Do Electronic Cigarettes Contain Antifreeze?

Do smokeless electronic cigarettes really contain antifreeze?

There have been a lot of rumors being spread by fear mongers that smokeless cigarettes contain toxic antifreeze. This, however, is not true. Well, not the “toxic” part anyway. πŸ™‚

The water/nicotine solution used to create the vapor in electronic cigarettes contains Propylene Glycol (PG), as a solvent. Propylene Glycol is used in anti-freeze, but is not toxic. It should not be confused with Ethylene Glycol, which used to be the standard component in automobile antifreeze, and is toxic. Most newer antifreezes now use PG due to its non-toxic nature. PG has long been used as an antifreeze in areas where there is a potential to come in contact with food. Despite the fact that Propylene Glycol is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and the fact that it has been used in countless food and medical products for years (many that you probably use on a regular basis), as soon as the word “antifreeze” gets mentioned, some people think of the old Ethylene Glycol based product, and and fear mongers tend to grasp on to that and spread rumors rather than doing any research.

The fact is that Propylene Glycol is a safe food additive. It is most often used as an emulsifier, a moisture stabilizer (humectant), or as a solvent for items that are not soluble in water. Many oral. injectable, and topical pharmaceutical formulations use Propylene Glycol as a solvent. It is used in various foods, mostly to keep moist food moist, or as a solvent for certain ingredients. It is also used in cosmetics, shampoos, mouthwashes, medicines, moisturizers, massage oils, hand sanitizers/lotions, deodorant sticks, etc… the list goes on and on. Most likely, many of the items that you currently use, on a daily basis, contain Propylene Glycol.

According to the CDC:

“Propylene glycol is a synthetic liquid substance that absorbs water. Propylene glycol is also used to make polyester compounds, and as a base for deicing solutions. Propylene glycol is used by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries as an antifreeze when leakage might lead to contact with food. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is β€œgenerally recognized as safe” for use in food. It is used to absorb extra water and maintain moisture in certain medicines, cosmetics, or food products. It is a solvent for food colors and flavors, and in the paint and plastics industries. Propylene glycol is also used to create artificial smoke or fog used in fire-fighting training and in theatrical productions.”

The bottom line is that Propylene Glycol is safe for use. It has been approved by the FDA for use as a food additive. It has been used for many years in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries. And, as the CDC mentions, it was used to create vapor in fog machines (for stage effects and movies), and firefighter training, long before utilized for smokeless electronic cigarettes. It has many beneficial uses. The fact that it can also lower the freezing temperature of water should be a non-issue. The focus that some have put on “antifreeze” is ridiculous.

Unfortunately, back in 2009, the FDA tested only 18 e-cig cartridges from 2 companies. On one of those cartridges the found a small amount (approx. 1%) of Diethylene Glycol) a more toxic humectant/antifreeze ingredient), and reported this findings. It is pretty sad that they would make any kind of report based on such minimal testing. It is also pathetic that they did not present it with the proper perspective.

Diethylene Glycol (DEG) is only toxic in large amounts (much less toxic that ethylene Glycol). While it is not approved for use as a food additive, unlike Propylene Glycol, it is still approved for use in the food, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries, as part of the manufacturing process. That means that trace amounts are found in many items you use every day, like toothpastes and aspirin. Trace amounts are not toxic, and are broken down and removed from the body. Diethylene Glycol is a humectant used to remove moisture from tobacco, thus it is a natural byproduct of the tobacco cigarette manufacturing process, and by association, the nicotine manufacturing process. However, most nicotine is refined to remove all traces of Diethylene Glycol.

Let’s some this part up. Diethylene Glycol is NOT used as an ingredient in electronic cigarette solutions, Propylene Glycol is. Only one E-cigarette cartridge has ever been found to contain any Diethylene Glycol, at all. The DEG found in that one cartridge was only found in trace amounts, far below than what would be considered toxic. To further keep it in perspective, that amount is about 1/10th of what you would find in a typical aspirin, and about 1/40th of what you would find in a tobacco cigarette. Even if every cartridge contained contained that amount of DEG, it is still 40 times safer than smoking tobacco. But it is not in every cartridge, it has only been found in one cartridge, period.

