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What’s in e-cigarette liquid?

by Kai Bryant on November 08, 2019

E-cigarettes are recommended by the NHS as an alternative to cigarettes because they satisfy nicotine cravings without exposing people to the harmful risks of smoking. They work electronically to heat a substance called ‘e-liquid’ so that it can be inhaled as a vapour (hence the term vaping).

But what’s in e-liquid? And why is it a better choice compared to whatever’s in a cigarette?

Here, we give you a rundown of what’s in your e-cigarette and why vaping has been deemed 95% safer than smoking.

First: What isn’t in e-liquid 

Before explaining what’s in e-liquid, it’s important to note what’s not in it – specifically, tobacco and tar.

The most harmful ingredient in cigarettes, tobacco contains carcinogenic chemicals that work to destroy the body from the inside out. Cigarette smokers expose their bodies to these chemicals and tar builds up in their lungs, which puts them at a high risk of developing cancer.

E-liquid doesn’t contain tobacco or any of the other toxic chemicals that exist in cigarettes.

Ingredients in e-liquid


We know that smoking is extremely dangerous, so why is it so hard for many smokers to give up cigarettes?

The answer is nicotine. A chemical made from plants (such as the tobacco plant), nicotine is highly addictive. While it isn’t excessively harmful on its own, when people satisfy their nicotine cravings by way of tobacco cigarettes it exposes them to extreme health problems.

E-liquids contain nicotine in a liquid form. Along with other ingredients, the nicotine is heated by the e-cigarette so that it can be ingested as a vapour, rather than smoked in a cigarette. This allows people to get a nicotine hit while avoiding the dangers of tobacco.

The label will state how much nicotine there is in a specific type of e-liquid, ranging between 0mg to 20mg. The higher the amount, the stronger the nicotine hit for each inhalation.

Propylene glycol

Also found in processed foods, propylene glycol is a key e-liquid ingredient. It helps to blend the other ingredients together as well as create the cloud of vapour that you exhale from your e-cigarette.

Because it’s colourless and odourless, propylene glycol is useful for combining and holding together the other ingredients in e-liquid. It’s not toxic or carcinogenic – in fact, 45% passes through the kidneys, and the rest is broken down into lactic acid.

For those who have just started using e-cigarettes, it may cause you to feel thirsty and your mouth to feel dry, which is why it’s recommended to drink extra water until your body adapts to it.


Sometimes called vegetable glycerin, glycerol is made from plants and is often used as a sweetener in food products. In e-liquid, it helps to create a bigger vapour cloud and can also add to the sweetness of the flavour.


From classic menthol to cotton candy or cola, there are thousands of e-liquid flavours on the market. As you’d expect, they control what an e-liquid tastes like, masking the taste of nicotine.

Flavourings are made from a combination of ingredients that must be thoroughly tested and regulated by official bodies in the UK before they’re deemed safe for consumption.

E-liquid ingredient regulations

Before an e-liquid product is released to the market, it must meet a strict series of regulations set out by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Some of the rules include:

  • Nicotine strength cannot exceed 20mg/ml
  • Ban on specific ingredients, such as colourings, caffeine, and taurine
  • All e-cigarettes and e-liquids must be submitted to the MHRA before they can be sold

This ensures that all products comply with the latest safety guidelines and prevent harmful or untested e-liquids from being sold on the mainstream market.

Whether you like the taste of tobacco or want to experiment with fruity flavours, there are plenty of e-liquids that will help you give up cigarettes for good. Explore our huge range online or visit your nearest Red Box Vape to test out a variety of flavours in store!