There has always been some controversy over e-liquid, from issues as simple as "what do we call this thing?" and which VG/PG ratio is best for which atomizer, all the way to safety concerns of the base and flavoring ingredients.
E-juice or E-liquid?
There are a litany of incarnations of how to refer to ejuice, though usually it comes down to either ejuice, eliquid, or e-juice, e-liquid. Some refer to this as "vape juice" or "vape liquid" or even "sauce", but regardless of what you call it, it's essentially the same. There has been a debate on what we call all of these things since vaping first emerged in 2007, and as a new industry there wasn't really a clear guideline on naming conventions.
Search results, hits per Google by term:
A few years back concerns were raised over whether or not we should refer to e-liquid as "e-juice", due to a potential appeal to children. This will probably never be definitively resolved and will continue to be used interchangeably.
E-liquid is generally comprised of four ingredients:
- Vegetable Glycerin
- Propylene Glycol
- Food Grade Natural/Artificial Flavorings
- Nicotine Extract
VG is vegetable glycerin, or glycerol. This is generally derived from soy, coconut or palm oil, through a process known as hydrolysis. Vegetable glycerin is a humectant, sweetener, and acts as a preservative in many prepackaged foods. This ingredient is literally found everywhere and generally regarded as entirely benign. This liquid is viscous, and is the component that makes e-liquid thicker, thus producing "larger clouds".
PG, or propylene glycol, is used in many of the same applications you will find vegetable glycerin. This is a common ingredient in supplements such as fish oil, in stage "fog machines" (theater productions, concerts where you see a haze) as well as asthma nebulizers to deliver albuterol. This is the non-toxic glycol that is sometimes used in HVAC systems to prevent freezing, which is where the purported anti-freeze claim came in. Occasionally, though not commonly, individual vapers might find PG causes a scratchy throat or cold-like symptoms, and in these cases it is recommended by the general community you look for a high-VG/100% VG (depending on severity) e-liquid to minimize these side effects. PG tends to be thinner than VG.
Flavoring is exactly what it sounds like. This comes from both natural and artificial sources, and all of these are GRAS for consumption (food industry). There are a couple of ingredients that are controversial in flavoring, most notably flavors containing diacetyl (butter notes). From the Diacetyl article on Wikipedia:
Workers in several factories that manufacture artificial butter flavoring have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare and serious disease of the lungs.
That said, a study conducted at the Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis, by Kazutoshi Fujioka and Takayuki Shibamoto, found that the average diacetyl exposure from vaping to be 750 TIMES LOWER than from smoking combustible cigarettes. It warrants noting that there is not a single documented case of popcorn lung caused by smoking traditional cigarettes.
Nicotine is usually blended into a VG or PG base then added to a formula to achieve the desired MG strength. This nicotine extract is traditionally extracted from tobacco leaves, though contains none of the original tobacco material post-extraction. There are a few companies now using synthetic nicotine (TFN: tobacco-free nicotine), though per the most recent information we have, they will also be subjected to the deeming rule same as traditional nicotine extract per the "intended use" guidelines.
Nicotine extracts are free from tobacco-specific nitrosamines, oxides, and beta-carbolines, as they are formed from the presence of both nicotine and tobacco alkaloids, the latter of which isn't present in the extract. Most labs manufacturing nicotine extracts for e-liquid manufacturers will provide comprehensive GC/MS (gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry) or similar testing of their product to provide a complete chemical analysis breakdown of the constituents.
Some tobacco extracts for flavoring may still contain some nitrosamines, oxides and beta-carbolines, though most flavoring manufacturers do not, and these carcinogens are easily avoided by simply not consuming products with tobacco flavoring. If ingredients past this are a concern, many manufacturers provide lab reports of the contents of their products.
At one point there was a question as to whether or not e-liquid contained heavy metals, though these claims have been vetted and when compared to a Drinking Water Directive sampling conducted by the EU, you would generally consume 10x more heavy metals drinking plain tap water than you could consume via e-liquid products. When it comes to safety concerns and controversy, it's vitally important to review all of the presented evidence and weigh it against existing similar evidence. (A particularly compelling example is the case against Dihydrogen Monoxide, where when polled people supported banning water.)
