When someone first decides to try vaping as a method of giving up tobacco, they have a lot of questions and a fair amount of new information to become familiar with. What type of device to start with, how to operate it, how vaping works, coils and resistance and watts and volts, what flavor ejuice to start with.
I spend a good deal of time in vape shops, and it’s at least a weekly occurrence; someone walks in ready to buy their first vaping set up. After looking around, asking some questions and getting some advice from the vape shop employee they choose one. The employee then shows them how it works and lets them sample a few flavors of ejuice. When the customer has finally decided on a flavor the employee asks, “What’s you nicotine level and your PG/VG ratio?” That question is usually answered with a blank stare.
After a few more questions about the customer’s smoking habits, the employee will generally suggest a nicotine level and PG/VG ratio that the customer is (usually) only to happy to accept, and rightfully so. In this article we’ll focus on the nicotine level in ejuice. We’ve already covered (to some extent) the PG/VG ratio in the article What’s In EJuice.
What Is Nicotine: Nicotine is a chemical found in the nightshade family of plants, including eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco, though it is present in a much higher concentration in tobacco than in other plants. It acts as a natural insecticide in these plants, and nicotine has been used as an ingredient in commercial insecticides. Nicotine acts a a stimulant in mammals, including humans, causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. It has been demonstrated to cause raised alertness, euphoria and a sense of relaxation.
The nicotine used in ejuice is pharmaceutical grade, the same that has been approved for use in nicotine patches, gums and inhalers.
The Effects Of Nicotine: The effects of nicotine on the human body are very similar to those caused by caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea and cocoa beans. Caffeine also acts as a stimulant, causing an increase in heart rate, body temperature, blood flow to the skin and extremities, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and stomach acid secretion. And caffeine also acts as a diuretic, causing you to urinate more often.
Nicotine can be highly addictive, but its long term negative health effects, like those of caffeine, are believed to negligible. The real danger of nicotine addiction, until recently at least, was in the delivery system, tobacco smoke. It’s all of the other ingredients caused by burning tobacco that cause serious health issues. Nicotine itself has not been linked with cancer or other respiratory ailments. In fact, some studies suggest that nicotine can improve cognitive function and memory, especially in those suffering from Alzheimer’s, and it may be helpful in preventing Parkinson’s disease.
Vaping Is The Best Way To Deliver Nicotine: Let me state the obvious, smoking is bad for you. There are some 7,000 chemicals produced by the combustion of tobacco in analog cigarettes, and 70 of them have been linked to cancer. And while nicotine is the primary addictive agent in tobacco smoke, there’s more to the smoking habit, or addiction, than nicotine. If smoking only involved an addiction to nicotine then other nicotine replacement therapies (NRT), such as patches or gum, would be much more successful in helping people quit smoking. But the sad truth is that those NRT methods are abysmally ineffective in helping people quit smoking.
That’s because smokers get hooked not just on the nicotine but on the entire smoking process, the hand-to-mouth movement, the inhalation and exhalation of the smoke, the taste and aroma of the smoke, even the sight of the smoke all contribute to the experience. While patches and gum can replace the nicotine, they do nothing to replace those others aspects of smoking. But vaping does. Vaping so closely mimics the process of smoking, without the dangerous chemicals produced by burning tobacco, that it is (in my opinion at least) the most effective method for quitting smoking. (See the article Quit Smoking By Vaping for more details on this point.)
The EJuice To Tobacco Nicotine Content Equivalency: There actually is none. At least not a simple “if you used to smoke X cigarettes per day you should vape an ejuice with an X nicotine level” kind of table. There are several reasons for that. First, there’s not a standard for the amount of nicotine in tobacco cigarettes. The average is around 12 MG, but that can vary from 8 to 20 MG depending on brand. While that’s the amount of nicotine in a cigarette, the amount actually absorbed by your body through the smoke is closer to 1 MG.
Tobacco smoke is a more efficient method of delivering nicotine than vapor. The molecules of the smoke are smaller and easier for the body to absorb. Vaping provides about 25% to 33% of the nicotine to the blood system as smoking does, depending on the equipment you use, how you vape and the nicotine level of you ejuice. Your body will generally absorb more nicotine from higher wattage vaping than lower.
What Nicotine Level Is Right For You: In the conversations I’ve overheard at vape shops, most of them recommend a nicotine level of 18 to 24 MG for people who smoke a pack or more a day, lower levels for those who smoke less. When I started vaping I’d been smoking around a pack a day, probably a little less. I opted for a nicotine level of 24 MG.
Nicotine levels are stated as milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of ejuice or as a percentage of the total ingredients in an ejuice. So 24 MG is the same as 2.4%, 6 MG is the same as 0.6%.
I went with such a relatively high level because I wanted to give vaping the best chance to help me quit smoking. I was afraid that if I wasn’t getting my nicotine habit satisfied I’d relapse to smoking. That 24 MG level worked for me so well that I’ve not had a cigarette since I started vaping. I started out on an EVOD 2 from Kangertech, a relatively low powered device. As I moved up to an Innokin MVP 2 mod and Kangertech Aerotank Mega with a lower resistance coil I continued with a 24 MG ejuice, for awhile.
The first indication I got that I might ought to lower my nicotine level came while I was shooting a video review of an ejuice with that 24 MG level. I was having a little trouble getting it shot just right, which meant I was vaping more than I normally did in a short period of time. I started to break out in a cold sweat and got a little queasy. After finishing the video shoot I had to lay down for a little while.
The next bottle of ejuice I bought had a nicotine level of 18 MG. Shortly after that I received a Subtank Mini and Nano from Kangertech for review. These tanks boast sub ohm coils, which are more efficient at delivering nicotine, so my current level is 6 MG.
When people ask me about how to get started vaping and nicotine levels come up, I usually ask what kind of device they intend to use, which usually leads to more questions and often comes down to how much they want to spend. My normal recommendation for someone who goes with a starter kit type set up that includes an EVOD or eGo style 650 to 1000 mAh battery that isn’t variable voltage is to go with 18 to 24 MG. I believe that will give them the highest likelihood of staying with vaping.
For those who have been vaping for a while and want to move up to a more sophisticated mod and tank combination, such as the Kangertech Subtank or Aspire Atlantis with their sub ohm coils, I always caution them to consider reducing their nicotine level.
Ultimately it’s up to the individual vaper. If you’re just starting to vape buy a small (10 ml or so) bottle of ejuice with a 24 MG nicotine level and another with 12 or 16 MG. See which one gives you the satisfaction you need without causing you to get queasy. If the 24 MG is too much but the lower level isn’t quite enough, split the difference on your next bottle.
The object is to maintain the pleasure and satisfaction you got from smoking without the deadly chemicals of tobacco smoke. As you gain experience and try new vaping devices you may decide to try different nicotine levels. Many vapers lower their nicotine levels over time, and some vape ejuices with no nicotine. But the goal isn’t necessarily to give up nicotine entirely, it’s to stop smoking. And vaping will help you do just that.