E-Cigarettes and Propylene Glycol Sensitivity


Electronic cigarettes continue to grow in popularity as former smokers make the switch from conventional cigarettes to electronic ones. Unlike conventional cigarettes which release carcinogens when lit, e-cigarettes use a heated atomizer that vaporizes a flavored e-liquid solution. These e-liquids are available in a variety of flavors, including menthol, tobacco, cherry, coffee, and many traditional and non-traditional cigarette flavors. For a small group of smokers this e-liquid solution, often composed of propylene glycol or PG base,  can cause several health problems.

Proplyene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin

What is propylene glycol?

Propylene glycol is a synthetic chemical used in many household products and has been approved by the FDA for use as a food additive. Prolonged exposure to propylene glycol has been shown to not cause irritation to most people; however, some groups may have an allergy to this synthetic compound. Many e-liquids use a combination of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin for the e-liquid base so it is important to determine if you have an allergy to these ingredients before using e-cigarettes.

How do you know if you’re sensitive to propylene glycol?

The symptoms of PG sensitivity are dependent on the person but common complaints include respiratory irritation, sore throat, rashes, and nausea. According to Dr. Elisabeth Pott, director of the Federal Centre of Health Education in Cologne, Germany, PG sensitivity can cause acute respiratory system irritation for some users. Smokeless cigarette users with a sensitivity to PG do have other e-liquid alternatives. While some have chosen to test out alternative combinations of e-liquid bases, a few have turned to 100% vegetable glycerin or VG e-liquid bases.

Users from popular e-cig forums have been quick to share their experiences with both PG and VG e-liquid bases.

After the first day of smoking the 50/50, my throat had a really scratchy feeling and I was in constant thirst. I was really annoying with this feeling and stopped vapping for 2 days. Throat became back to normal and started vaping ave 100%VG juices and the feeling I had few days earlier stopped?

What are the benefits of propylene glycol e-liquids?

Propylene glycol e-liquid bases are synthetic, more thin compared to vegetable glycerin bases, and have a milder flavor. Bases that use PG generally have a thinner vapor which may more closely mimic conventional cigarette smoke in terms of mouth feel. Most e-liquid brands contain a combination of PG and VG to create a more uniform e-liquid consistency and vaping experience.

What are the benefits of VG bases?

Smokers wanting to use organic and plant-based e-liquids often pick VG bases because they are made of natural materials. VG bases have less chance of causing an allergic reaction because they contain no synthetic chemicals; therefore, e-cig users who have found PG causes irritation or sore throat are generally advised to try VG based e-liquids.

Read more about the health benefits of electronic cigarettes before you make the switch to e-cigarettes.

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