What's in an e-liquid?
An e-liquid contains many different chemicals. Sticky chemicals called propylene glycol and glycerol(12,13) make up most of the e-liquid.
E-liquids usually contain highly addictive nicotine and a mix of flavouring chemicals. They may also contain coolants (chemicals that produce a cooling sensation in the mouth).
Contaminants(14) have also been found in many e-liquids. These include toxic metals, such as arsenic, and toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Many of these contaminants are inhaled by the users.
Many e-cigarettes contain chemicals that are known causes of cancer and lung damage.(1)
Forty-two chemicals(1) have been found in e-cigarettes that are known to cause damage to the lungs and airways. Many others are known causes of cancer or heart disease. Although these chemicals are present at low amounts, the safety of long-term exposure to these cannot be assumed.(15)
They contain some of the same chemicals found in dangerous products like paint thinner, bug spray and biofuels.
Many e-cigarettes contain chemicals that are known causes of cancer or lung damage.
Some people mistakenly think the 'cloud' from vaping is water vapour, like steam. It is really an aerosol(16,17,18) - a mix of gases and tiny droplets of chemicals.
Some of the chemicals in vape aerosol are in the e-liquid described above(1,14). Others are formed during chemical reactions when the e-liquid is heated. When inhaled, these sticky chemicals can lodge in the lungs.(18,19,20) Some of these chemicals are associated with cancer or lung disease.
Chemicals from e-cigarette aerosols can move from the lungs into the blood, then all around the body.(21)
It only takes 10 seconds(22) for nicotine in the aerosol to move from the lungs to the brain.
Last updated January 2024