The vaping market is continuously updating and innovating, it means that your vape is always improving. When compared to just a few years ago, the vaping market has come on leaps and bounds with everything from the flavour of e-juice to the delivery systems being developed. But one of the latest products to enter the market is synthetic nicotine could cause a divide. So, should you be tempted to pick up a e-liquid that uses synthetic nicotine?

Firstly, lets clear one thing up – not all e-juices contain nicotine. One of the great things about vaping is the flexibility it gives you. Typically, e-liquids will come in a range of nicotine strengths, from those suitable for heavy smokers looking for a replacement to zero nicotine. It means you can match the e-liquid you use to your cravings if you’re trying to give up smoking or avoid the addictive substance all together if you simply vape for recreational purposes. So, if you vape with nicotine free liquid, the synthetic debate shouldn’t affect you, but thanks to current FDA stances it could still change how your e-juice is regulated.  

Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical compound that is present in tobacco and is the chemical which causes people to become addicted to cigarettes. However, while traditional tobacco is linked to numerous illnesses, including cancer, research indicates these are due to other chemicals contained within tobacco rather than nicotine. It’s for this reason that it’s often cited that other nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigs, are better for health when compared to cigarettes. As a result, more people are switching to vaping as a way to satisfy their nicotine cravings. 

So, what is synthetic nicotine? It’s essentially the chemical formula being made through other sources rather than coming from a plant. It’s the same chemical and it’s indistinguishable from the naturally occurring compound. There are challenges with producing synthetic nicotine but there are companies that are leading the way and some e-liquid brands are already incorporating it into their products. 

What does synthetic nicotine mean for vaping?

One of the reasons synthetic nicotine has gained so much attention in the US is the wording of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Laws on vaping and how it’s classified is having a huge impact on the industry but rulings typical state regulations of products that have been made or derived from tobacco.
It left an interesting question around whether e-liquids could go around the latest, restrictive regulations by using synthetic nicotine. After all, tobacco isn’t involved in the production process of synthetic nicotine at all. However, the FDA has since clarified its stance on synthetic nicotine, stating:

“The definition of ‘tobacco product’ includes any product made or derived from tobacco, including any component, part, or accessory of a tobacco product. E-liquids that do not contain nicotine or other substances made or derived from tobacco may still be components or parts, and, therefore, subject to FDA’s tobacco control authorities.”

So, that’s it then, synthetic nicotine will be fully regulated alongside tobacco products? Well, perhaps not, the FDA goes on to note that it’s possible that a disposable, closed device that contains an e-liquid with ‘truly zero nicotine (or synthetic nicotine)’ would not be regulated by the authorities as a tobacco product. Indicating that there is hope that e-juices can go around regulations but adding that such decisions will be made on a ‘case-by-case basis’ suggests in could be some time before this happens.

While still vague, the clarification could be seen as a positive for those that want to access e-juices that don’t adhere to FDA rules. Of course, it could cause some confusion on the market too, with near identical e-liquids being labelled as a tobacco product or a non-tobacco product depending on how the nicotine was produced, despite the fact that, on a chemical level, they would essentially be identical. 

Despite some advocates citing the FDA clarification as positive, there are others that note so far, the authority hasn’t shown any signs of changing its classification of e-cig products, which have often been labelled as unfair. Either way it’s likely that it’ll be sometime before we see any e-juice that’s free from the regulations surrounding all tobacco related products. 

But that doesn’t mean synthetic nicotine won’t be increasingly used. Some supporters of the synthetic compound claim it has a cleaner taste, allowing for better flavour, and once issues around scaling and expense have been resolved, we could see more synthetic nicotine products hit the market.