VG/PG ratios are another contested issue. General consensus looks something like:
VG for clouds/dripping atomizers.
PG for flavor/tanks.
Most e-liquid now hovers around a 60/40 to 70/30 VG:PG ratio, meaning a liquid labeled 70/30 would contain 70% vegetable glycerin to 30% propylene glycol.
Tank atomizers used to be where "the flavor is at". The restricted airflow of the tube leading to the drip tip would condense the vapor itself, and the smaller size of the chamber would heat up warmer than if you were using a super airy dripping atomizer, so the flavor would become condensed with the vapor. Blends at this time could go as high as 30% flavoring, which usually is comprised of a propylene glycol base.
Tanks could be run at a lower wattage, with higher ohm coils, so you would require less e-liquid to achieve a desirable vapor. By that same measure, nicotine ranges ran higher, topping out around 24/36mg. It wouldn't be unusual to run a coil 1.5-2ohms, at 10, 15 watts, using a 24mg/ml e-liquid.
Since the inception of this concept, vaping has evolved considerably. Now we're using higher wattage devices, lower ohm coils on RDAs (rebuildable dripping atomizers) with a ton of airflow, to produce bigger clouds. The quantity of e-liquid inhaled has increased, as has the flavor production. Current e-liquids tend to contain anywhere from 10-20% flavoring, and many manufacturers will mix "MAX VG", which is to say they haven't diluted the liquid past what PG the flavorings contain, often also meaning the nicotine is from a VG base.
Most flavoring is PG-based, which is to say that it counts toward the PG part of the blend. More flavor manufacturers are releasing VG-based flavors than before, so it's possible to have 100% VG e-liquid. If a juice were 60/40, it was likely the manufacturer would have to add additional PG to thin out the formulation.
While all of this can sound a little daunting, ultimately it comes down to trial and error to determine which combination of VG/PG and nicotine level you prefer. With the sheer wealth of devices still available on the market today, combined with such a massive variety of products, there isn't any one "correct" way to vape.
Ecigarettes, vaporizers, mods, tubes, mech mods, box mods, PVs, personal vaporizers, vaping products have had a lot of nicknames over the years. As of August 8th, 2016, the Federal Government in the United States has graced us with yet another, "ENDS", or somehow more affectionately sounding, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems.
The FDA Deeming Regulations for tobacco products mean a lot of different things for vapers the world over. A lot of us in this industry take the public knowledge for granted. This is our daily life, this is how we keep food on our tables, roofs over our heads. We've been fighting the war on the ground, and sometimes it escapes us that our customers might not know what is currently happening to our industry.
For our consumers, what do the deeming regulations mean to you? As of right now, everything seems generally the same. You can visit your local vape shop, assuming you're of the legal age per the State and Federal legislation, and most of the products you know and love are well stocked, new products are still showing up here and there (or, well, new to you) and there are "new" products gaining hype and interest, while some older products have fallen by the wayside.
A brief super-abridged timeline:
- August 8th: The market was frozen. No new products are permitted into the industry without filing for a PMTA (Pre-Market Tobacco Application). There will be very few if any of these. No modifications can be made to existing products (building your atomizer, changing your tank coil, anything that involves touching your hardware). We cannot offer free samples.
- 2017: Not much should change. Most vendors are in a "grace period" preparing to either close down or submit for a PMTA. Might turn into a desperate cash-grab.
- 2018: Unless approved by the FDA following PMTA, products unapproved will be removed from the market. Most products will disappear, manufacturers will close doors. Without products to sell, shops will close doors.
Essentially, we have two years to comply or shut down. How this landscape will look and the reasons why is a bit of a convoluted story. From here on it's fairly involved to explain. This will be long.
If your local brick & mortar vape shop previously offered free samples, they're most likely now charging a fee. Per the FDA, we are no longer allowed to provide free sampling of flavors, and that we must charge an undetermined sum to permit such. They literally gave no guidelines as to how much to charge, though those of us who are members of SFATA have been advised by Venable Attorneys to show it's "enough to ensure we're not trying to circumvent the law". I believe at the time they advised a $2.00 fee, though most shops in our area are asking for $1.00.