Sadly, anti-ecig parties cling to this FDA and try to convince people that this is an ingredient in all smokeless cigarettes, which is simply not true. No electronic cigarette company uses Diethylene Glycol in their products. Since that 2009 report there has been extensive testing on many different brands, and they have not found one other sample that contains Diethylene Glycol. Most experts agree that the one cartridge must have been a contaminated, but detractors cling to that one finding. I have seen many articles that claim that all smokeless e-cigarettes contain this DIethylene Glycol, some going so far as to say that is one of the ingredients, which is simply a lie. One cartridge, by one manufacturer was found to have trace amounts. Yes, I feel it is important to keep stressing that. πŸ™‚ If you ever come across an article where the author is claiming that e-cigarettes use DEG, or worse, use the word poison, stop reading. They have an agenda, and is has nothing to do with providing you with the truth.

Why the fear mongering, and spreading of misinformation? Well, some personalities always focus on the negative, and don’t bother finding out all the facts. They panic and spread their own fears. Also, since e-cigs have likely put a dent in the tobacco market, it would not surprise me, that much of the negative focus comes from Big Tobacco spin doctors (working behind the scene) trying to fear people back to their products. Speculation? Sure, but who knows? It is also common knowledge that the FDA has had a long-running beef with the E-cigarette market. They tried to take control of the e-cig market by claiming that it was a drug administration device. They were taken to court and lost, so I imagine that irks them. Some people also believe that abstinence is the only way to go, so they point out all the negatives of alternative products, in order to promote abstinence, which I think is a great disservise to all those that can’t, or choose not to, quit.

The bottom line is that Electronic Cigarettes are far safer than tobacco cigarettes.

By the way, I shouldn’t have to say this, but….Keep in mind that, while Propylene Glycol has been deemed non-toxic and safe as a food additive, it does not mean that it is safe to go out and drink gallons of antifreeze. It is safe in the amounts that it is designed for consumption, but, like with most things, abuse can be dangerous. Use common sense.


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53 Responses to Do Electronic Cigarettes Contain Antifreeze?

  1. Steve says:

    Excellent write-up on the antifreeze nonsense. While most prohibitionists have moved on to the “think about the kids” or safety arguments, I still see the occasional mention of antifreeze. So much of the 2009 report has been debunked, yet mention of those inaccuracies still persist. Several researchers have called for the FDA to issue a retraction of many of the inaccurate claims, yet that advisory still exists in its current form.

  2. Terry says:

    Thanks Steve. πŸ™‚

    Yes, the 2009 report by the FDA has largely been debunked. Unfortunately, there are still a large number of sites out there that still present it as proof and claim that all e-cigs contain DEG. Depending on what people use for their search terms, they may come across a lot of those articles, including the FDA report. They may be older, but they still show up at the top of search results. and people new to the e-cigarette market may take them at face value. πŸ™

    The worst part is, as you mentioned, that the FDA has not modified their report, at all, since then. Since many will likely still come across those articles. I thought it prudent to have an article to explain the facts and debunk the myths.

    I have already written an article on the safety arguments, and will be posting it shortly. There is a bunch of silliness there too. I did touch on the “kids” aspect on my home page, but I will also write a more in depth article in the near future.

  3. Jeff T. says:

    Great stuff. You are right. I still see that antifreeze misinformation all over the place. It sucks that people may see crap like that and look no further. They’ll continue smoking cigarettes, with thousands of chemicals and toxins, and feel comforted that at least tobacco doesn’t contain antifreeze. [rollseyes]

    It is sad, because so many people could improve their lives. I know someone who was having serious health problems, and his smoking was not helping. He switched to electronic cigarettes, and he is feeling much better. He still has other things to work on (exercise, lose weight, eat healthier, etc…), but switching to the ecigs was a huge step in the right direction, for him.

    • Terry says:

      Thanks Jeff.

      I know what you mean about smokers with health problems. The tobacco smoke has such a detrimental effect on your health. Not only by itself, but as a contributing factor in other diseases. Electronic cigarettes can be a huge factor in improving a smokers health and/or quality of life. Of course, it would be far better to switch to e-cigs BEFORE you develop health issues. Yes, quitting would also be a big help, but the reality is that many people who smoke can’t simply quit. Those are the people that are really hurt during those misinformation campaigns.

  4. Pete Walker says:

    Thanks for clearing it up. I read other articles about electronic cigarettes containing antifreeze, and other stuff, but the things they were saying seemed a bit silly. I’m glad that I looked into it further.

    • Terry says:

      Yes, they do tend to go for the hard sell and find anything negative and spin it to ridiculous proportions. They try to hard, and it is obvious.

      Plus, if you have been around a while, you would see that even newer written articles, that are like that, are just rehashing of some old 2009 article. They aren’t based on any facts or research.

