Nicotine Strengths: How to Choose What's Right for You (2022)

Quick Links

  1. Regular nicotine and nic salts: two great options
  2. What’s the best nicotine strength for you?
  3. Converting percentages to mg/mL
  4. Congratulations, you’ll never order the wrong e-juice again!

Nicotine is an alkaloid found in plants from the nightshade family, including peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. But only in the tobacco plant it is abundant enough to extract and refine. Nicotine can be synthesized in a laboratory too, but the process is very expensive.

Paradoxically, nicotine works as both a stimulant and a relaxant, with users reporting varying effects such as mood elevation, alertness and calmness. It is commonly viewed as physically and psychologically addictive, which is why most vapers who were first smokers use e-juice with some level of nicotine. Commercial e-liquid is available in a range of nicotine strengths—including with no nicotine—but most vapers buy it with nicotine included.

Vape juice is sold with varying levels of nicotine, and picking the right nicotine strength is an important decision for a new vaper. Too much and you might wind up coughing, too little and you may wonder if vaping will even work for you. Or you might spend a pile of cash on a huge bottle of premium juice, only to find out that its nicotine strength is not high enough to satisfy your cravings.

E-liquids come in strengths that start at zero nicotine and go up to over 50 mg/mL. You may have also seen nicotine strengths expressed as percentages instead of concentrations. All this can be confusing at first, but it doesn’t have to be! This guide will help steer you in the right direction when choosing nicotine strength, and show you how to navigate the market.

Note that the information presented in this article pertains to nicotine strength in commercial e-liquid. If you are learning how to mix your own juice—which may involve diluting nicotine base—take a look at our article on how to make DIY e-juice for beginners.

Regular nicotine and nic salts: two great options

Nicotine Strengths: How to Choose What's Right for You (1)

JUUL introduced nicotine salt e-liquid to the vaping market, which has changed the way many users use vapes to quit smoking.

The popularity of nic salts e-liquid is the reason you see nicotine strengths jumping from 3 mg or 6 mg to 25 mg or even 60 mg in online shops these days. Nic salts, or protonated nicotine, uses an acid (usually benzoic acid) that smooths out the throat sensation, making higher nicotine concentrations more tolerable to the vaper. (You can find more info about nic salts in our nicotine salts mini guide.)

Unlike nic salts, regular nicotine (sometimes called freebase nicotine) is harsh at very high levels. There are some exceptions, but typically e-liquid that’s sold at a level of 18 mg/mL or lower uses regular nicotine, and juice over that strength is made with nic salts. Most people say the throat hit of 6 mg regular nic feels more or less like 20-25 mg nic salts.

With such high concentrations, salt nicotine has become synonymous with pod systems and other beginner vapes with low power and vapor output. The tiny atomizers on pod vapes like the JUUL really need higher nicotine levels to produce a satisfying experience for the user.

(Video) How to choose nicotine strength

What’s the best nicotine strength for you?

If you’re a new vaper, there are two major factors to consider when picking nicotine strength: your smoking habits, and the type of device you are planning on using. To help you navigate the market, we have categorized our suggestions by vapor output, as this is the factor that ultimately dictates the amount of nicotine consumed per puff.

If you smoke socially, or up to a few cigarettes a day, you’ll probably fall in the lower range of each suggestion. If you smoke 10-20 cigarettes a day, you’ll land somewhere in the middle. Smoking more than a pack a day most likely puts you in the higher area.

Bear in mind that the suggested strengths in this section are exactly that: suggestions. Use them as a starting point, but if you find that you prefer your vape stronger or weaker, don’t be afraid to try other nicotine strengths. Remember that nicotine without smoke is not a health risk for most people. The best nicotine strength is the one that keeps you away from combustible cigarettes!

Low vapor production

Discreet clouds, similar to the smoke produced by a cigarette. This grouping includes most pod systems on the market, as well as mouth-to-lung (MTL) tanks with a very tight airflow. High-strength nic salts are the most popular choice for this category. (Many e-liquid manufacturers don’t even make flavors with regular nicotine at strengths over 6 mg/mL anymore.)

