Choosing the Right E-Liquid Nicotine Strength: A Scientific Approach

Guest post by Liberty Flights Australia.

Are you about to try vaping for the first time? If you are, you might assume that selecting the right vaping device is the most difficult decision that you face. The truth is, though, that choosing the right e-cigarette or mod isn’t such a hard decision at all because nearly all modern vaping devices work extremely well. The truly difficult decision is choosing the right nicotine strength for your needs. How can you choose the right nicotine strength when the different milligram numbers don’t mean anything to you yet? Making your choice even more difficult is the fact that you’ll experience unwanted side effects if you vape with a nicotine strength that’s too low or high. If your nicotine strength is too low, you’ll use your e-liquid too quickly. Since you won’t get enough nicotine to feel satisfied, you may even continue to smoke. If your nicotine strength is too high, though, you may not want to vape at all because the overpowering nicotine hit will irritate your throat and make you cough.

So, how do you choose the right nicotine strength? If you search online, you can find rough guidelines that apply to most smokers, but how can you know whether those guidelines will apply to you? What if you smoke less than half a pack per day? What if you’re a heavy smoker of unfiltered cigarettes? One set of guidelines can’t apply to everyone – so we’re going to suggest a scientific approach to choosing the right e-liquid nicotine strength. 

Exhale's Help & Guides offers essential  Eliquid Facts & Info which also discusses this topic and will be helpful in making an informed choice regarding which strength and which flavour of liquid is right for you.

This method takes your personal smoking habits into account and will help to ensure that your first vaping experience is great.

Evaluate Your Current Nicotine Usage

Before you can choose the right e-liquid nicotine strength for your needs, you need to know how much nicotine you’re using now. This list has many popular brands from around the world. Camel Kings, for example, contain about 1.3 mg of nicotine per cigarette. Multiply that amount by the number of cigarettes you smoke per day. If you smoke 20 Camel Kings per day, you consume about 26 mg of nicotine daily.

Consider Your Daily E-Liquid Consumption

After you calculate your current nicotine usage, the next step is to determine approximately how much e-liquid you’ll use per day – and that’ll depend on the type of vaping device that you use. Most beginners start with smaller vape pens. Small vape pens are reliable, convenient and easy to use. Most importantly, they generate the perfect amount of vapour for inhaling from your mouth to your lungs – the same way that you inhale when you smoke a cigarette. Larger “sub-ohm” devices are designed for inhaling directly to the lungs. They’re often a bit more complex than vape pens, so most beginners don’t use them. If you do decide to start with a sub-ohm device, you’ll consume significantly more e-liquid than you would with a vape pen and will need to select a lower nicotine strength than what we recommend in this article.

Assuming you begin with a small vape pen, it’s likely that you’ll consume a 30 ml bottle of e-liquid every two weeks. That’s a little over 2 ml of e-liquid per day.

Time for Some Nicotine Number Crunching

Next, let’s take some common e-liquid nicotine strengths and calculate how much total nicotine you’ll consume if you vape 2 ml per day at those strengths.

  • 3 mg strength: 6 mg total nicotine
  • 6 mg strength: 12 mg total nicotine
  • 12 mg strength: 24 mg total nicotine
  • 16 mg strength: 32 mg total nicotine
  • 18 mg strength: 36 mg total nicotine

By these calculations, you need to select a nicotine strength of at least 12 mg if you’re a pack-a-day smoker of Camel Kings. We believe, though, that it’s best to select the next higher nicotine strength. Here’s why.

Remember: Vaping Isn’t Smoking

We recommend buying a slightly higher nicotine strength than you think you need because vaping is not the same as smoking. Although the nicotine is the same, cigarettes are full of other chemicals that alter the ways in which the nicotine interacts with your body. These are just two of the ways in which smoking differs from vaping in terms of nicotine usage.

Additives Make Cigarettes More Addictive

Ammonia is one of the most common additives in cigarettes. Its purpose is to convert the nicotine in the tobacco – a salt in its natural state – to a free base so the body uptakes it more quickly. Researchers from Philip Morris stumbled upon that discovery after adding ammonia to cigarettes in the 1950s to make the smoke taste smoother. With further research, Philip Morris discovered that the ammonia also made the Marlboro cigarette more satisfying – and more addictive – than competing brands. The addition of ammonia helped to make Marlboro the world’s most popular cigarette. Ammonia remains a key additive in many cigarette brands today. Even if you smoke an “additive-free” cigarette, you shouldn’t assume that it doesn’t contain ammonia. A 2015 federal lawsuit against Santa Fe Natural Tobacco company alleged that Natural American Spirit cigarettes contained ammonia and that the brand had more than three times as much free base nicotine as Marlboro.

Scientists have studied the properties of e-cigarette vapour extensively. Studies suggest that e-cigarettes may be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes and that the body doesn’t absorb as much nicotine from vaping as it does from smoking. The many additives in tobacco cigarettes may provide a possible explanation for the difference. It makes sense, therefore, to choose a slightly higher nicotine strength than you think you need when you first switch from smoking to vaping.

Cigarettes Alter the Body’s Chemistry

Although we already know without question that smoking is harmful to health, scientists continue to study the effects of tobacco use on the body to develop a better understanding of the nature of addiction and to learn more about what can be done to help people quit. One recent discovery is that tobacco smoke is a monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) and MAO-B inhibitor. Only tobacco smoke has this property; nicotine alone doesn’t. In other words, tobacco smoke has an effect on the body like that of an anti-depressant drug. Smoking stimulates the body’s reward pathways and makes you want to smoke more. Researchers proved that theory in a 2005 study. In the study, rats were given the ability to administer nicotine to themselves. Some of the rats were also given MAO inhibitors. The rats given MAO inhibitors consumed dramatically more nicotine than the rats in the control group. It is logical to conclude, therefore, that tobacco smoke’s behaviour as an MAO inhibitor serves to make cigarettes more addictive and more difficult to quit.

Final Thoughts: Choosing the Right E-Liquid Nicotine Strength Isn’t Hard, but Aim High

In this article, we’ve described an easy scientific method for choosing the right e-liquid nicotine strength by calculating the amount of nicotine that you currently use and comparing that to the amount of e-liquid that you expect to consume when you switch to vaping. Although it’s an easy way of estimating how much nicotine you’ll need when you make the switch, it’s important to remember that it is much better to overshoot your nicotine requirements than to undershoot them. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, but nicotine isn’t the only thing that makes cigarettes addictive. The additives in cigarettes enhance their addictive properties, and tobacco smoke interacts with the body in unique ways that we still don’t fully understand. When you switch to vaping, your body will need a few days to adjust to the fact that you’re no longer consuming cigarettes’ various additives and chemicals. You don’t want to deal with an e-liquid with too little nicotine on top of that – so buy a slightly stronger e-liquid than you think you need.

About the Author

Andrew Dent is the Director of Liberty Flights Australia. With more than three decades of experience as a business executive, Andrew's passion for disruptive technologies led him to enter the vaping industry in 2012. Andrew believes that there is no limit to the life-changing potential of e-cigarettes.

9th Mar 2018 Andrew Dent

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