Vapers Tongue and You
“Vaper’s tongue” is a condition where — unexpectedly and without warning — the vaper experiences a diminished experience of flavors during vaping, as if the ability to taste were dramatically reduced or diminished. This is a nearly universal phenomenon that arises from time to time for the vast majority of vapers. Duration of the condition may last from one to three days. More than that is rare, but not totally uncommon. Interestingly, less than that is also unusual. After the dreaded vaper’s tongue has struck and afflicted a given vaper.
It's All in the Nose
The phrase vaper’s tongue is actually a misnomer, since the tongue is not the source of the problem. A more appropriate name would be “vaper’s nose,” since the real culprit is olfactory exhaustion. Our ability to taste both in registering flavors as well as differentiating between various flavors is largely a matter of smell rather than taste, per se.
The term vaper’s tongue came into common and wide use because many vapers who suffer this deadening of flavor perception notice that their tongue feels as if it had suddenly developed a thickened coating that causes the insensitivity.
The onset of vaper’s tongue (a.k.a., vaper’s nose) tends to occur after a long period of consistent and sustained vaping. The onset of olfactory shutdown and diminishment of flavor perception is actually gradual, although that’s not usually noticed as it’s happening. At some point, however, loss of flavor becomes noticeable, then obvious, and finally total.
Possible Remedies for Vaper’s Tongue
Various solutions have been proposed over the years since the problem was first named, but only a couple remedies work. One suggestion is to switch flavors. That hardly ever works. During an episode of olfactory exhaustion, all flavors are diminished to the vanishing point. No matter what flavor of liquid is used — nothing tastes like it’s supposed to. Sometimes every e-liquid tastes somehow off or even bad. More commonly, however, e-liquids have no taste at all, so changing flavors does nothing.
Another solution is dogged persistence — just vape through it. That’s difficult, however, because the condition is unpleasant and frustrating. Continuing to vape in spite of flavor numbness may actually extend and lengthen the condition.
The only sure-fire way to cure vaper’s tongue is to stop vaping entirely. How long? That varies, of course, but the general wisdom of a modest vaping fast — taking a day or two off from vaping — should do the trick and renew the ability to taste flavors. Still, no hard and fast rule applies as everyone is different and, I think it is safe to say, most vapers won’t want to be without a vape for a day or two.
Another suggestion is that vaping unflavored e-liquid, or even 100-percent VG (vegetable glycerine), with no added nicotine, may shorten the duration of vaper’s tongue. The theory here is much like refreshing the palate between courses in a meal by eating or drinking something that perks up the olfactory senses, providing a change of pace.
Oral hygiene is often suggested: brushing the teeth or using mouthwash (Biotene is often recommended). These are good practices, but their benefits in combating olfactory exhaustion are dubious and minimal.
Sometimes the drying effects of PG (propylene glycol) as an e-liquid base are claimed as the culprit. That may or may not be true, as is the advice to drink more liquids. (Drinking liquids is a good idea, but it doesn’t prevent or cure vaper’s tongue.)
In the 1960s TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, an entire episode was based on Granny Clampett’s magical elixir that supposedly cured the common cold. She swore that her terrible-tasting witch’s brew would provide a surefire remedy. At the end of the episode, Jed Clampett asked Granny how to use her elixir. Granny replied, “Just drink some of the remedy every day for one to two weeks, and your cold will be gone. Works every time.” Rim shot, with a slow-building audience laugh track in the background. That was the punch line to the episode.
The reality of vaper’s tongue is that time is the only surefire remedy. Let time pass, your olfactory ability to smell (i.e. taste) flavors will return, and e-liquid will again taste good — perhaps gradually, but with certainty.
So, don’t worry. Vaper’s tongue happens to us all. We’re often disconcerted, confused, and frustrated when it hits, but that’s really just nature’s way of telling us that we need a break.