PG and VG Vaping – Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin Explained

As with everything new in life, dipping a toe into vaping can sometimes be very overwhelming. You have a bunch of questions, but nowhere to turn, unless you have a vape shop right around the corner.

One of the more frequent questions we get from e-liquid vapers is whether or not vaping is safe. That’s a fair one – since you’re probably switching to reduce or completely cut cigarette smoking, you naturally want to know what it is that you’re inhaling. Then there’s the whole conundrum around second-hand vapor – is it a thing or is it a myth? Are you poisoning those around you as with cigarettes or are they safe?

A simple answer to both your questions is – you’re safe, as is everyone around you. In fact, scientists have confirmed that second-hand vapor is a non-issue so those peddling stories about how harmful it is are simply stirring the pot and trying to create drama where there is none.

You see, unlike cigarettes, e-liquids have just a smattering of ingredients in them. Those ingredients are propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine (or not, depends on your preference), and flavorings (which are almost all exclusively food-grade).

Let’s talk about the ingredients that make up more than 90% of every single e-liquid you can currently buy on the market – propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).

What Do PG and VG Have To Do With Vaping?

Depending on the manufacturer, a bottle of e-liquid will mostly contain PG, VG, or a mix of both. Why is that? It’s because both PG and VG are what we call base liquids. They make up the bulk of a vaping juice because they are odorless, tasteless, harmless, and relatively cheap (compared to other ingredients).

You see, vaping on pure nicotine would kill a person since nicotine is a pretty toxic substance. On the other hand, vaping on pure or mildly dilated flavorings is also not recommended – the aromas would simply be too harsh.

Enter PG and VG, which are making vaping in its current form possible.

Keep in mind that vape juice can be almost entirely VG or almost entirely PG (minus the flavorings and the nicotine). However, it can also be a mix of those two base liquids. It’s not uncommon to find e-liquid bottles that say 70/30 PG/VG; or 80/20 VG/PG. Both base liquids have slightly different properties, such as viscosity, ability to carry flavors, evaporation point, and so on.

Next, you will learn a bit more about both of them and find out how vaping with PG is different from vaping with VG, as well as when you should use one over the other (depending on your preference).

What Is PG – Definition, Use, Safety & Side Effects

PG is a petroleum-based product (or rather, byproduct) that’s produced from propylene oxide (global yearly production rates are around 900,000 metric tonnes). It’s completely non-corrosive and has a negligible toxicity.

Propylene glycol is used in many industries and in products that you probably wouldn’t guess at the first glance, such as:

  • Asthma inhalers
  • Beauty products
  • Baby products
  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Fog machines

Still, there’s has been a lot of bad press surrounding PG lately, and specifically, its use in the vaping industry. This is because PG is wrongly associated with ethyl glycol, which is harmful to humans and animals. Vape opponents love to list the dangers of ethyl glycol, erroneously attributing them to PG (deliberately or out of ignorance – that’s hard to say).

However, the American Food Administration agency has long ago given a green light to PG, listing it as generally safe for consumption. In addition to that, an older study has found that PG has no negative health effects when inhaled. A study from 2010 also concluded that, while certain glycol can be connected to asthma and inflammation, PG is not one of those glycols.

As you can see, when it comes to major health concerns regarding PG, there aren’t any. You can safely vape on 100% PG vape juices without the fear that you’re somehow inhaling a substance that will, in the future, cause you harm. At least, that’s what current research leads us to conclude.

However, this doesn’t mean that PG inhalation doesn’t have certain side-effects for some people. These will occur if you overdo it with vaping or your organism is naturally susceptible to those effects.

PG vaping side-effects include:

  • Sore throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Coughing

If you’re experiencing headaches or stomach aches, it’s best to let your vape rest a bit, since this is indicative of a light overdose. However, coughing, sore throat, and dry mouth are to be expected at the beginning since you’re body is getting adjusted. It’s important to note that you will be more thirsty when vaping so the best way to deal with most of these side-effects is simply to increase your water intake.

In all fairness, we will say that some people are allergic to PG. One in 10 people will have a mild sensitivity at the beginning of use, although a number of those who are really allergic (upper respiratory problems) is probably somewhere around 3-4 % of the total vaping population. Some allergies are mild and will only manifest if you’re exposed to larger quantities of PG – a large chunk of people who are allergic to PG report no problems if their vape juices contain less than 20 % of the substance (we recommend higher VG liquids to them). If the allergy persists, or if a skin rash starts showing, consider switching to 100 % VG vape juices.

