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Why Vape Without Nicotine? An Explainer for Smokers & Vapers

a set of e-liquid bottles

Many cigarette and vaporizer users question the point – as well as the risks – of "no-nic vaping"

It isn't a secret that nicotine is the primary ingredient sought by cigarette smokers and the majority of vapers. While it's good that vaping without nicotine is practically harmless, it also has people wondering if there's a point in doing so. After all, electronic cigarettes, personal vaporizers (such as vape pens or tank systems) and e-liquid can add up to a considerable amount of cash. Shouldn't you get something useful out of it, like nicotine's simultaneous stimulant and sedative effects? In this post, we go over the most frequently asked questions surrounding no-nic vaping, or vaping without nicotine.

1. Why do it at all?

Staying on the wagon Many ex-smokers use vaping to transition away from cigarettes. E-liquids (commonly known as "vape juice") come in five strengths; a popular method of weaning is to gradually move from extra strength to zero nicotine. Once on zero nicotine, ex-smokers often continue to vape for the familiar sensation of inhaling from mouth to lung (MTL). Doing so effectively staves off the psychological aspects of leftover anxiety from cigarette addiction.

It's worth noting that while nicotine itself is demonstrably addictive, it is proven to be considerably less so in vaporizers than it is in cigarettes. This is because there are components (such as acetaldehyde and tryptophan) in cigarettes that work in tandem with tobacco and nicotine to create a potent habit-forming compound during combustion. As such, nicotine via the average cigarette is much more addictive than free-form nicotine in e-liquid. This means that ex-smokers are curbing their dependency even during the weaning process of moving gradually to zero nicotine vape juice.

Weed Another reason to vape with no nicotine is cannabidiol (CBD) based vape juice. CBD is the active constituent responsible for a wide range of medicinal and therapeutic benefits in cannabis. While the vape market has far more nicotine e-liquids in circulation, there is certainly no shortage of CBD e-liquids.

2. Who vapes without nicotine?

Flavor chasers Once ex-smokers are at zero nicotine, they mostly vape for the MTL sensation, the flavor and to curb sugar cravings. Almost every major e-liquid brand stocked online or at your local vape shop comes in a no-nic variety, so you should be covered no matter what you're looking for.

Cloud chasers Some vapers take part in what is popularly called competitive vaping. Because too much nicotine at once is a known health risk, professionals who practice day in and day out are more likely to use e-liquids with little to no propylene glycol (or PG, the carrier liquid for nicotine) in their composition.

Social vapers Studies around the world show that the majority of vapers are ex-smokers. Among them, there are vapers that have transitioned to nicotine e-liquids and some that go on to stick with no-nics, effectively quitting nicotine altogether. Understandably, the latter enjoy socializing as not only a new circle of friends but a natural support network as well.

3. Is nicotine-free vaping safe?

propylene glycol (pg)

Plenty of research has been conducted to reach the conclusion that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. The remaining concern from the anti-smoking lobby is the presence of nicotine, even without the habit-forming compounds in cigarettes to amplify its addictive qualities.

By vaping instead of smoking – and going on to cut out nicotine as well -- no-nic vapers are engaging in an essentially harmless pastime. This assertion can be substantiated by the typical formulation of an average bottle of vape juice:

  • Propylene Glycol (PG)
  • Vegetable Glycerine (VG)
  • Water
  • Natural or USP-Grade Flavoring
  • Nicotine or CBD Content

Pairing the ingredients in e-liquids with the atomizer-based vaporization of e-cigarettes and vape mods (as opposed to unadulterated burning), it becomes clear that nicotine-free vaping is indeed safe.

4. Can you get cancer from vaping without nicotine?

All current research shows that even vaping with nicotine carries little to no risk of cancer in the long run. This is likely because there are no known carcinogens in e-liquids like there are in cigarettes. Cigarettes contain formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene and lead among other things, many of which cause cancer. Vapers are also not exposed to harmful byproducts of combustion, such as tar and smoke.

There is a single study from PNAS asserting the possibility of cancer from vaping, but even cancer study and awareness groups have disavowed it as apocryphal. Cancer Research UK criticized both their findings and method of experimentation for being extraneous to human health, going so far as to call their claims "wildly misleading."

5. Could non-smokers get into no-nic vaping?

If you're thinking about getting into vaping for the nicotine, you're already better off. Clean nicotine does have its benefits, and vaping is clearly the way to get it without exposure the burning tar and tobacco of combustibles cigarettes.

On the other hand, there's no reason to start using nicotine if you aren't already. If you're thinking about getting into vaping for the social aspects of it, no-nics are your best bet. Aspiring competitive vapers, for example, favor e-liquids low in PG and high in VG because of the viscosity of their formulation – trading nicotine content for cloud size. Almost all no-nic vape juices use higher VG ratios, so if cloud chasing is your game, the market has you covered.

It's also worth noting that the vape mods themselves are entirely separate from vape juice. This means whether or not you're vaping nicotine, you're very much able to participate in hardware-related discussion. Much like car enthusiasts, vapers are constantly working and reworking the various available settings on high-end tank systems in search of better flavor or battery efficiency. If you've got the hardware, you're in the loop.

Finally, if you're thinking about vaping purely for social reasons (or to curb those pesky sugar cravings), remember that practically all available e-liquids come in a no-nic version. You can enjoy the very same brands and flavors your friends are vaping, just without getting any nicotine yourself.

Vaping is About Health, Not Nicotine

Regardless of why non-smokers stick with no-nic vaping, there's definitely no shortage of reasons to do so. Nicotine free vaping is one of the safer social activities between friends these days, and should certainly be commended and encouraged – particularly in ex-smokers