This is NOT because your shop has suddenly become greedy, I can guarantee we're every bit as upset about this as our patrons. Having great flavors that resonate with our customers is important to our businesses.
We can no longer offer builds on atomizers. As our interpretation of the deeming regulations stands, we're not allowed to touch your hardware with the intention of troubleshooting, rewicking, changing your coils, changing your batteries. Any of this would constitute "tampering" or "modification".
This is quite literally the tip of the iceberg. From here on...
"ENDS" (Vapor) PMTA
The reality is that as of August 8th, 2016, there is a "freeze" on the market. This freeze dictates, essentially, that no vapor product manufacturer can produce a new product, without immediately sending it to the FDA for what is called a PMTA, the "Pre-Market Tobacco Application". The application to the FDA itself is "free", offered as a "service" (yeah, I'm air quoting in my mind), but the application isn't the concern. Vapor products will need to go through a rigorous testing process, through independent scientific labs. This testing is per item (sku), and each ejuice, eliquid, different nicotine strength, size of bottle, atomizer, mod, coil, wick, anything you can think of sold with the intent of producing a nicotine-containing vapor, is subject. Estimates for this testing process, as well as lawyers to file the paperwork, usually range between $200,000 and $10,000,000, per sku. (The FDA estimates between 1,500 and 5,000 hours to evaluate each submission.)
If an ejuice line has 0mg, 3mg, 6mg, 12mg nicotine strengths, and then offers the flavor in 15ml, 30ml, 60ml, and 120ml bottles (fairly standard), then it'd be $3,200,000 for the lower estimate, and $160,000,000 for the higher.
For one flavor.
A business relation of mine who owns a moderately successful line, netted (gross minus cost of expenses) around $200k last year, and he's been operating for a couple of years. He's been growing steadily, doing a great job, taking great care of his employees, operating 100% above-board, but there is no way he could afford the PMTA process for even just once of his flavors offering the range of nicotine strengths he offers.
Something to keep in mind is that Swedish Match, a company producing Snus, produced a 100,000 page submission for their PMTA, and the FDA's PMTA Review, just the review, came in at a whopping 67 pages.
The FDA gave us a timeline, with essentially what boils down to two sets of dates. One set is for "large" manufacturers, those who net over $5 million annually, and/or employ over 500 people. Since most of the vaping industry is "small business", we generally have a second, longer timeline in place. For the businesses that fuel the vaping industry:
- August 8th, 2017: Manufacturers must register with the FDA and provide a list of products. Small-scale manufacturers must submit Tobacco Health Documents relating to “health, toxicological, behavioral, or physiologic effects” of products, constituents, ingredients, components, and additives.
- May 18th, 2018: Manufacturers must comply with labeling and advertising requirements.
- August 8th, 2018: PMTA is due.
- August 8th, 2019: Manufacturers must report Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents (HPHC).
(For the whole breakdown, FDARegs.info has an amazing timeline breakdown and BRIEF descriptions of what happens when and who it applies to, as well as a ton of other information and ways you can help.)
Now the PMTA process is to determine, and establish, that the product we're introducing to the market has a benefit to public health. The FDA has stated that vaping is safer than combustible cigarettes, and under the guidance of Congress are suggesting this PMTA process as a reasonable means to "facilitate efforts to develop and market products with potentially less risk than conventional tobacco products".
The PMTA as it stands now, gives manufacturers that were on the market after February 15th, 2007, previous to August 8th, 2016 a grace period to get their affairs in order, conduct their testing, get their thousands of pages of testing together and submit for a PMTA. After this grace period, no sales, period. Any new products created after August 8th, 2016 must submit for their PMTA prior to selling any product.
The February 15th, 2007 "grandfather date", allows any product on the market to submit for a different "pathway", an approval process much cheaper and easily attainable. The problem with this date is 99% of vapor products didn't exist before this date.
