When you are choosing which e-juice to buy, one of the main considerations that you need to bear in mind is the strength of the nicotine that it contains.
All e-liquid ranges offer a choice of nicotine strengths in their products, and it can be tricky to know which one to choose to make your vaping more satisfying.
Sometimes, trial and error is the only thing that works to find out which strength you prefer.
However, if you read this article about how to make the right selection for you, you will be more prepared to make an informed choice.
Regular Nicotine vs Nic Salts
First introduced, and truly popularised, by JUUL, nicotine salt e-juices have quickly been adopted by many vape users.
In particular, the use of these nicotine salt e-liquids within vaping devices often goes a long way in bridging the gap between smoking and vaping.
Essentially, the primary difference between straight nicotine and nicotine salts is that nicotine salts are much easier to consume for your average vape user.
This is primarily due to nicotine salts consisting of a compound known as benzoic acid.
This compound smooths the otherwise sharp taste of nicotine, therefore making higher concentrations of nicotine much more enjoyable to consume.
This all boils down to the notion that nicotine salts make higher concentrations of nicotine much more enjoyable as they are easier to inhale.
It is widely believed that nicotine salts with a strength of around 20-25mg feel very similar to a 6mg hit of straight nicotine.
It is generally considered that anything labelled with a strength above 20mg is likely to contain nicotine salts as opposed to straight nicotine, so bear that in mind if you prefer the taste of a regular nicotine e-liquid.
Nicotine Levels in E-Juice
The majority of e-juices are sold in a range of strengths from zero to high; however, each company has different standards when it comes to strength, so you will need to look at how many milligrams of nicotine your favourite brand contains.
Usually, e-liquids are available in 0mg, 6mg, 12mg, 18mg and 24mg, although others can also be found.
Nicotine in e-liquid is measured in milligrams per millilitre of e-juice (or mg/ml). Sometimes, however, you may see this expressed as a percentage, e.g. 1.2% rather than 12mg/ml.
Many people question which strength of nicotine in an e-liquid equates to the type of cigarette that they currently smoke, but to understand this better, it is important to be aware of the nicotine content in your preferred brand.
For example, a 10ml bottle of e-liquid which has a strength of 24mg contains a total of 240mg of nicotine. As there are around 20 drops of e-juice in a millilitre, there would be about 1.2mg in each drop.
This means that if you are adding 3 drops to your atomizer, you are taking in a total of 3.6mg of nicotine until you refill again.
However, not all of the nicotine content is completely absorbed by the vaper – in fact, only around 40% to 65% is absorbed depending on your vaping habits.
If you are used to looking at the nicotine amounts that are listed on cigarette packs, you may think these figures seem too high.
However, it is important to know that the values found on cigarette packs only show the nicotine yield, i.e. the amount of nicotine inhaled by the smoker when they smoke instead of the amount which is present in the tobacco which is higher.
The levels shown in e-liquid relate to the amount contained in the juice and is therefore not directly comparable with those shown on packs.
How to Choose the Right E-liquid Strength?
Choosing the right level of nicotine in your e-liquid is the best way to ensure that your move to vaping is pleasurable and successful, but it can sometimes be difficult to get it right.
If you choose a level that is too low, you may end up smoking more to compensate as your body is already used to having a certain level of nicotine, and lowering this amount will encourage you to vape or even smoke more in order to replace the nicotine that your body is craving.
If you usually smoke regular strength cigarettes and then switch to an e-juice with a level of 8mg, you may need to vape more to compensate for the withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience.
On the other hand, if you only currently smoke light cigarettes and switch to a strong e-liquid, you may find that you are overloading on nicotine and giving your body more than it requires.
This may result in symptoms like too strong a throat hit or light-headedness, and this may discourage you from vaping.
If you get the level of your nicotine right, you are likely to feel very satisfied with your vaping experience.
Yet depending on variations in your device and the rate at which you vape, you may experience differences in the way that nicotine is transferred into your body.
For example, if you like to drip using an advanced atomizer, you may require a lower level of nicotine than if you use a less advanced kit.
The dose of nicotine that you ingest will depend on the size, depth and frequency of your inhalation and there are many factors at play here from the stress in the vaper’s life to the time of day.
This means that experimentation is often the only definitive way to determine the correct level for you.
