are no longer legal to sell. Granted, these nicotine strengths were aimed at people who were likely almost all heavy tobacco smokers (Marlboro Red, etc.) and thus only make up a small percentage of vapers – estimated at 5 to 10% according to an ASH survey. This may be a small statistical size compared to the overall pie, but that’s still roughly 200,000 people – every one of which is now at risk of going (back) to tobacco.
The general consensus is that the TPD is both an annoyance and hindrance to the e liquid UK market.
E Cig Liquid Potential Side Effects
Not to be alarmed, but as is the case with most anything in life, there are some potential side effects you could encounter from e cig liquid. This includes various levels of coughing, dry throat, dizziness, dehydration, bleeding gums, nausea, stomach aches and, in worse cases, asthma. However, the majority of people who do experience some of these side effects from e cig liquid will only experience them as temporary and mild. And, these are generally people who are new to vaping e cig liquid. The best way to combat these side effects are to merely drink a lot of water throughout the day. Drinking water may not eliminate these side effects for everyone, but it does work for most.
Additionally, cleanliness is key. You brush your teeth every morning? You clean out your vape device as often too. After all, e cig liquid turns into vapour, which ultimately allows for gunk to accumulate.
Lastly, PG e cig liquid specifically can trigger allergies is some people, which isn’t pleasant. This is likely one of the easiest things to counter. All you’ll need to do is switch over to VG e cig liquid, as this type of liquid is easier on your system.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that side effects from e cig liquids are largely overblown as implied above. It would be a real shame to become discouraged from this.
The most important thing to aim for with e liquids is test as many options as possible, within the confines of what style of e juices you enjoy (dessert flavour, tobacco flavour, etc.). Try different PG/VG ratios, including max VG e liquid if you’re chasing those clouds. Make sure to test different nicotine levels. Don’t let TPD vape liquid restrictions annoy you; they are easy enough to overcome should you so desire. Your quest to finding and/or making the best e liquid for you will probably be quite long. View this as a positive. Enjoy the journey.