      I’m glad you could see past those fabrications and chose to look a little deeper.

    • Elizabeth Stanton says:

      I started smoking around 20 years ago. I know that they have been around a while, but i only heard about electronic cigarettes about 6 months ago. I I really had no desire to quit smoking (I do enjoy it), but I was concerned about all of the health issues associated with smoking. It seemed to me that electronic cigarettes would allow me to continue a habit that I enjoy with fewer health concerns. This may sound silly, but my cats were a big factor into my decision to switch. I worried about their little lungs. Plus they would not come near me when I had a lit cigarette. When I lit one up they would wince and run away from it. They do not react the same way to the electronic cigarette. One actually nuzzled the LED…. seriously. I think they like the light.

      With all the misinformation out there, it took me a while to finally switch. Articles like this really help to clear things up. My transition has been very smooth. I initially would think about tobacco cigarettes, but as I got more used to using the e-cigs, that has lessened greatly. I’m not experiencing nicotine withdrawals, and I don’t have any urge to go back to tobacco. I started using Blu e-cigs, but wasn’t too happy with them. I have tried a few brands since then and finally found one that I was pleased with. It is the best choice for me, but everyone is different.

      Article like this are what people need to know. Keep up the good work.

  5. Alfonso says:

    Nicely written. A very good article on this e-cig farce.

    • Terry says:

      Thanks, Alfonso.

      I am glad that you enjoyed it. πŸ™‚

    • Julia Hobner says:

      I had already known that the antifreeze issue wasn’t real, but this was still a very good read. I am amazed that anyone would still buy into these rumors after all these years. Do they throw logic out the window? If e-cigs really contained toxic antifreeze they would have been banned long ago.

      • Terry says:


        The sensational makes for better story telling, and tends to be more viral than the truth, so it gets spread around more. Logic and truth doesn’t really enter into it, for some people. πŸ™

  6. Justin says:

    Nice write up. I just started looking into electronic cigarettes and stumbled into some articles that mentioned them containing antifreeze (the poisonous kind), and other toxins, but they seemed rather vague, and very similar to each other, so I did some additional research and this article came up. I found it very helpful.

    • Terry says:

      Hey Justin,

      Yes, they do all sound very similar, and vague, That’s because they are basically using the same source for their information, and that was vague and biased. Most of those reporting on that bogus information do not look into it further to see if there is any validity to it.

      I’m glad that you found the article helpful. πŸ™‚

  7. Vince Gregson says:

    Thanks for the detailed overview of what is going on. Some of us have been around a while and understand the situation better than others. Still, those stories keep popping up. New articles, but still referencing the (mis)information from 2009. This would be a great read for e-cig newbs. Hopefully they find this before some of the BS ones.

    • Terry says:

      Thanks Vince,

      Yes, it is a shame that that old, bogus information still lingers around to confuse people new to electronic cigarettes. That is why I thought that it was important to address the issue.

  8. Amy Krieg says:

    A friend of mine was asking me about my new electronic cigarette, and she brought up safety concerns, including the antifreeze stuff. I just referred her here. She feels much better about it now, and is thinking of making a switch to ecigs, herself. πŸ™‚

  9. Mark Hill says:

    That was great information. I am glad that I found this article. My GF was a bit concerned about me getting an e-cigarette because someone she worked with had read some article about the antifreeze, and other stuff. It turns out that it was, in fact, referencing that vague 2009 blurb, and then twisting it around to deliberately scare people. Sad.

    I had my GF read your articles, and some other stuff. She is now very excited that I will not be smoking tobacco cigarettes anymore.

    : D. Good job, cheers

    • James L. says:

      I agree. I can’t believe how people have twisted that to such extremes. It is crazy.

    • Terry says:

      Hey Mark,

      I am glad that you found it valuable to you. Yes, that one little blurb from 2009 certainly got more than its fair share of attention. It is terrible that people take vague references and twist them to suit their own needs, especially when it hurts people in the process. Many people would benefit greatly from switching from tobacco to e-cigs (if not quitting outright).

      I am sure that you will be much happier with the smokeless alternative.

  10. Zack Marshall says:

    Been vaping E-cigarettes for a couple of years now. I feel so much better. It is amazing how great you feel after you have been off the tobacco for a while. I don’t have any cravings for tobacco anymore, and I am vaping much less now than when I first started. It is a shame that certain people are trying to scare people away from them with misinformation. I wonder if they realize how many people they are hurting.

    Great article. Keep it up.


    • Terry says:

      Thanks for the nice comments, Zack.

