How Safe is Your E-liquid?
In America the dollar reigns supreme. Here in Blighty, we are fiercely proud and protective of the Pound. But in the vaping world, e-liquid is the currency of choice.
Just look at the fuss when new e-liquid gold hits the shelves, sparking a hundred different forum threads, a plethora of YouTube reviews all fighting to be first to have their voice heard by the chattering digital masses and the kind of unceremonious scuffling usually reserved for the annual department store January sales rush.
And then, just try ordering some of this new, much-hyped liquid gold. We’ve all experienced that feeling, after we’ve finally bought a ticket to ride on the e-liquid bandwagon, when we reach the checkout only to be told the stock has gone and we’re in a virtual queue for a new batch of stock to arrive. Hopes crushed. Bragging rights suspended.
We wonder how many of us at any point along this well-trodden road stop for a minute to consider what’s actually in the e-liquid we so dearly desire?
What safeguards are built into the production of this vaping lifeblood that make it fit for use? Did the manufacturer, in a rush to cash-in on its popularity, have systems in place to ensure no shortcuts are taken in the production process? Are there guarantees on quality and consistency? How will it affect your body? What’s in it?
Hands up those who haven’t asked that question, even on a single occasion?
While most seasoned vapers know that it’s probably wise to ignore much of the junk science offered as fact for easily-digestible consumption in the popular press, do we know enough about what we’re putting into our bodies every day via our mod of choice? Do we know how it is made and how can we be reassured that our interests, rather than the simple lure of filthy lucre, are a priority?
Just because there are manufacturers of e-liquid out there who are hugely transparent about their production process, the quality of the ingredients they use and the lengths they go to in order to make their product over-reach safety regulations, it doesn’t follow that everyone who has ever produced e-liquid is quite so rigorous.
There are rotten apples in every corporate barrel. And we don’t doubt for a minute that a disruptive lifestyle hero like the vaping movement will, at points along its rapid rise to High Street acceptance, fall victim to the cash-hungry vultures waiting to profit from the next big thing.
Here at Liberty Flights we’re hugely proud of our record for premium e-liquid production and also for leading the field with our high standards of production and research. Our chief scientific officer, Monica Vialpando, has been studying the effects of inhalation on the human body for years.
Monica, a PhD, is an internationally peer-reviewed published scientist whose previous work has led to her appointment at pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Genentech and Nektar Therapeutics. Monica is a member of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and the Belgian Society of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Her science background and research in oral dosage forms, formulation development and the effects of inhalation on the human body means she is the perfect fit for Liberty Flights’ pledge to continue to push the boundaries in both quality and research.
Today Monica looks at the subject of e-liquid – in this quick-fire Q&A session she gives her professional perspective on what makes a premium e-liquid like the Liberty Flights XO range so different to the liquids you can pick up for bargain-basement prices.
1. What goes into e-liquid, and how is it produced?
There are typically 3-5 components in e-liquids: Propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavouring, in most cases, nicotine and in some cases, water. Liberty Flights have spent considerable effort putting together a specialist team of flavourists who develop our more complex and unique flavours from raw ingredients. Potential new e-liquid flavours will then undergo a process of in-house analysis and testing, plus internal and external reviewing. We may then slightly modify the component ratios until the taste experience is perfected.
2. Liberty Flights’ XO e-liquid is produced to pharmaceutical grade standards, could you give some insight into what this means and what the process is?
There are four grades: pharmaceutical, food, agricultural, and industrial. Pharmaceutical grade is the purest available because it contains very little to no impurities. Our PG, VG, and nicotine are all pharmaceutical grade. While pharmaceutical and food grade are both suitable for human consumption, food grade is only designed for ingestion. This is especially important for inhalation, because the lungs are not equipped with the same defense mechanisms compared to when something is swallowed. As with most every day items, the downside is that the user will have to pay more for quality. That is why for example, some e-liquids retail for £1, compared to £4-5 per bottle from more reputable suppliers like Liberty Flights.
3. What are the risks of not ensuring full health and safety of e-liquids?
As well as the grade type, it is very important to fully characterize the e-liquids, especially flavours. Food grade flavouring is used because pharmaceutical grade is not available. Therefore, it is essential to know and understand the chemical make-up of these flavours. An example of this is diacetyl, a compound that produces a buttery taste. It is found in many foods (e.g. microwave popcorn) but is extremely harmful to the lungs when inhaled. As companies are evaluating new flavours, they need to be able to properly characterize and recognize such harmful substances. Companies need to have access to and proper methods with analytical tools, such as Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) to evaluate this. These are the first and most important steps in quality control. Unless routine batch testing is in place, companies won’t know whether they have control of their process, a good example is the routine testing of nicotine concentration and viscosity. Unfortunately, not all companies have these process control steps in place.
4. How has e-liquid changed over the past couple of years?
There’s a lot more knowledge around e-liquid safety compared to when the industry started. Also, there are now a wider variety of flavours and unique tastes. For example, drink flavours such as Dandelion and Burdock or Champagne can be replicated with the use of GCMS.
5. What is on the horizon for Liberty Flights’ e-liquid in terms of production techniques and ingredients?
Regarding e-liquid safety, we have an agreement with a new independent lab which holds the highest accreditation; Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), where the shelf life of our e-liquids is tested with the same regulatory stringency as pharmaceutical items.
Also, we are continuously developing new and innovative flavours, evaluating current flavours and optimizing our XO range. Adapting to and listening to our customers’ needs is of course of paramount importance to us, to ensure that our XO e-liquid is of the best quality for a premium vaping experience.