When To Vape On High PG Vape Juices

There’s a considerable difference between high VG and high PG vape juices. You should consider vaping on high PG e-liquid if:

  • Vapor and clouds are not that important to you – PG produces less vapor than VG
  • You need something similar to cigarettes – PG has a better throat hit than VG
  • You don’t want to spend money on coils every day – PG gunks them up less than VG
  • You’re all about the flavor – PG doesn’t affect flavor and VG makes it slightly sweeter

What Is VG – Definition, Use, Safety & Side Effects

Vegetable glycerin has nothing to do with petroleum, so if that’s your objection to PG, this should be a natural choice. VG is made from vegetable oil, mainly from plants like soy, coconut, and palm. The vapor produced by high VG juices is very thick and smooth, making it perfect for cloud chasing competitions. Yep, there’s an actual sport (well, sort of) that’s evolved from vaping!

VG has many uses; more than propylene glycol, in fact. Products in which you can find it include everything from food to personal hygiene items. Here’s a short list:

  • Used as a food sweetener
  • Shampoos and deodorants
  • Baked goods
  • Medicine
  • Cosmetics
  • Pet food

Thanks to the fact that VG has no connection to petroleum and is not synthetically manufactured, there was never a VG scare in the newspapers, which is more than we can say for PG. Generally, VG (and vaping VG) is considered to be very safe. Multiple healthcare agencies, including the FDA, have come out saying that vegetable glycerin is harmless. A few studies, such as this one from R.A. Renne et all, even conclude that inhaling glycerol in the aerosol for has no detrimental effects on the health. This particular study focused on rats, however – it would be great to get a confirmation from a study involving humans since that would put everyone’s minds at ease.

As with PG, it’s still possible to experience certain side-effects when vaping on high VG vape juices. These can include:

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth

Again, these effects are mostly short-term or occur if you chain-vape for long periods of time, for example, an hour or so without a break. Sore throat, coughing, and dry mouth will most likely diminish as your body gets used to VG and as for the thirst, it’s always a good idea to drink plenty of fluids when vaping.

One of the concerns with vaping on VG is the fact that it vaporizes at a higher level than PG. This means that, theoretically, it’s possible to heat the juice so much that it starts melting the wicking material, which can then be inhaled as well. Although this is possible, it’s also highly unlikely. In normal vaping circumstances, you would feel your wick burning because that gives off a very unpleasant taste. Naturally, you would stop vaping and investigate the problem, finally replacing the burnt wick material. To be on the safe side, keep an eye on your vaping temperature when using high VG juices – it’s better to be safe than sorry, as they say.

As for VG allergies, they are not as common as PG allergies. An estimated 1 % of the population is allergic to VG, and, in most cases, these are mild allergies. Rule of thumb – if you’re overly sensitive to coconut or palm oil, it would be a good idea to avoid vegetable glycerin and, instead, stick to PG vape juices. Also, diabetics, in theory, might experience some problems when metabolizing VG. However, the amounts of VG that would need to be vaped to trigger a reaction are virtually unachievable so that’s one less thing to worry about.

When To Choose High VG Vape Juice

As mentioned already, high VG vape juices lend themselves to a different kind of vaping. Here’s when you should opt for them instead of predominantly PG juices:

  • You enjoy a smooth vape – high VG vape juices are very low on throat hit
  • You’re not so bothered with the flavors – VG adds a pinch of sweetness to the taste
  • You just love blowing huge clouds – vapor is more abundant and thicker than with PG
  • Buying coils every so often is not a biggie – will get a tad dirtier when using high VG
  • You worry about PG safety since it’s synthetic – VG is completely natural

What’s It Gonna Be – High PG Vaping or High VG Vaping?

Not that you know that vaping base liquids are nothing to be worried about, it’s just a matter of choosing the type of liquid that suits you. Use your personal preferences to guide your choices because that will partially determine whether or not you actually manage to stick to vaping.

Remember – there’s no wrong choice here, we’re all different. If you enjoy clouds, go with VG. If you’re more into the flavors, then PG is a good choice. Of course, you can always take the middle road and choose a 50/50 VG/PG vape juice and enjoy the best of both worlds. In the end, experimenting with the blends will help you find the right ratios that will fit your vaping style.

Over to you! What have you been vaping on so far? Are you a VG hungry cloud monster or a fine connoisseur of flavors that always picks high PG vape juices? Drop down to the comment section and let us know!