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What Chemicals Are In Your E-Cigarettes

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Are E-Cigarettes Good or Bad?

scientist mixing chemicalsIf you have been wondering about the oils and chemicals found in electronic-cigarettes, this article will help. You’ll find a list of the chemical ingredients along with the percentages found in each. I also explain the properties of those chemicals and outline the reasons why they are used in the product and whether they are actually harmful.

This information was obtained from several reputable sources that I’ve cited, including one of the oldest and most respected e-cigarette companies, Green Smoke. 

Do You Have E-Cig-Phobia?

Hundreds of thousands of smokers think about trying an alternative to smoking regular tobacco cigarettes but they’re scared of the supposed “chemicals”. The fact is, the most “dangerous” chemical in an electronic cigarette is nicotine (unless you choose a zero nicotine filter) and nicotine is now known to be virtually harmless. 

If you’re really worried about ingesting dangerous chemicals, don’t drink beer, wine or water; or eat tuna, sardines or brussels sprouts because they contain toxic amounts of arsenic, but that’s not the trending story.

What is trending right now are questions about e-cigarette oils and supposed carcinogens.

Electronic cigarettes contain both Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerine Neither of which oils. Both are harmless, soluble FDA approved ingredients. Propylene Glycol was first approved in 1950 and then again in 1959 by the FDA for use in hospitals as air disinfectants because it was believed to have curative properties when inhaled.

source: United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Today, there is fearful misinformation being broadcast about Propylene Glycol even though we still happily ingest it in hundreds of foods, (including beer), use it in cosmetics and feed it to our children in the form of Gummy Bears.

Misinformation comes directly (or indirectly) from those who stand to lose from the success of a revolutionary product that replicates the smoking experience without the smoke, smell or thousands of chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes.  

If you guessed that those groups include the pharmaceutical industry and the American Heart Association you’re sharp. But then you chose to read this article, so there you go.

It’s interesting to note that members of many health organizations (as well as some elected officials) sit on the board of Big Pharma companies. Some governments, (including Japan) have stakes in the tobacco industry.

All that aside, there’s now public information, and one significant court ruling that leads to proof of an obvious deception by the FDA when it tested the chemicals electronic cigarettes.  

FDA methods “have been lambasted in journals by some medical and health research experts who noted that potentially harmful chemicals were measured at about one million times lower concentrations than are conceivably related to human health.”

Source: Understanding Strategic Management

So lets move on to answer the question…“What Chemicals are in E-Cigarettes?” Here are a few examples of the harmful chemicals suspected to be found in electronic cigarettes. 

Nitrosamine                   Diethylene glycol                    Anti-freeze                   Nicotine

In recent FDA testing, three of the chemicals listed above have been found. But don’t go tearing your hair out just yet.  Those chemical ingredients are listed below along with reasons why they are potentially harmful.

#1- Nitrosamine –  Defined as a chemical compound produced from Nitrates and secondary Amines, Nitrosamines often occuring in the form of proteins. They are not good proteins as they are highly acidic, and the human body doesn’t react well to anything highly acidic… but read on.

In large quantities Nitrosamine can cause cancer. Beside e-cigarette filters, Nitrosamines also occur in wine, beer, meat, cheese, tobacco, balloons and condoms. Happily, the risk of cancer is far less from the last two on the list. 

Wine and beer (which both contain a lot of nitrates) usually have soft “warning” on the label which plainly states, “contains nitrates”.  

You probably noticed that “tobacco” is included in the above list. Yes, tobacco products contain Nitrosamines although the FDA did not make mention of it in its report against electronic cigarettes.

Some e-cigarettes do contain microscopic amounts of Nitrosamine; however, reputable e-cigarette companies including V2CigsGreen Smoke  and South Beach Smoke do not contain Nitrosamines. The above companies have undergone safety tests and do not contain any carcinogenic ingredients. Most list their ingredients on their websites.

Moving on to #2 on the list – Diethylene Glycol. Compared to Nitrosamine, Dietylene glycol is far more lethal, but there’s a lot more to the story. First….here’s the definition:

Dietylene glycol is an organic compound. It is a colorless, practically odorless, poisonous, viscous liquid with a sweetish taste. The original taste-tester of Dietyline glycol must have had the digestive constitution of Andrew Zimmern.  This noxious ingredient is widely used as a solvent and a humectant (meaning it keeps things moist). Dietylene glycol is used in making many chemical products including anti-freeze. 

