There are many things to consider when buying your first vape juice. One of them, which we deem as one of the most important, is the nicotine content. With vaping, you can pick and choose how much nicotine you wish to intake, but finding that perfect level is different for everyone, so how does someone decide which nicotine level is for them?
In this blog, we explore this topic at length and develop the things you need to consider before deciding on your first nicotine level. But first, let’s explore what nicotine is.
Table of Contents:
- What is Nicotine?
- What are Nicotine Levels?
- How To Read Nicotine Levels?
- The Different Types of Nicotine
- Which Nicotine Level is Best for You?
- Other Things to Keep in Mind: Types of Devices and Nicotine Salts
What is Nicotine?
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Nicotine is an organic compound and the principal alkaloid of tobacco (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, n.d.). An alkaloid is an organic compound with physiological effects on humans or can influence how the body functions. It can be found all over the tobacco plant but especially in the leaves.
As the main active ingredient in tobacco, nicotine can be found in cigarettes, cigars, and chewable tobacco and is the main reason why some people find cigarettes and cigars enjoyable. This is because the psychoactive effects of nicotine might seem beneficial in the short term. For example, when cigarettes are inhaled in quick puffs, they can stimulate the senses putting users in an alert state. Still, when inhaled deeply, they can have a calming effect, relaxing users (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, n.d.). However, nicotine is highly addictive (Center for Tobacco Products, 2020).
What are Nicotine Levels?
The great thing about vaping is that, unlike cigarettes, you can choose the amount of nicotine you intake, and every vape juice can come with various amounts of nicotine. We call the nicotine levels or nicotine strengths the amount of nicotine found in a vape juice or disposable vape.
Nicotine levels are one of the primary reasons why some people choose vaping as their alternative method of using nicotine. This is because they can slowly taper off the amount of nicotine they use until they don’t use any nicotine at all.
That’s why it’s essential to understand what your nicotine level is. Because the nicotine strength is too high, it can negatively impact your vaping experience, making you cough. Or it can have almost no effect at all if the nicotine strength is too little, making you go back to cigarettes.
How To Read Nicotine Levels?
You can find nicotine levels on the vape juice bottles and the labels of disposables vapes. They are usually displayed as mg/ml or milligrams per milliliter. What this means is that per every milliliter, there is a specific amount of milligrams. So, for example, if the nicotine level is 6mg/ml, there are 6 milligrams of nicotine for every milliliter inside the bottle.
Nicotine levels can also be displayed as percentages, and this is a little easier to understand. For example, 0.5% of nicotine per volume means that there is a total of 0.5% nicotine in the whole bottle of vape juice. The rest, 99.5%, is the other ingredients in the entire bottle.
Finally, if you want to convert mg/ml into percentages, all you have to do is divide by 10. So if you have 7mg/ml, divide it by ten, and you get 0.7%, and an 18mg/ml would be 1.8%. To convert percentages to mg/ml, do the opposite and multiply it by 10. So, for example, if you have 0.5%, multiply it by ten, and it would turn into 50mg/ml.
The Different Types of Nicotine
Before we tell you what nicotine level is best, you need to understand two kinds of nicotine. There is traditional nicotine or freebase nicotine and nicotine salts, also known as nic salts.
Freebase nicotine is the most common type of nicotine and is the current nicotine found in cigarettes, gum, and nicotine patches. You can read all about freebase nicotine and nicotine salts here. However, what you should understand is that freebase nicotine becomes a lot harsher when the nicotine strength is increased, which is why the only nicotine strengths you might in vape juices are:
- 0mg/ml or zero nicotine per volume
- 3mg/ml or 0.3%mg per volume
- 6mg/ml or 0.6%mg per volume
- 12mg/ml or 1.2%mg per volume
Nicotine salts, an invention by PAX Labs, the creators of the JUUL (perhaps the most famous vaping device), are a super smooth type of nicotine even when the strength increases. This leads to higher nicotine strengths that would be impossible to vape if they were traditional nicotine. Some of the most common nicotine strengths include:
- 25mg/ml or 2.5% nicotine salts per volume
- 35mg/ml or 3.5% nicotine salts per volume
- 50mg/ml or 5.0% nicotine salts per volume
Which Nicotine Level is Best for You?
