Many vapers are worried about the presence of alcohol in the composition of e liquids and concentrate for DIY. This is indeed a recurring question, so it’s time to provide a technical answer.
LEVEL laboratory, a major manufacturer of e-liquids in the USA, as well as Doctor Catherine Durand, a psychiatrist specializing in addictology at the Center for Care, Support and Prevention in Addictology in Cherbourg, have been making a clarify on this concept.
Alcohol in e-liquids, why?
The alcohol used for the composition of vape products is ethyl alcohol or ethanol. This alcohol has a very simple use, it fluidifies the molecules of the aromas necessary for the recipes of e-liquids and concentrates for DIY. This “support” or “solvent” loosens the aromas and also allows them to be preserved. Ethanol is a natural preservative and also has antibacterial properties. Mention of the presence of alcohol on the label is mandatory if it is greater than 1%.
In the context of consumption by inhalation, therefore with e-cig products, certain media are not suitable. Water for example does not dissolve certain aromatic molecules, its presence makes the vaporization of the e-liquid more difficult. Sugar produces, at high temperature, toxic molecules such as Hydroxy methyl furfural (HMF), acetone, and acetaldehyde.
Vegetable oils, very well tolerated by the stomach, are not recommended for inhalation because they can cause lipid pneumopathies. Finally, the famous essential oils which are obtained after steam extraction from a plant are also widely used in food flavorings. Although some essential oils can be used by inhalation in the context of aromatherapy, their consumption by the respiratory route must be controlled and limited. Indeed, they are made up of strong active ingredients (terpenes or terpene compounds), some of which may have a toxic potential when inhaled.
In contrast to these different supports, ethyl alcohol or ethanol dissolves the residues of vegetable oils and essential oils, inherent in the manufacturing process of food flavorings.
Very strict regulations
According to Doctor Helene Lalo of LFEL laboratories, has a low boiling temperature (78°C) and a low heat of vaporization (855 J/g), which leads to its total vaporization through e- cig. “If the presence of ethanol in e-liquids is common, it is not today the majority”.
To comply with the CLP regulations (Classification and Labeling of Chemical Products), the e-liquids cannot contain more than 6% ethanol, and no more than 2% nicotine level to comply with TPD vape. Above they would be considered hazardous and flammable material. In concrete terms, the percentages noted on the e liquids vary between 1% and 5% depending on the aromas used.
Alcohol in e-liquids and effects on the body
Still according to Doctor H. Lalo, about a possible risk of addiction, “there is no proven physiological effect, due to the inhalation of alcohol in e-liquids. For example, consumption of 4ml of an e-liquid using 4% ethanol, corresponds to the assimilation by the body of 0.016cl of alcohol, i.e. 78 times less than the standard dose authorized for ingestion ( 1.25cl). This demonstrates that even by vaping a large quantity of e-liquid with a high rate of ethanol, the human body (…) will not feel any physical effect”.
For Doctor C. Durand, the answer is clear, there can be no risk of addiction with this type of e-liquid. It is impossible to obtain the usual psychotropic effects of alcohol because these only happen if the alcohol passes through the digestive tract. Under no circumstances should this alcohol be inhaled.
On the other hand, whether for questions of religious denominations or health questions, anyone who prohibits the consumption of products containing alcohol must remain informed of the composition of the e-liquids. It is a choice that must be respected.
AFNOR XP-D90-300-2 standards are not mandatory. The vape manufacturer is not obliged to include the alcohol content on its labels. Fortunately, this is not the majority of cases in the EU since many manufacturers participate in AFNOR voluntary standards. If you wish to know the alcohol level contained in an e-liquid, you can contact the manufacturer or the distributor who must be able to provide you with the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of the product.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of brands and ranges of e liquids that do not use ethyl alcohol and ethanol in their e liquids. For other brands, I recommend checking the manufacturers’ sites because the presence/absence of alcohol depends on each liquid. This is for example the case with D’lice which has very few e liquids composed with ethanol (El Loco, Citrus…) but which systematically indicates it in its compositions.