PG vs. VG: The Big Debate
It doesn’t take long for a new vapor enthusiast to wade their way into the biggest debate in the vaporization industry, at least outside of possible bans and new laws.
I can admit freely that the biggest opening hurdle to becoming a vaporizer user was trying to figure out what those terms meant and, especially, why I should care. There are many problems that reveal themselves as soon as you step down that road, the first one being the sheer amount of information, misinformation, and flat-out lies there are about these two substances and the mixtures they can create.
You can tell by the fevered reaction of legislatures everywhere that there are a great many unknowns when it comes to vaporizers – this confusion and lawlessness being the primary barrier between you and the truth you seek. It is time that the information is laid plain for our readers about PG and VG and the possible consequences you might face for using either one.
Both of these compounds are used to create the e-juice mixtures that go into your vaporizer. They are the medium through which all flavors, nicotine, and so on, are suspended and prepared for vaporization at high temperatures. It wouldn’t be possible to simply vaporize nicotine without PG or VG nor would it be possible to flavor that experience to your liking. They are a huge part of vaporization technology and it is vital you understand their roles.
To start, it is useful to define these terms in order to get a little closer to their relationship with each other. As interchangeable compounds, they have many similarities and few differences, however meaningful:
PG or Propylene Glycol: This is your standard e-juice compound and can be found in the vast majority of e-juices around the world. It is a synthetic compound that has many properties and uses outside of vapor production. In fact, many industries use it as a liquid buffer for certain manufacturing processes. The most high-profile industrial use for PG is its function in anti-freeze and, funnily enough, plane deicing fluid. This is misleading, however, because PG is used for those purposes because of its non-toxic nature, not in spite of it. Due to its somewhat industrial beginnings, however, there is still a great deal of hesitation and suspicion surrounding PG, especially in groups that are focused on long-term health and organic goods.
As far as vapor production is concerned, PG is the absolute best when it comes to flavor retention and throat hit. It is perfect for its role and many of the very best e-juices are primarily PG. However, its full power is released when it is paired with its cousin VG.
VG or Vegetable Glycerin: This compound has a much better relationship with the environment, as it is, itself, a product of the environment. Vegetable glycerin is produced using plant fibers that are broken down and converted into a chemical compound. This compound, then, has very similar properties to PG and can be safely used in your vaporizer. There is a lot of press out there that trumpets VG as a fully “organic” compound, and that is certainly true. However, that doesn’t really mean much when it comes to vapor production or your health. The biggest advantage with VG is that it is likely produced ecologically and with little impact on the environment. Although that surely varies depending on the manufacturer.
VG is most useful for those that want to produce huge clouds of vapor. When you see someone vaping and they release a cloud bigger than their entire body, they are almost definitely using a full VG mixture. It is at its best, however, when used simultaneously with PG to create a mixture that produces large clouds and a great flavor.
What’s Right For You?
That’s hard to tell. It has a lot to do with what you expect from the vapor you get. For instance, if you are a new vaper that is trying to quit smoking, it can be hard to adjust to the different sensations that come with vaporizing nicotine through e-juices. For this purpose, high PG mixtures can be a better choice because its throat-hit is much more like that of a cigarette. It is typical, as you get further involved into vaping, to desire a smoother throat hit and bigger clouds. That’s when you start ordering mixtures that contain high concentrations of VG.
Now, there are a few differences to keep in mind when you are making a decision about your preferred compound:
- VG is much thicker. It will gum up your vaporizer much quicker than PG and requires a bit more care to keep things running smoothly. But, it is that same thickness that produces large clouds of vapor, so it is an easy compromise for many. The thickness of VG means that the vaporizer can use more material with each hit.
- The type of vaporizer you are using is important when choosing between VG and PG mixtures. A cheaper, smaller vaporizer is going to have a much easier time with PG than it would with VG. If you are just starting out and want to stick with a basic, inexpensive setup, it may be a good idea to also stick with standard PG e-juice mixtures.
- PG is, overall, a little harsher on the throat. Many have issues with the harshness of the PG throat hit. Also, it’s possible to have a very mild allergic reaction to PG, which would require you to use only VG e-juices.
- Vegetable glycerin is favored by those with more complicated and professional setups. This is so they can take full advantage of the larger vapor clouds. Again, the clouds produced from VG are the stuff of vapor legend.
As stated in the first section, there are some differences in the way that these two kinds of compounds are created. Propylene Glycol has many different commercial applications besides being used as a solvent for vaporizer e-juices. It can be used as a kind of antifreeze for watercraft, since its freezing point is much lower than that of water. It is very similar to alcohol in that respect and some alcoholic beverages are actually mixed with up to 5% propylene glycol.
There’s no reason to be afraid of something like this, but it does make sense to take it into account when it comes to sustainability. Typically, organic VG e-juices are produced from palm oils that are acquired through the Rainforest Alliance and are sustainable into the distant future.
When you are looking at a product that advertises itself as “organic”, you are generally looking at something that will be easier to produce without having a major impact on the environment. Many also pride themselves on being produced here in the United States. That means higher standards for the nicotine as well as the chemical makeup of your e-juice. An American-made e-juice is going to be your best bet for high-quality liquids that are free of harmful chemicals. Another advantage of using vegetable glycerin is that it is a vegan product that can be produced using no animal by-products. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, this is your best choice as PG e-juices can be partially manufactured using animal products. Vegetable glycerin, as the name would imply, avoids this pitfall altogether.
With all that being said, PG is a fine option for anyone and will continue being used into the foreseeable future. Your decision on this matter comes down to personal preference, alone. There is little to fear about either one of these compounds and as we continue to do research, the general public is likely to benefit from the reduced tobacco usage that both VG and PG can make possible.