Electronic cigarettes, which are often advertised as an alternative to conventional cigarettes and sometimes advertised as a cessation product, are available in a variety of nicotine levels. Based on the nicotine level of the eCig, a single eCig can have as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. It is the highly addictive nature of nicotine that makes smokers crave another cigarette and keeps many from quitting.
The nicotine in eCigs is usually mixed with solvents such as propylene glycol and glycerin. To this base solution is added a number of sweetened flavorings such as peach schnapps, root beer, cotton candy, and chocolate to make the product more palatable to its consumers. The liquid nicotine is available to consumers as prefilled cartridges or small refill bottles (think of this in terms of printer ink refills).
Many ads for liquid nicotine highlight the pleasant fruity taste of the liquid. For instance, an ad for NicQuid contains the image of circle sliced up and each segment filled with lushly colored fruits and vegetables. Another ad for NicQuid contains no image of liquid nicotine solution. Instead the central image is of a glass of strawberry and peach smoothie and the title “Southern Freeze”. These images are obviously intended to subliminally convey the healthfulness of the product. An ad for NicVape contains the image of small bottles of liquid nicotine and fresh fruits slicing through the water. This image is very similar to ads used by the food industry to promote flavored waters and electrolytes. Again the image is used to connote the freshness of the product and its purity.
Bottles and cartridges of vape juice are usually labeled according to their nicotine content per milliliter. Products labeled as “extra strong/very high” contain 36mg of nicotine, “strong/high” contain 24 mg of nicotine, “regular/medium” contain 16 mg of nicotine, “light/ low” contains 11 mg of nicotine, “ultra light/very low” contains 8 mg of nicotine or “zero/no nicotine” if they are nicotine free.
While it is true that eCigs deliver nicotine with much lower levels of many of the toxins found in conventional cigarette products, since it is not yet regulated by the FDA the chemicals found in these products and the purity of the nicotine vary widely. Some recent studies have also found that there was a significant difference between the advertised and true levels of nicotine in the cartridges and refill solutions. A study1 also found traces of nicotine in products labeled as “no nicotine.” The lack of regulation and wrongly labeled products can mislead consumers looking to kick their smoking addiction by vaping eCigs.
1. Goniewicz ML, Kuma T, Gawron M, Knysak J, Kosmider L (2012) Nicotine Levels in Electronic Cigarettes. Nicotine Tob Res Apr 22.