Perhaps the most discussed topic of all when it comes to choosing e-liquids is how to decide which nicotine level is appropriate for you. Due to differences in the way the body absorbs nicotine from cigarettes and vaporizers, you may be surprised to find that you need a significantly lower level of nicotine in your vape than you anticipate.
Oftentimes the number of cigarettes you smoke is less of a factor than the strength of those cigarettes, so even if you smoke a lot, the amount of nicotine you're taking in may actually be less than you think
When it comes to e-liquids, the nicotine only makes up a very small percentage of the total liquid content. However, even a slight miscalculation in nicotine levels can drastically change the way you experience the liquid and how it tastes.
There's a lot to say about choosing the right nicotine strength for your first vape. So let's get to it.
Why Nicotine Strength Matters
Many people fear that switching to vapor will leave them feeling less satisfied than smoking a cigarette. Vapor companies have already achieved great success in replicating the full flavor of traditional tobacco products (see our vape juice flavor guide), but it does take the right amount of nicotine to really take the edge off.
If you are trying to give up smoking altogether you probably already know how hard it can be to modify the behavior surrounding smoking in the first place. That's why it's important that you choose just the right level of nicotine to get started so you aren't trying to make too big of a change all at once.
What happens if the nicotine you choose is too weak? Most often, if you choose a nicotine strength that is less than what you are used to, you really will feel unsatisfied with the vaping experience. This may turn you off of vaping altogether, discouraging you from even trying to stop smoking. In addition, some people simply switch to vaping part-time, but sneak cigarettes in between vaping sessions to make up for the missing nicotine. Obviously, neither of these are ideal solutions.
On the other hand, if you choose a nicotine strength that is too strong, you may find yourself reeling from the intensity. Again, this could turn you off of vaporizers unintentionally. The good news is that it's a lot easier to dilute an e-liquid down to lower its nicotine strength than it is to build a liquid up to a higher strength.
How To Read Your E-Liquid Bottles
Now that you understand why it's important to find the right nicotine strength right away, it's time to look at how nicotine strength is measured in e-liquids. The strength of your e-liquid may be written in one of two ways: by milligrams or by percentage. The majority of companies use milligrams, but a handful of companies have started using percentages instead.
When you see a bottle that says it is “12 mg nicotine strength,” that means that there are 12 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of fluid. That means in a 30-milliliter bottle of liquid you will have 30 ml x 12 mg = 360 milligrams of nicotine in the whole bottle.
The percentage method simply converts that into a percentage of the overall liquid content: 12 milligrams is equal to 1.2%. In other words, 1.2% of each drop of liquid is nicotine. The rest is flavorings and the PG and VG that carry the nicotine.
While every manufacturer is different, there are seven nicotine strengths commonly available in e-liquids. They are:
- 0 mg (0%)
- 3 mg (0.3%)
- 6 mg (0.6%)
- 12 mg (1.2%)
- 18 mg (1.8%)
- 24 mg (2.4%)
- 36 mg (3.6%)
You may find some other options, but typically 36 mg is the highest strength you will find unless you are looking for a custom vape juice.
How to Compare Nicotine Strengths to Cigarettes
In general, full-strength cigarettes contain 16-18 mg of nicotine. Light cigarettes may be closer to 8-12 mg depending on brand. This should give you a good starting point when choosing the proper e-liquid for you. Your cigarette pack may be marked with a percentage that tells you how much nicotine you are currently using.
For most people, the transition to vaping means that you should choose a nicotine level that is as close as possible to what you are currently smoking. If you are smoking a pack a day or less, you are mostly likely to feel comfortable with a 12 or 18 mg nicotine strength in your e-liquids.
VaporFi created this handy E-Cigarrette Strength Guide to help you choose the right level of nicotine for you.
What To Expect From Your E-Liquid
Now that we've explained how e-liquids are labeled and how those labels compare to traditional cigarettes, it's time to discuss what you can expect from each level of liquid on the ladder. Obviously, 0 mg is nicotine-free vaping. This is usually what is used for competitive cloud chasing and fun. If you are currently a smoker, you can work your way down to zero-nicotine liquid while still enjoying the feel of vaping large clouds.
Both 3 and 6 mg levels are considered ultra light or training levels. There is less nicotine in these liquids than you could purchase in any readily available cigarette. Thus, they are a means of stepping down from light cigarette strength to zero with several stops along the way.
This makes the transition easier on your body and keeps you from rebounding back up to full strength. However, we should also add that these are great nicotine options for those who choose to use drip-style devices, which we will get into more detail about later.
The 12 mg level is what you would expect of an average light cigarette. If you are already smoking light cigarettes, or you are smoking less than a pack a day of regular cigarettes, this is a good starting point.
The most popular starting point for smokers is 18 mg, as it tends to be right in range of a full-strength cigarette. Even if you are smoking a pack a day, this should be more than enough for you to work with. Many new vapers report that an 18 mg liquid seems slightly stronger than their regular cigarettes, but the effects last longer so they find themselves vaping less often than they would smoke at the outset.