A few months ago Sen. Ron Johnson and Chair of the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (the chief oversight committee of the United States Senate) sent letter to the FDA. In this letter, he questioned the overreach of the FDA and their deeming regulations, demanding they answer his inquiries into this overreach. With no response, he submitted his inquiry again, and then again, and finally the FDA responded. Rather than answering his specific questions, they came back with a vague defense. Included in their retort was the following:
“Based on logo counts from trade association websites and information from FDA listening sessions, we estimated that there are 168 to 204 formal manufacturers of ENDS products; we used this range for the quantitative analysis. We acknowledge that the total, including informal manufacturers, may be far greater. Using the same logo counts from trade association websites and information from FDA listening sessions, we also estimated that there are 14 importers of ENDS products.”
The ejuice/eliquid distributor http://www.ejuices.co shows they distribute 1225 individual brands (usually stand-alone manufacturers) within the United States. One. Distributor. In addition to that, we at Status have an excel spreadsheet with contact information for over 6,000 vape shops, so the expected financial burden this places not just on our industry, but the American public in form of extreme taxation to foot the FDA's review bill, assuming each company were somehow able to miraculously afford the PMTA process would be astronomical.
The reason for their aversion to answering Sen. Johnson's questions probably has little to do with this overreach, any monetary inclination or agenda independently, but rather that the 400 page deeming regulations wasn't a specific legal document outlining exact procedures and repercussions, but rather a 400 page document vaguely outlining their expectations of an industry they don't understand and can literally not comprehend. We don't fit neatly into some current structure that they can rewrite the legislation for, and there is far too much variety in hardware, variations between formulations, that any specific regulation could apply to.
Simply put, they don't know what they're doing, apart from decimating 99% of our industry (their words per their impact report issued to OIRA). Special interests, agendas, progress and all else aside, they would rather destroy a multiple billion dollar industry than deal with reasonably regulating the legislative nightmare it's become.
The FDA has been trying to shut us down for literal years prior to the regulations. Smoking Everywhere and Njoy derailed their embargo on imported vapor products in 2009. The result of the lawsuit presented by these two companies was that the Court of Appeals indicated to the FDA they could regulate the marketing of vapor products as a tobacco product, and not a medical cessation device. The worst part here is while Congress wanted the FDA to reasonably regulate this industry, a vast majority of combustible products will remain on the market due to having been available prior to the grandfather date. While this looks like it's simply favoring the tobacco industry, the incentives are a fair amount more complex than simple industry favoritism.
Now we're in an election year, with the two most polarizing political candidates we've ever seen, and State-side youth smoking prevention is an easy and popular subject. For example, here in California we're fighting against Prop 56, which would slap a 67% tax on vaping products (before the BOE gets their cut) but this proposition also rewrites tax fund allocation, so much so that our schools aren't guaranteed the funding they've already been receiving, in addition to no guarantee they'd get their allotted 43% cut of the new taxes per our State's constitution.
What can we do?
Maybe the most important thing would be supporting legislation that could help save the industry. Both HR 2058 and the Cole-Bishop amendment would change the predicate date for vapor products.
HR 2058 would change the predicate date, or the grandfather date, for vaping products from February 2007 to the date that the deeming regulations went into effect, August 8th, 2016). While this would limit future products from entering into the market, existing products would remain available. This is the generally preferred legislation, but it's also less likely to pass than the Cole-Bishop bill. For a breakdown, more information and support these bills, please visit the CASAA Cole-Bishop/HR 2058 Take Action Page.
Other resources for information or ways to help:
FDA Regs gives a breakdown of the FDA Regulations, timeline, and links where you can go to verify information, get more details, as well as ways you can help.
This is the quintessential resource for consumers to find out who their representatives are, how to contact them, as well as providing local legislation that will affect your vaping rights.
While there are a copious number of resources online available to provide a wealth of information covering the subject of battery safety, oftentimes it can be difficult to know where to begin. This can be particularly daunting if you look at the number of resources available. We'll do our best here to give a basic overview of what you need to know to stay safe.
For most new vapers, a simple regulated setup like a Kbox with a 0.5 ohm coil in their tank and a battery with a good mAH rating would be sufficient. Past safe battery handling, not much else knowledge is needed.
For these users, the absolute minimum you need to know:
- Don't leave your battery someplace it might fail.This includes:
- Leaving your batteries/mod in a hot car.
- Leaving your battery on a charger that doesn't shut down once your battery is charged.
