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Propylene Glycol vs Vegetable Glycerin

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Propylene Glycol vs Vegetable Glycerin, which one should you choose?

The liquid mixture used in electronic cigarettes uses propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG) as the base carrier, which may explain why it is usually simply referred to as e-juice or e-liquid. Depending on the liquid, it may contain propylene glycol alone or a combination of PG and vegetable glycerin, with each of the two options delivering some distinct characteristics. While both are safe to use, e-cig users will likely notice a subtle difference in flavour and burn quality when comparing the two.

Propylene glycol is used in several other ways, including acting as a moisturizer in food, medicine, toothpaste and cosmetics. It is also commonly found in pipe tobacco where it is used to help keep in the moisture. Products with flavourings also frequently use PG for its ability to compound citrus and other emulsified flavours which are often used in e-juice.

Propylene glycols are manufactured and distributed by the Dow Chemical Company who claim that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider PG to be safe for use as a direct food additive, as well as a carrier in pharmaceuticals. In order for PG to last its expected 2-year life cycle, it needs to be stored below 104 degrees and kept in a closed container that does not come into direct contact with UV light.

There are those that are concerned about the fact that PG is used in antifreeze, as they draw the mistaken conclusion that it therefore cannot be something that is safe to use in food and cosmetics. It is traditionally ethylene glycol that is used in antifreeze, but since that substance is highly toxic and responsible for hundreds of animal deaths due to accidental ingestion, PG is sometimes used in its place. Propylene glycol is chosen as a replacement due to the fact that is has low toxicity levels.

Both ethylene glycol and propylene glycol are added to antifreeze to act as a carrier that will prevent the liquid from freezing. Among those that are for the use of PG in antifreeze is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Just because a product uses a common ingredient doesn’t automatically mean that each of the products has common properties. Moisturizers and toothpaste also contain PG, and while both can be toxic when ingested, it is because of the other chemicals, such as fluoride that are included in the mixture of ingredients. A little bit of knowledge about PG should be enough to ease the concerns of the average consumer.

Vegetable glycerin is also used as a base in a number of different products, with the likes of cake mix, gel capsules and toothpaste topping the list. The plant-based carbohydrate is responsible for creating the vapour that looks like smoke when it is used in e-cigs. It is for that reason that some manufacturers prefer vegetable glycerin to PG, as users like the realistic look of the large vapour release. The downside is that VG is thicker than PG and thus can shorten the average lifespan of the atomizer component of e-cigarettes. The quality of vapour can be maintained and the atomizer made to last longer when a mixture of 80% PG and 20% VG is used in the E-liquid.

There are no cries of safety issues when it comes to the use of vegetable glycerin. Studies carried out in Australia show that VG is hypo-allergenic and non-carcinogenic. There is a very slight risk of VG irritating the eyes or other mucus membranes. Skin irritations are also uncommon, but when they do occur it is usually because the skin has come into contact with high concentrations of VG, which is not something found in Australia's best electronic cigarettes. The body has no problems metabolizing VG and it does not produce high levels of toxicity when ingested or inhaled.

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