However, this is a basic guide to get you started:
- If you smoke high nicotine cigarettes or are a heavy smoker, you may want to start out using a 12mg/ml or 18mg/ml e-liquid, particular if you are using a pen-style e-cig or cartomizer. If you start lower, you can always increase your strength if you are not satisfied. You may find that you are getting more nicotine than you did when you were smoking as there is no indicator to tell you to stop, as you would get from finishing a cigarette. The buzz may also be different when vaping, and may even not exist at all since there are no extra chemicals in e-cigarettes that are found in tobacco cigarettes.
- For light or moderate smokers who are using an atomizer or tank device, a strength of 6mg/ml is a good choice, but if you are a dripper using a rebuildable atomizer or sub-ohm tank, a strength of 3mg/ml is probably strong enough as you may vape with more puffs. These devices also create more vapour, and therefore the nicotine will have a greater impact than when vaped through a standard cartomizer.
- If you are trying to quit nicotine altogether or dislike the sensation, you get from vaping nicotine products, and you can opt for a 0mg/ml strength e-liquid.
It is important to remember that nicotine is addictive and has chemical effects on the body.
You can still enjoy vaping for the flavours and for the sensation without having any nicotine content at all.
If you are not currently a smoker, you may find an e-liquid that contains nicotine produces unsettling effects.
If you are trying to cut your nicotine level down to 0 over time, you can gradually downgrade until you reach a level of 0mg/ml.
However, if you currently use nicotine-containing products, you may initially find that an e-liquid with a lower strength will not be sufficient to prevent your cravings, and this could result in returning to smoking.
Your personal smoking habits are also relevant when choosing an e-liquid strength. If you only vape occasionally, you might want to choose an e-liquid with a higher nicotine content in order to boost your levels more rapidly.
On the other hand, if you continuously vape through the day, choosing a lower strength may be better as constantly vaping with a high nicotine content e-juice may make you sick.
You may even need to change your strength depending on the time of day – for example, a higher strength liquid may be best after meals, but a weaker one might suit you better in the morning.
If you experiment, you will eventually discover the mix that best suits your personal needs.
You should remember, however, that a strong e-liquid is not always the best choice. You may be worried about the withdrawal symptoms that you experience when quitting smoking.
However, most vapers find that e-cigs deliver a good amount of nicotine which should eliminate the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that you are so afraid of.
You could smoke more e-liquid if the nicotine level is a bit too low. However, if you choose an e-juice with a strength that is too high, you could not only make yourself ill, but you could even increase your nicotine addiction.
You need to take care not to overdose on nicotine as this can cause severe medical problems.
Converting Percentages to mg/mL
If you are looking to enter the world of nicotine and nicotine salt vaping, then you’ll need to take a little time researching the different available strengths that you can purchase.
Sometimes, nicotine salt manufacturers and providers list their strength as percentages such as 0.6%, 2% and 5%.
You will need to quickly determine the strength of the e-liquid from just a glance, so how do you do that?
Nicotine Strength in mg/mL
The majority of the time, e-liquid strengths are labelled in mg/mL: milligrams per millilitre.
This fundamentally means that for each millilitre of e-liquid in the container, there is a specified quantity of nicotine.
For example, an 8mg/mL bottle of e-liquid contains 8mg of nicotine per millilitre of e-liquid.
In order to calculate the overall strength of the bottle, simply multiply the strength (in mg/mL) by the volume of millilitres within the container.
Nicotine Strengths as Percentages
Rather than multiplying the mass of the bottle with the volume of e-liquid contained inside, the percentage of nicotine strength can be determined by calculating the volume of both nicotine and liquid.
Essentially, when a bottle is labelled as 2%, it means that 2% of the e-liquid consists of nicotine.
Converting from mg/mL to Percent and Back
Converting the nicotine strength from mg/mL into a percentage is actually much easier than you may initially think.
All you need to do is divide the total in mg/mL by 10. For example, a bottle of e-liquid with a strength of 5mg/mL would be equivalent to a percentage of 0.5%.
When it comes to choosing the right nicotine strength for you, you should base your judgment on the amount and strength of the cigarettes that you currently consume.
If you are unsure which level to start with, always err on the side of caution and choose a lower strength as you can always increase or vape more to compensate.
At the end of the day, experimentation may be the only way to determine the perfect ratio for you.