About Nicotine Strengths
E-Liquid strength is almost always measured in milligrams (weight) per milliliter (volume); expressed as mg/mL. Often the “per mL” (/mL) is dropped in conversation or informal writing (and even on many labels). E-Liquid, or E-Juice, comes in many strengths depending largely on the manufacturer, sometimes even as high as 36 or 42mg/mL. NicVape produces E-Liquid in 0, 3, 6, 12, and 18mg/mL, for example. We believe this provides just the right gradations and range of strengths for our consumers. But, how do you choose what’s right for you? Understanding what the strengths mean to you can make the difference between a positive experience and a negative one with vaping, especially for first time vapers.
If you are experienced with nicotine products, it helps to understand how that product currently works on your body and what dosage you are getting from it before trying vaping. Nicotine can be absorbed through the skin (like a transdermal nicotine patch), in the mouth (such as with chewing tobacco or nicotine gum), or through the lungs by inhalation. Inhalation, as with vaping or smoking, provides the fastest effect on your body.
Cigarettes: On top of variances in tobacco used, most cigarette companies add nicotine and other chemicals to cigarettes. Cigarettes also come in various sizes. So there is no specific standard amount of nicotine in “a cigarette”. The nicotine content of cigarettes ranges from 4mg-14mg, depending on the manufacturer and the brand. The nicotine content of US sold cigarettes has been on the rise in recent years. If you smoke, it would be a good idea to see if you can find a reputable study on nicotine content that includes your brand for a reference point. The internet is full of information (some credible, and some not) like this journal article on Nicotine Content of Domestic Cigarettes from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, of a study conducted on domestic cigarettes in Iran.
Chewing Tobacco/Snuff: Orally absorbed nicotine provides a slower “spike” of nicotine in your bloodstream, generally over a longer time than smoking. Some web research may help you understand what differences you are in for when choosing a new “delivery method” for nicotine.
Vaping: When it comes to nicotine absorption, vaping compares most readily, although loosely, to smoking. You can find out how much nicotine is in a cigarette, and you can find out the absorption rate (not all the nicotine in the cigarette ends up in your body). The strength of e-liquid is measured in mg/mL. Theoretically it is possible to determine how much e-liquid you are vaping. However, differences in devices and the rate at which you vaping a set amount of e-liquid, lead to big differences in how the nicotine is transferred to your body. If you are a “dripper” using an advanced atomizer (RBA or RDA), 3mg/mL may give you the same effect you’d get from 6 or 12mg/mL e-liquid vaped from a starter kit or cartomizer, like an eGo pen-style vaporizer.
Also, like cigarettes, there is no a set “dose”. The dose ingested varies on the frequency, size, and depth of inhalation. How many puffs it takes to equal one cigarette is a question that only graduate level physics, chemistry, and biology studies could answer for a given device and user, which can vary by time of day and even stress level of the smoker or vaper. Consider as well, that vapers tend to vape smaller amounts more often than smokers smoke. Your best bet is to use a little experimentation to find what works best for you. We can offer you some advice to help you with that…
Heavy smoker, or smoker of high nicotine cigarettes… You probably want to try 12mg/mL or 18mg/mL, especially if you are using a cartomizer or beginner type device, like an eGo or pen-style ecig. Our recommendation is to start lower and increase the strength if you don’t find it satisfying. Nicotine has a flavor all its own which will alter the true flavor of your e-Liquid. Also, it is easy to get more nicotine than you expected when vaping leading to that unsettling sensation, even if you have experience with smoking. (The “buzz” some users experience from nicotine is slightly different in nature than in cigarettes or e-cigarettes, and when vaping, there is no “end of the cigarette” to let you know when to stop. Many devices include “puff counters” or more rudimentary measurements, which may help you gauge your intake.) Additionally, the "buzz" may not even exist for users of ecigs, as ecigs don't contain some of the other chemicals contained in cigarettes that are reportedly associated with the "buzz." These additional chemicals* include nornicotine, anabasine and anatabine which, while found in cigarettes, are usually not present in e-cigarettes. (* Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1508721/)
6mg/mL… 6mg/mL strength is generally a good starting option for those who are current moderate/light smokers and are planning to use a “tank” device or an atomizer. If you are trying to switch from chewing tobacco or nicotine gum, this may also be the strength you need.
3mg/mL… 3mg/mL is commonly used by “drippers” using rebuildable atomizers (RDAs, RBAs), or by users of more advanced “sub-Ohm” tank systems. Sometimes, it is because they just like vaping, and want to vape with greater frequency (using more puffs to get the same amount of nicotine). Also, atomizers and sub-Ohm devices tend to generate a lot more vapor (depending on how they are built and the air flow they provide) than cartomizers and 1st generation vaporizers. Using a high nicotine strength e-liquid with a sub-Ohm atomizer has much more impact than it does through a standard starter kit/cartomizer.
0mg/mL… 0mg/mL is the ideal option for those enjoying vaping absent nicotine, or trying to quit nicotine.
If you don’t use tobacco products, it is important to understand that nicotine is an addictive substance, with chemical effects on your body. Vaping can be enjoyed and used for reasons other than taking in nicotine, such as simply enjoying the flavors, or to satisfy an oral fixation, maybe you just enjoy the vaping community and don’t want to get “hooked”. If you don’t currently use nicotine, you may find the vaping experience harsh and the effect of the drug unsettling at high strength. (The same would be true for your first cigarette most likely.) If you are quitting nicotine products, or have never used them, 0mg strength is probably for you. Frequently those trying to quit a different nicotine habit through vaping “step down” the nicotine level over time, eventually getting down to 0mg/mL. E-liquid that is 0mg, truly contains no nicotine. Unlike tobacco, e-liquids can contain nicotine as an added ingredient, and just as easily as adding it, it can be left out of the recipe. If you currently use nicotine in some form, you may find lower strength e-liquid insufficient to stem cravings for your other habit. This could lead to reverting back to smoking, or cheating to supplement your nicotine intake (Concurrent vaping and smoking is not recommended. Who needs two habits instead of just one?)
DIY: For those who create their own e-liquids, understanding the math for mg/mL is a must. You can get more information on those calculations on our DIY How To Make E-Juice page.