Several years ago, when the FDA conducted tests on electronic cigarettes, they found minute traces of diethylene glycol, in 1 of the 18 e-cigarette cartridges tested, (Smoking Everywhere 555 High cartridge) and they revealed that it was at a concentration of much less than 1%. 


When the report was released, it was seized upon by pro-tobacco and pro-pharmaceutical interest groups and widely distributed to the media who gave it considerable coverage. I wonder which lobby initiated the testing in the first place? Hmmmm.

The FDA’s “findings” resulted in banning sales by two electronic cigarette manufacturers. Similar testing was not performed on tobacco cigarettes even though there’s more  Diethylene glycol in tobacco products than in electronic cigarettes .


Number three on the list, Anti-Freeze has been said to be present in electronic cigarettes, but it is totally unfounded. Clever wording by the media linked Diethylene glycol with Anti-Freeze because Anti-Freeze contains Diethylene glycol. It’s far easier for people to substitute the word “anti-freeze” for the ingredient Dietylene glycol when discussing the safety of electronic cigarettes and that’s exactly what happened. 

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Good Old Fashioned Nicotine

Nicotine was another supposedly dangerous ingredient found in the cartridge filters of the electronic cigarettes. Although many e-cigarette companies allow e-smokers to choose whether or not they wish to inhale nicotine along with the water vapor “smoke”, the FDA only tested filters that contained this stimulant.

tobacco plant in Washington D.C.What nicotine is:

It is a nitrogen-containing chemical made by the lovely flowering tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum. It may also be produced synthetically.

In the plant kingdom, the tobacco plant belongs to the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and red peppers. They all contain nicotine but you’re not likely to get jittery after a bowlful of mashed potatoes.

Nicotine can cause physical effects including increased heart rate and oxygen consumption by the heart muscle as well as powerful psychodynamic effects such as euphoria, increased alertness, and a sense of relaxation; however, I was surprise to learn that Nicotine is highly addictive only when combined with burning tobacco.

The nicotine found in smoking cessation products is produced synthetically. 

What nicotine is not:

Nicotine is not a carcinogen, meaning it has not been proven to cause cancer. Nicotine is not a poison. Nicotine alone is not a highly addictive substance. 


People think nicotine is a dangerous drug because it is associated with tobacco cigarette smoking which is dangerous to your health. 

Here’s our article that contains new reports about nicotine.

Other Than Nicotine, What Chemicals Are In the Most Popular E-Cigarette Filters?

The following information was obtained from Green Smoke. I have included all the chemicals for all of their flavored filters for your reading pleasure. (if you’ve read this far I’m either a fascinating writer or you’re seriously into e-cigarette chemicals).

Please note; the e-cigarette filter you choose will only contain the respective chemical for that particular flavor.

Acetylpyrazine 3%– A commonly used food flavoring used in beef, coffee, popcorn, potato chips, sesame seed, almond, wheat bread, cocoa, pork and beef.

Beta-Ionone 5% –  A food-grade fragrance used to give the vapors their fragrance and flavor. The chemical iscurrently being tested for prevention and treatment of colon cancer.

Dimethylpyrazine 2% –  Used in the creation and/or manufacturing of flavor concentrates of all types. Used in biological, drug, flavouring and perfumery industry .

Ethylpyrazine 4% – A flavoring concentrate used in food products such as pork and soups.

Glycerol 2% a/k/a/ Glycerine – Widely used in pharmaceutical formulations such as eyedrops and cough syrups and in foods such as cookies and liqueurs. Very low toxicity. Serves as a humectant. solvent, thickener and sweetener, and may help preserve foods. Glycerol is also used for an evaporative fogging agent as an alternative to Propylene Glycol in some solutions for electronic cigarettes.

Linalool 5% –  a naturally-occurring chemical found in many flowers and spice plants used in many commercial applications.

Flavoring essence from tobacco 15% – an extracted essential oil found in tobacco. (toxins in cigarette smoke come from the actual burning of the plant material).

Propylene glycol 1% – Used as a solvent in many pharmaceuticals and as a moisturizer in cosmetics and tobacco products.

Rose oil- 4% A natural extract of the flower used for it’s scent.

Orient tobacco absolute 30% – A food-grade fragrance.

Tobacco essential oil 5% – A food-grade fragrant oil extracted from the tobacco plant.

Trimethylcyclohex 2 butene 4 one 1% – Another food-grade fragrance used in combination to give the vapors an authentic tobacco flavor.

Trimethylpyrazine 2%  – An approved  flavoring used in caramel chocolate cocoa and coffee  2%

Vanilla extract 2% – An approved food flavor additive.

Pure water 13%

So Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe? 

The bottom line is that smoking electronic cigarettes is a far safer way to ingest nicotine and to satisfy the “hand to mouth” habit associated with smoking without the ingestion of the other 4000+ toxins, chemicals and carcinogens found in regular tobacco cigarettes. Are e-cigarettes a valid smoking cessation product? The FDA says not. Actually, to date, there has not been enough serious control testing to show that the product merits such a claim. There have, however been tests that show e-cigarettes are more effective at helping smokers quite than nicotine patches. 

When we begin to analyze the safety of smoking an electronic cigarette, we should ask ourselves not whether they are safe but whether they are safer than tobacco cigarettes. What you need to do is to compare an electronic cigarette to a Marlboro cigarette.


Compare All Features of the Best Selling E-Cigarette Brands

If you’re ready to try an electronic cigarette, I suggest you begin with one of the more reputable on-line companies. Check out Cloud Nine’s e-cigarette comparison chart to find the brand that suits your style and taste. They all have been independently tested for safety.

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You May Also Find These Articles Useful:

New Study Reveals E-Cigarette Second-Hand Vapor Poses No Risk to Human Health

Best Selling Electronic Cigarette Comparison Chart 

Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe?

Electronic Cigarette Clinical Studies and Medical Research Update

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About the author


Hillary Miles, Cloud Nine’s editor and contributing author is an Emmy award-winning national television writer, producer and marketing expert whose clients have included HGTV, The Food Network, CNN, TBS, TNT and The Cartoon Network.

She is the editor for Cloud NineSavvy ExaminerBest E-Cigarette Guide and ECigarette News . A talented artist, Hillary also creates uber cool ecig t-shirts for Vaper Design Studio.

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  1. Hillary

    Hi Sherene. Green Smoke is a highly reputable e-vapor company that has the highest safety and purity standards. There is no formaldehyde in their ecigarettes or cartridges.

  2. sherene

    please advise on the e-cigarette Green smoke, if there is formaldehyde.

  3. Terry

    I started smoking at 12 and smoked between 3 and 5 packs/day until at age 65. I had a minor stroke and was told to quit smoking, but not to get stressed.
    By using nicotine patches, gum and a “Crystal Liquid” vaporizer for 2 weeks I broke the habit and for the last 19 months I’ve been happily puffing away on the vaporiser. My doctor encourages me to vape in her waiting room as it may encourage others to quit lighting up.

    Friends that were repelled by tobacco odor are appreciative. My teeth are notably much whiter, and while my health is still bad I’ve had no further problems with strokes.

    Apparently advertizing these as smoking cessation products is illegal, but it’s the only thing that has ever worked for me.I feel as though I could probably quit now, but don’t see any advantage to doing so.


  4. eliquid recipes

    Your site is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Hillary

    Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for contributing here! Butane is an aliphatic hydrocarbon gas that is used in products such as cigarette lighters, cigarette lighter refills and a wide range of aerosol sprays because it acts as a propellant. It is not a “by-product” of the vaporiing process, in fact, it’s not a by-product of anything. There are unconfirmed reports that Butane is added to tobacco cigarettes because it causes a euphoric effect, but it is never added as an ingredient in e-cigarette eliquids.

  6. Ruth

    I’ve heard that in the vaporizing process there is Butane formed and that we are ingesting that butane in the vapor. I’ve found nothing to answer that question on line and frankly don’t believe it’s true. But I thought I’d ask in case others have heard this rumor. Thanks

  7. Hillary

    One of the best discussion groups is the E-cigarette Forum. Also Reddit has an ecig discussion group.

  8. American Vapor

    Great website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really love to be a part of a group where I can get advice from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.

  9. American Vapor Electronic Cigarette

    Every weekend i pay a quick visit this site for enjoyment, since
    it contains funny material too.

  10. Hillary

    Thanks for contributing here. Can you tell us who performed the adverse studies you refer to? Those who support ecigarettes, tobacco harm reduction (and even the FDA) are aware of the many false, “junk science” studies that continue to be distributed to thwart one of the most promising smoking cessation products ever invented. The main purpose of this article is to dispel some of the gross misinformation being broadcast, that only serves to scare smokers away from trying ecigs.

    For the record, our reviewers did not perform the studies listed in this post; rather we have included links to reputable scientists and agencies who conducted the studies and provided the information. We have also included links to other articles about reputable safety testing of e-cigarettes and their components.

    While it is still to early to tell whether e-cigarettes are completely safe, (honestly what is?), they are now readily acknowledged as being far safer than tobacco cigarettes to the user and bystander.

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