      I am glad that you are feeling so much better since making the switch. It’s great that you no longer have cravings for tobacco, and that you are even vaping less. That seems to be fairly common, even amongst those that were not initially trying to quit.

      I agree with what you said about the misinformation hurting people. They clearly have an agenda. Since they seem to go out of their way to spread that misinformation, I’m guessing that most of them DO realize, but simply don’t care. I imagine that a few re simply people that like to sensationalize controversial topics, and don’t consider the consequences.

    • Belinda Vasquez says:

      The antifreeze rumors have been circulating for a while now. You’d think they would just die away, but as more and more people discover electronic cigarettes they keep getting dug up again and people act as if it is new, and valid, information, when it is not. I completely understand why you thought it was important to write about. The rumors, even though they aren’t true, will not go away, so articles like this need to be out there too. You have done a good job explaining the real situation.

      • Terry says:

        Hi Belinda,

        Yeah, it is sticking around. People have their own agendas and reasons for doing it. Vague as it is, it is the only thing that the fear-mongers can grasp on to, so it keeps resurfacing.

  11. Katlyn Loving says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  12. Bill T says:

    Nicely written. It is good to see someone put some thought into an article for a change.

  13. Jacob Winters says:

    My brother recommended this article to me, and I am glad that I read it. I avoided electronic cigarettes because of things that I read a couple of years ago about them containing antifreeze and other stuff. I am glad that it wasn’t true, but wish that I discovered it earlier. This post actually made my day. I am looking forward to trying electronic cigarettes and getting away from tobacco.

    • Terry says:

      I am glad that you found the article and found it helpful. Fear topics tend to spread more quickly than good information, which is what makes it good for spam/chain emails to good circulation. Unfortunately, many people accept those as true and never look into it any further. I’m happy that you finally looked a little deeper. Enjoy your new smoke-free lifestyle. πŸ™‚

  14. Elise Cunningham says:

    It sucks that people have to tried to make stupid crap like this, an issue. Yeah, some people have an agenda, but others just pass along bad info that the can’t be bothered researching themselves. I commend you for actually doing the research and reporting the facts.

    • Terry says:

      That has been the case for a long time. As I mentioned previously, that is what made chain emails work so well. Fear/shock is a great motivator to pass the information along (that and kittens πŸ™‚ ). It doesn’t matter if it is true.

  15. Margaret Jensen says:

    It is good to get this out there for all the new people just learning about e-cigs. Well written. Nice job.

  16. Terrance says:

    Ack! They got me. I bought into the antifreeze thing and avoided electronic cigarettes. Those chemical names sound pretty much the same to me, and I just assumed what I read before was true. Now I know better.

  17. Hannah says:

    I found this article linked from another site, as “recommended reading”. Nice job. Very informative.

  18. Keith W. says:

    All that xxxylene glycol stuff sounds chemical, and scary. Thanks for pointing out that they are different. It is nice to know that the propylene glycol is a safe food additive.

    • Terry says:

      LOL Yes, they do sound similar, to those that aren’t familiar with chemical terminologies. They are very different, though. It’s amazing what a difference a molecule or two can make. πŸ™‚ If you look at the ingredients of most foods you eat, you are likely to see many chemical looking names that are, more or less, harmless.

      It’s the fault of those presenting the misinformation that are to blame.

  19. Calvin Dayton says:

    Nice article on the the antifreeze in electronic cigarettes myth. It is something that everyone should read.

  20. William Fong says:

    This is very important information for new users to understand and it is very well written.

    • Terry says:

      Thank you, William.

      I agree that it is something that every new user should be aware of. I would hate to think that people would not try them based on misinformation. It would also be bead for existing users to hear that kind of misinformation and freak out because they think they have been poisoning themselves.

      It is a shame that I felt that I had to write an article like this, at all. πŸ™

  21. Christina Giles says:

    Excellent web site you have got here.. You don’t see much good writing, like yours, nowadays. These days it is mostly fluff filled writing with little substance.

  22. Joe Swefford says:

    I have to agree with the general consensus. Great article.

  23. Susanne Walston says:

    Great article! I can’t believe that the FDA was so deliberately misleading about something that could help so many people. It is even worse that they have not amended their statement despite all the testing that has been done over the last several years. They certainly don’t have the best interests of the people in mind.

    • Terry says:

      Hello, Susanne,

      I think that everyone would like to believe that the FDA would have our best interests in mind, however, we have seen time and again that they don’t.

  24. ryan says:

    This is some bs I know there’s anti freeze in ecigs

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