The Liquid We Vape: What do you call it?


As the vaping market matures, the terminology we use changes. It’s been changing since the very beginning. Sometimes it’s just natural evolution. Devices we once commonly used become less popular, so they fall from the shared vaping lexicon. But sometimes the terms themselves are disputed. The early phrase “e-smoking” disappeared through a combination of evolution (most people just preferred “vaping”) and vapers actively arguing against its use.

Lately there have been a lot of discussions over labels and names on e-liquids. Some brands, for example, have been criticized for label graphics that resemble images on children’s drinks. The reasoning of those opposing such labels is twofold: first, the labels play into the hands of vaping opponents who accuse us of “marketing to children,” and second, some labels may actually be confusing enough that a small child might drink the liquid.

In addition to the images, there have been some interesting discussions among advocates suggesting that the term “juice” itself should be avoided. I decided to ask a group of the most respected American vaping advocates for their thoughts on the topic. What should we call the liquid we vape?

Victoria Vasconcellos, owner of Cignot, is deeply involved in vaping advocacy with SFATA in the Chicago area. She thinks those opposed to “juice” may be overly sensitive to outside criticism. “I have noticed those in advocacy and vendors who advocate wanting to get away from the term, but it feels forced. The natural tendency remains ‘juice’.”

For many, the major concern is what we say when we speak to non-vapers, especially legislators. “Vapor products are technology products intended for and primarily used by adults,” says Gregory Conley, “but as any vaper knows, there is seemingly a never-ending stream of disingenuous activists who will take any opportunity to claim that the industry is marketing to children.” Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, speaks to media and public officials daily, and he has seen use of “juice” bite vapers more than once.

E-Liquid Bottles

“When talking to the news media and policymakers,” Conley adds, “the term ‘e-juice’ should never be used.”

“Indeed, whenever I hear the term E-juice used by a vape shop owner or vaper on the news or in a state legislature, I cringe. ‘E-liquid’ or ‘refill liquid’ should be used instead.”

Chris Hughes agrees, and thinks “e-liquid” also sounds more professional and less like a slang term. The owner of Fat Cat Vapor Shop in Mountoursville, PA, and president of the Pennsylvania chapter of SFATA, deals with state legislators on a regular basis, and he’s always looking for ways to better present vaping. He says it’s “more a matter of people in a young industry presenting themselves professionally.” Stefan Didak, co-president of NorCal SFATA and a founder of Not Blowing Smoke, has a similar take. He says, “We’ve been casually asking industry participants to reconsider the use of the word ‘juice’ after discussions SFATA had on its recent fly-in to Washington D.C. to meet with elected officials.”

As far as the accusation of “marketing to children,” Vasconcellos isn’t concerned. “It is against the law to sell to children and marketing in an adult venue is marketing to adults. We need to stop buying into their crap as we give it merit when we do so.”

Cynthia Cabrera agrees up to a point, but discourages using the term “juice” at all. “‘E-liquid’ is the preference all time, not just when discussing the topic with legislators and others,” says Cabrera, president and Executive Director of national SFATA. “The use of the word ‘juice’ only plays into misplaced accusations, when the accusers fail to recognize the target audience is adult smokers, many of whom respond to gimmicky marketing.”

Advocates’ opinions vary somewhat, but the general consensus is a preference for “e-liquid,” and a wish to leave “juice” and “e-juice” behind.

We are curious to hear what Vaping360 readers think. Do you have a strong opinion on this? What do you call the liquid we vape?

Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.
  • Joseph Mastroianni

    Interesting points are being made in this article and I would hate to pull the “well, what about alcohol” card but I am going to anyways. I understand the industry should find away to avoid an negative undertones that may occur with the labeling/naming of vaping products today and I think it would be quite wonderful if we could change protocol with naming/advertising the vaping products available instead of comparing to other non-children friendly products such as alcohol, cigarettes, energy drinks, and marijuana. All of these products have variations available for consumers that have child-like packaging and names. You can get root-beer, strawberry lemonade, and other “juice” oriented alcohol beverages that could easily be mistaken by a child to consume. Energy drinks made for adults contain toxic chemicals that we don’t know enough about and have an similar advertisements, labels, and names pertaining to children’s food/beverage. Marijuana, edibles also resemble child-hood treats and have fun names. I myself have consumed all of these products and I understand it’s going to be a hardship to get the “upper-hand” on what the anti-vaping community can utilize against the vape community and I think we can approach this in a positive manner and hopefully change the language associated with vaping products in order to make a positive change. It’s similar to when people would call a tattoo machine a tattoo gun. Because of the tattoo community, this termainology was changed completely and I think the vaping community can do the same.

    • Jim McDonald

      The problem with the alcohol comparison is that public health people *do* think that candy- and fruit-flavored alcohol products are aimed at teens. Vapers keep asking rhetorically if flavored vodkas are aimed at kids too, and the people we ask keep muttering under their breath, “Yes! I do!”

  • Bill Herbst

    I’ve used the term “juice” frequently in my reviews of e-liquids here at Vaping360. For the most part, that’s been a writer’s caveat: the use of alternate words to vary the endless repetition of the standard term “e-liquid.”

    The issue of cultural acceptance, however, especially in regard to prohibitive legislation that might cripple both the industry and our social movement seems important and well worth consideration.

    In future, I’ll stick to the formal identifier “e-liquid” in my public writing here, whether in reviews or commentaries, and limit my use of the slang term “juice” to more personal interactions with other vapers.

    • Jim McDonald

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Bill. I don’t think any of the advocates I asked care in the slightest which term vapers use in conversation with each other, as you note here. To me, it just seems like a simple thing we can change to avoid misinterpretations of the intention of the speaker (or manufacturer — or writer!). Oddly enough, in Twitter comments many of the most prominent British advocates defended the use of “juice” in all circumstances. So, opinions vary greatly on this point.