Now that you know the two types of nicotine mainly used in vaping, we can decipher which nicotine level is best for you. To determine which nicotine level or strength is adequate for your situation, you have to know what device you plan to get and your habits as an ex-smoker.
Before going any further, we should let you know that if you plan on picking up vaping and you have never smoked cigarettes before, we recommend that you do not use nicotine at all. So the nicotine level you would be looking for if you never had nicotine would be zero.
We should also state that everyone in the world is different. That means that your metabolism, body, and the way you absorb nicotine are unique to you. That means that although we can make approximations as to how many cigarettes equal a certain amount of nicotine, it will ultimately depend on how your body receives nicotine.
Keeping all of that in mind, the following is an approximation of how many cigarettes equal each nicotine level.
- 0mg/ml or 0% equals to zero cigarettes a day
- 3mg/ml or 0.3% equals about less than ten cigarettes a day
- 6mg/ml or 0.6% equals about half a pack of cigarettes a day
- 12mg/ml or 1.2% equals about a pack of cigarettes a day
- 18mg/ml or 1.8% equals about a pack and a half a day
Remember that this is only taking into account if you vape on traditional nicotine or freebase nicotine only and use a moderately powerful device, like a box mod used in a lower setting. In the next section, we go over other things you should consider when choosing your nicotine level.
Other Things to Keep in Mind: Types of Devices and Nicotine Salts
As we stated earlier in the last section, your nicotine level will depend on your ex-smoking habits and the device you plan to use. There are two kinds of devices: mouth-to-lung (MTL) and direct-to-lung (DTL) devices.
Mouth-to-lung devices are usually low-powered and include pod systems, disposables, and some sub-ohm or box mods devices used in a lower setting.
Direct-to-lung devices are usually more powerful and only include sub-ohm devices or box mods.
Each device delivers nicotine differently, with direct-to-lung devices being super efficient at delivering nicotine since they are high-powered. What this means is that with direct-to-lung devices like sub-ohm and box mods, you can get an excellent nicotine rush just by inhaling 3mg/ml or 6mg/ml of nicotine. And this amount of nicotine combined with the device could ease the cravings of heavy ex-smokers.
If we were to use the same amount of nicotine on mouth-to-lung devices since they are less efficient at delivering nicotine, users would feel they were not inhaling enough nicotine. This is one of the main reasons why nicotine salts were invented.
Now with nicotine salts, you can experience a similar rush, even more, powerful than vaping with a direct-to-lung device, at the cost of intaking a lot more nicotine (think 20mg/ml, 35mg/ml, or even 50mg/ml).
Because nicotine salts are super smooth, you will not notice the difference of strength, especially in MTL devices, meaning that throat hit would be nonexistent. Some people, especially heavy ex-smokers, might find that vaping 50mg/ml of nicotine salts is more satisfying than using 6mg/ml coupled with powerful DTL devices that do have a throat hit.
We say all this to say that nicotine levels are an extremely personal thing that can vary on the type of nicotine you use, the type of device you own, your body, the type of throat hit you want to experience, and your ultimate goal with vaping, which for many people could be quitting nicotine.
Since there are so many variables, what we recommend is that you start low and make your way up. Choose a device that allows for the use of both traditional nicotine and nicotine salts and experiment with both to see which one you find more satisfying. If you're trying to quit nicotine, using traditional nicotine at a lower level until you can reach 0mg/ml might be the best bet. If you don’t want a harsh throat hit but want to vape higher levels of nicotine, an MTL device coupled with nicotine salts is what you’re looking for.
As you can see, there are many variables to choosing the best nicotine level. And it doesn’t only depend on how many cigarettes you used to smoke, but also the experience you’re looking for, the device you own, and how your body absorbs the nicotine. Still, we hope that with what you learned here, you can make the best possible decision possible and avoid the extremes (like, for example, buying an 18mg/ml vape juice for your DTL device, which would be unbearably harsh) and that you are better educated when you finally go shopping for your ideal nicotine level.
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (n.d.). Nicotine | chemical compound. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved July 2, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/science/nicotine