- Keeping loose batteries in your pocket where it might complete a circuit. (This means keys, change, any metal that might be in your pocket can discharge your battery.) We recommend a plastic battery case for storage.
- If the plastic wrap around your battery is frayed, broken, leaving any part of the positive/negative contact exposed, the wrap needs to be replaced.
- Practice safe charging, find a good quality charger that shuts down when the battery is fully charged. (Don't fully discharge/over-charge your battery.)
- If your battery looks funny (has punctures, looks distended, generally wonky looking) discard of it appropriately.
- You can purchase lipo guard/battery safety bags in which to charge your batteries for extra safety.
When your batteries are ready for disposal, make sure you dispose of them properly. There are recycling centers available (http://www.call2recycle.org/locator/ is a good resource for finding centers if you need help) and often finding a location is as simple as checking the entrance/exit at your local BestBuy, or dropping them off at City Hall or a hardware store. The LiMn batteries most of us use are harmful to the environment when disposed of improperly (unlike most modern AAA/AA batteries).
Breakdown of a Typical 18650 Battery
All batteries are not created equally. For example, many battery manufacturers over-rate their batteries. You will see cheaper batteries rated at 4000-6000 mAh, but they actually should be labeled 2000-2500 mAh because that is their actual capacity. Also, High Drain batteries have a much higher capacity even though they generally have a lower mAh rating.
18650 batteries are a class of Lithium batteries that are designed to be used with high power devices. The most common types are Lithium-Ion. They are rechargeable and can be recharged from 500 to 1000 times (depending on the brand) before they need to be replaced. Many of us can keep a single 18650 for 6 months to a year. 18650 is the measurement specs, size and dimension of said battery. Some will have button tops (they extend a bit longer), others are flat-top (the kind most commonly used by vapers.)
mAh stands for milli-Ampere hour. It is a capacity rating that measures how much current a battery will discharge over a specified period of time (typically a one hour period). For example a 2000 mAh battery will sustain a 2000 milli-Amp (2 ampere) draw for approximately one hour before dropping to a voltage level that is considered discharged. However there are several factors that influence the total capacity of a battery.
Regular 18650 battery have a faster rate of discharge than High Drain batteries, and High Drain batteries can handle higher current loads than regular 18650 batteries. What this means is a pair of regular 18650 batteries rated at 5000 mAh in a GL4-PRO will run for 2-3 hours continually and a pair of High Drain batteries rated at 2900 mAh will run 5-6 hours. We highly recommend High Drain 18650 batteries for use in the GL4-PRO Series lights.
Voltage refers to the amount of electrical potential your battery holds. 18650 batteries will usually indicate 3.7V, this is the average output rating. Batteries will usually charge up to 4.2V, but 3.7V is "average". The normal output range for a battery is 3.2 to 4.2, +/- .5 volts.
Amps (the A rating on your battery, like 25A, 30A, 40A you will commonly see on 18650s) is the rate of the discharge current. This is similar to the mAh in that companies commonly over-rate the amperage. Amps measure the volume of current passing through the battery.
For advanced vapers, like those using unregulated devices (often mech mods), we use amps in a formula to determine the safety of using a battery on a device. The formula we use is A=V/R, or Amps = Voltage / Resistance. So if you're using a .5 sub-ohm coil, and a battery has a voltage of 3.7V, you would want a battery capable of 7.4 amps of continuous current. If you had a 0.14 ohm coil, you would want a battery capable of 26.42 continuous current, which is rare if not impossible to find - at least accurately represented.
While a lot of this can leave everyone guessing what the best battery is to meet their needs, for advanced users, we have Mooch. This guy tests a huge percentage of the batteries commonly used by vapers, and posts his results to the public. From his Facebook page, "Working to expose exaggerated battery ratings and give you the real scoop on the batteries we use."
Links To Mooch's Tests, Blog, and Ratings Tables
Index to all test results, tables, and blog articles:
All the battery tests Mooch has done to date with links to each:
Mooch's recommended batteries:
18650 safety grades and true current ratings table:
26650 safety grades and true current ratings table:
18350/18500 safety grades and true current ratings table: