Many Vapers have noticed how nicotine affects flavor of e-Liquid. The Flavors become more pronounced. Why does this happen?
The Basics of E-Juice Flavor
Big clouds of vapor are cool, but flavor is more important to many vapers. This is especially true for those who are making an effort to quit smoking. Vaping can be a more effective substitute for these folks when it closely mimics the inhale of a tobacco cigarette. Additionally, some interesting data shows how nicotine affects flavor of vape juice.
Most e-juices consist of three critical components. These are VG (Vegetable Glycerin), PG (Propylene Glycol), and flavor concentrate. These components are mixed in various percentages to create the finished product. As a rule, e-juices with a very high VG content are preferred by those who sub ohm because they produce more vapor volume. PG, on the other hand, does a better job of enhancing flavor. It is a thinner compound and is tasteless. This permits the true flavor of the e-liquid to shine through.
At this point, the composition of e-juices gets a little complex. The amount of flavor concentrate added to the mix of VG and PG will help to determine how strong a flavor presents. Many commercial e-juices keep the flavor strength at about 10%. There are some companies like VaporFi which produce custom made e-juices that can have a much higher flavor strength.
The higher the strength, the more flavorful the e-liquid. That part of the process is basic chemistry. There is, however, a fourth component that affects how we experience the taste of e-juice.
The Role of Nicotine in Vape Juice
To understand how nicotine affects e-juice flavor we must begin with some straightforward facts. First of all, not all e-juices contain nicotine. It is accurate to say, however, that most vapers prefer an e-liquid with nicotine. Why? Because nicotine is what satisfies a central craving. Think about it. Would e-cigarettes even exist in their present form if nicotine were not a part of the mix? Of course not. No one was lining up to vape for vapor’s sake. Vaporizers are inherently an alternative to smoking.
Just like cigarettes, e-liquids come in many varieties. At the tobacco store you can choose from non-filtered, full flavored, light, and mild cigarettes. At the vape shop, you can select the amount of nicotine in your e-liquid. The most common choices are 0, 3, or 6mg of e-liquid. E-juices with nicotine content of 6mg are the most popular varieties for many manufacturers.
Most smokers will agree that the taste of a non-filtered or full flavored cigarette is stronger than a light variety. Make no mistake, the reasons behind that are somewhat different. Yet, there may be some answers for the present discussion in looking at a little bit of science.
How Nicotine Affects the Brain
Two things happen when you inhale an e-liquid with nicotine. First, nicotine is delivered to the brain in rapid fashion. With a regular cigarette, nicotine can reach the brain in as little as ten seconds. It may be slightly longer with a vaporizer. Some studies have shown nicotine delivery in e-cigarettes is slower than it is with tobacco. Even so, the affects of nicotine come into play quickly.
When nicotine reaches the brain it begins to work on the “reward pathways” that control our feelings of pleasure. Science also tells us that nicotine likely increases the levels of dopamine in the brain. These effects peak quickly and dissipate. That is why we begin to crave another draw within a short period of time.
It has long been known that these “reward pathways” and dopamine respond positively to sweet tastes. In other words, when you inhale a flavored e-liquid this can create an association between dopamine and taste. Flavor, once identified with the release of dopamine, becomes more pleasurable and craved.
To put this association between dopamine and taste into perspective, a 2007 study found that sweetness dynamically affected the reward centers more so than opiates and other drugs. To quote a headline associated with the study, “Oreos are more addictive than cocaine.” Furthermore, the taste of sweet items was found to become more pleasurable over time.
This leads to a very logical conclusion. More nicotine releases more dopamine and more quickly activates reward centers in the brain. The brain responds positively. An association between flavor and this process is created. This then enhances the flavor of the e-juice delivering the nicotine.
Nicotine and Oxidization
Another possible answer to how nicotine affects flavor is tied to oxidization. You will often hear mention of “steeping” e-juices to bring out flavor. Oxidization occurs naturally during steeping. When nicotine is added to an e-juice, the process of oxidization occurs more rapidly. This can create an enhancement of flavor.
All e-liquids are steeped to some degree, but many vapers will steep their bottles of e-juice after purchase. This is typically done by running the bottle of e-juice under warm tap water and giving the bottle a good shake. This causes the molecules in the e-juice to rapidly move and encourage oxidization. After this the bottles are stored for up to a week or more in a cool dark place.
Some vapers have designed their own shortcuts to steeping and developed their own methods. All of these methods have a single goal in common. To elevate the flavor of the e-liquid. Expert mixologists are in some disagreement to just how much this extra steeping contributes to added flavor. Some point out that e-juices are naturally steeping as they sit on the shelves awaiting purchase.
It is important to understand that present studies regarding many aspects of vaping are limited. In this case, however, we can draw on existing studies regarding tobacco because both involve nicotine delivery. It can be said that many vapers report more flavor satisfaction in their e-liquids from higher nicotine consistences. Exactly why nicotine affects flavor is yet to be conclusively explained.