Typically, only people who smoke more than a pack a day of full-strength cigarettes will want to try 24 or 36 mg. If you feel that you do need something on the stronger side, you will most likely want to start with 24 mg and only choose a 36 mg if you really must. There is a significant jump in strength between 24 and 36 mg and the extremely high nicotine level can definitely detract from the flavor of your vape unnecessarily.
Your Vaping Goals
When it comes to choosing the right liquid for you, there is also a personal factor that comes into play. If you want to stop smoking, then you will likely start with a liquid that is close to your current cigarette level and work your way down, level by level. This same methodology was long used with nicotine patches and nicotine gum.
The biggest difference is that vaping doesn't force you to change the physical action at the same time as beating the nicotine, so you can focus on turning down the strength without having to worry about how to deal with that oral fixation or the habit of taking smoke breaks.
Most manufacturers have used the nicotine strengths above to help you ease your way down the ladder. Most professionals will recommend that you stay at each nicotine strength level for several weeks until your body adjusts, and then take another step down. It is not uncommon to find that the 6 mg and 3 mg strengths are the hardest jumps to make. Many people find that they need to mix liquids of 6 mg and 3 mg strength to create an extra step in between during this process.
To learn more about how to properly step down your e-liquids to wean yourself off of nicotine successfully, visit VaporFi's Step Down Guide. This guide will help you learn the process of stepping down, and can give you some helpful tips for adding extra steps along the way by mixing your own intermediate nicotine strengths if you feel the jump from your current level to the next lowest level is too much for your body to handle all at once.
Why Your Device Matters
It should come as no surprise at this point that different types of devices have an effect on your e-liquid strength as well. Some devices are better for beginners while other devices are great for advanced users. The type of coils you use and how your device heats your e-liquid can definitely impact how much of the nicotine your body absorbs.
At the beginner level you will find a variety of simple vape pens and devices that look similar to cigarettes called cig-a-likes. Cig-a-likes use small cartridges that are usually pre-filled with e-liquid of a given strength. The options in these cartridges are somewhat limited, but they have successfully helped many people give up cigarettes. That being said, cig-a-likes are notoriously less effective at delivering vapor than a comparable entry-level vape pen.
At an intermediate level there are several vape pens that come with advanced features, as well as many box mods that have temperature controls and variable wattage. These features can help you better control the amount of vapor you are getting and the way the vapor feels, but they are also more efficient at delivering the nicotine in the vapor to you.
Finally, advanced vapers tend to go for sub-ohm box mods and drip-style devices. Sub-ohm devices have become wildly popular because of the large amount of vapor they produce that is full of flavor. On the other hand, drip-style devices offer an enhanced nicotine delivery system because the liquid is going straight to the coil and being delivered to your mouth immediately. It is common for drip vapers to use 3 and 6 mg liquids routinely because of how strong the resulting vapor is.
If you started with a vape pen or cig-a-like, it is likely that you will have stepped down your nicotine intake anyway by the time you've advanced your skills enough for a drip-style device.
If all of this information seems like a lot to swallow before you've even set foot inside your very first vape shop, fear not! The vape community is a group of people who share an interest in helping people understand how vaping can help them. Our vape shops are staffed with employees who are willing and able to help guide you towards the right e-liquid for you, and many of them have already made that journey on their own.
At VaporFi we have customer service staff available both online and in store to help you assess your nicotine needs. We are here to support you through the process of choosing a proper vaporizer and e-liquid to suit your needs. If you have questions about your options, or how different nicotine levels will work for you, we can offer guidance based on our experience.
The importance of choosing the right e-liquid when you start vaping for the first time cannot be understated. Instead of limiting yourself to trying just one bottle of e-liquid, you might want to buy two or three different nicotine strengths in a flavor you like, or try two to three different flavors.
If at first you think that vaping isn't for you, it may not be vaping that's the problem. It may simply be an e-liquid that isn't quite right for your tastes. If you take the time to find something you love up front, you'll definitely have a better experience along the way and make the switch from cigarettes more enjoyable.
Remember, an e-liquid that's too weak may leave you craving cigarettes or cause you to vape too often, which could irritate the throat. On the other hand, a liquid that's too strong can be just as off-putting. Finding the middle ground is key to making the switch successfully, and the best way to find what works for you is to experiment with a variety of liquids until you find something that's just right.
If you're ready to give it a shot, VaporFi has one of the largest collections of e-liquidl flavors anywhere. We offer seven different nicotine strengths and a variety of entry-level and advanced vaporizers, making it easy to find a combination that fits your needs. You can visit one of our stores or shop online to see your options and read reviews by other vapers who came before you.
Keep in mind that many shops have lounges set up for you to sample e-liquids and speak with other vapers in person, so they can show you how to set up your device and which liquids they are using. This can be a great way to test the waters and get a feel for what you might like before you go online and stock up. Make sure you read up on how to step down your liquid level in advance so you'll know what to expect once you've begun.
Safety Reminder: You should always take care to keep nicotine products out of reach of children and pets; especially bottles of e-liquid that contain concentrated nicotine. For more on vape juice safety, read our guide.