Although vaping water may seem like a “safe” alternative to nicotine e-liquids, it carries many of the same risks. Researchers are still investigating the long-term effects of vaping.

Regular vaping devices are not designed for water. At best, they can produce flavorless steam. At worst, they can shoot boiling hot droplets of water into the user’s mouth.

There is currently only one commercially available water-based e-liquid. However, it still contains many of the same chemicals as regular e-liquids, meaning it has similar health risks.

In this article, we will cover how water-based vaping works, how safe it is, and compare it to smoking and vaping nicotine juices.

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Photography by RZCREATIVE/Stocksy United

As addressed above, attempting to vaporize water with regular vaping devices doesn’t work. The only water-based e-liquid currently available is called AQ30.

Normal e-liquids are mainly made of a mixture of vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG) in addition to flavorings and nicotine. When the coil in a vaping device heats it up, the combination of VG and PG produces large clouds of vapor.

The AQ30 mixture is 30% water. However, it contains the same VG, PG, and flavorings as typical e-liquid.

It is also important to note that the vaping devices that use AQ30 heat up to a lower temperature than normal vaping devices, allowing them to safely vaporize the water-based e-liquid.

In almost all cases, filling a vape device with plain water comes with no benefits and several risks.

Water evaporates at a lower temperature than e-liquids, which means that attempting to vaporize water with most devices produces boiling hot water and steam. This is dangerous to inhale.

Because they are designed for more viscous liquids, water can also soak through and damage the vape device.

Although there are no studies on it at present, water-based e-liquid is very similar to regular e-liquids. Therefore, vaping it has the same risks and safety considerations as typical vaping, with the exception of its containing nicotine.

Research suggests that vaping any kind of e-liquid, water-based or not, is safer than smoking.

A 2022 report from The Office for Health Improvements and Disparities states that “in the short and medium term, vaping poses a small fraction of the risks of smoking.” However, they do add that “studies assessing longer-term vaping (for more than 12 months) are necessary.”

Similarly, a 2018 review concluded that although more research is needed, it does seem like e-cigarettes pose less risk to respiratory health than smoking.

When comparing water-based e-liquid (AQ30) against regular e-liquids, the main difference is hydration.

The VG and PG mixture that makes up e-liquids has a dehydrating effect on the body. AQ30 is 30% water and contains less VG and PG than regular e-liquids, making it less dehydrating overall.

Even if AQ30 is less dehydrating, water-based e-liquid is largely the same as any other e-liquid.

Nicotine is present in almost all e-liquids and is highly addictive. It can also impact adolescent brain development and has a host of other side effects. While some e-liquids are nicotine-free, they can still cause many other issues.

For instance, a 2019 study found that the use of nicotine-free e-liquids negatively impacted blood flow in healthy nonsmokers. Another 2018 study also found that the VG and PG mixture used by all e-liquids is toxic at higher doses.

An even more serious risk is EVALI, which stands for e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury. Research so far has most strongly associated EVALI with vitamin E acetate, which is present in THC vapes. There is also a potential link with diacetyl, an ingredient present in many vape flavorings.

If a person is experiencing the following symptoms and is worried that it might be related to their vape use, they may want to contact a doctor:

  • shortness of breath
  • headache
  • fever and chills
  • coughing
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • rapid heart rate
  • chest pain

Depending on a person’s history with vaping and their symptoms, a doctor may diagnose them with EVALI.

To summarise, a person cannot vape water using standard vaping devices, and it is dangerous to try.

Water-based e-liquid is less dehydrating than other e-liquids because of its water content and lower concentration of VG and PG.

Apart from this, it is chemically identical to any other e-liquid and comes with all the same risks and side effects.

Current research is uncovering the short- and medium-term effects of vaping, and the public is gradually becoming more aware of these.

Because vaping has only become popular fairly recently, the long-term effects are not yet clear, and more research is required.