  • Regular nicotine: 12-24 mg/mL
  • Nicotine salts: 30-60 mg/mL

Medium vapor production

(Video) What nicotine strength should I choose in 2 minutes

Clouds, but not of the massive variety. Devices that fall in this category can come from practically any product range. This includes pod systems that take sub ohm coils, airier MTL tanks, and even sub ohm tanks that have a very restricted draw.

  • Regular nicotine: 6-12 mg/mL
  • Nicotine salts: 20-30 mg/mL

High vapor production

Big clouds. This includes powerful sub ohm tanks and rebuildable atomizers with large airflow channels. Finding nic salts for this category may not be easy, because these devices put out so much vapor that it’s very easy to get too much nic too quickly. Most vapers who use sub ohm devices choose regular nicotine juices at very low strengths. Even 6 mg/mL e-liquid may be too strong considering the vapor volume delivered by some of these devices!

  • Regular nicotine: 1.5-6 mg/mL
  • Nicotine salts: 1.5-6 mg/mL

When it comes to quitting smoking, we advise new vapers to try a low vapor device—either a pod system or MTL tank. These will emulate the draw of a cigarette, which may help smokers smoothly transition to vaping.

But many people prefer a restricted direct-lung draw, or even a fully open draw, and in that case a more powerful pod system or a sub ohm tank might be the best choice. You may have to experiment with different kinds of devices. There is no right or wrong!

Converting percentages to mg/mL

Nicotine Strengths: How to Choose What's Right for You (2)

Let’s assume that you have now tried a couple of nicotine strengths, and settled for the one that satisfies your cravings. Even after you narrow it down, it can still be confusing at times. Sometimes manufacturers list nicotine strength by percentage, like 0.3%, 0.6%, 2.5% and 5%.

(Video) What Nicotine Strength Should You Choose?

What’s the difference between nicotine strengths written as mg/mL and those expressed as percentages? How do you convert from one to the other?

Nicotine strength in mg/mL

Most of the time, e-liquid nicotine strengths are shown in mg/mL, which stands for milligrams per milliliter. This means that for every milliliter of e-liquid in the bottle, there is the specified amount of nicotine.

For 6 mg/mL e-juice, this means every milliliter contains 6 milligrams of nicotine. If you need to work out the total amount of nicotine in a bottle or in a tank, just multiply the strength in mg/mL by the number of milliliters of it you have.

For example, if you fill up a 5 mL vape tank with 6 mg/mL e-liquid, you have 5 mL × 6 mg/mL = 30 mg of nicotine in your tank. In the same way, a 10 mL bottle of 6 mg/mL e-liquid contains 60 mg of nicotine in total.

Nicotine strengths as percentages

Nicotine strengths as percentages are very similar, but a little easier to understand. Instead of combining a mass (in mg) and a volume (in mL), percentages use the volumes of both. In simple terms, figures like 0.3% or 1.8% just tell you how much of the liquid in the bottle is nicotine.

This means that if you have some e-liquid containing 1.2% nicotine, any amount you measure out will be 1.2% nicotine and 98.8% PG, VG and flavorings.

Technically, this measurement is called “nicotine by volume,” in the same way the percentages on a bottle of liquor are “alcohol by volume” or ABV for short. “Nicotine by volume” is sometimes shortened to NBV too.

You could also work out the percentage by mass, if you wanted to, but e-liquid companies usually don’t do this. Vapers deal with e-juice in milliliters, so manufacturers do too.

Converting from mg/mL to percent and back

(Video) What nicotine level should I vape?

Converting from a nicotine strength in mg/mL to a percentage is really easy. Just divide the amount in mg/mL by 10. So, if you have a 6 mg/mL e-juice, this is equal to a 0.6% e-juice. A 25 mg/mL e-juice is 2.5%. And if you had a high-strength nicotine base of 72 mg/mL, this would be 7.2%.

The conversion couldn’t be any simpler. To convert back from percentages to mg/mL, just multiply it by 10. That’s all there is to it!

Congratulations, you’ll never order the wrong e-juice again!

If you aren’t too traumatized by the math lesson, you can now confidently navigate the e-liquid market and buy juice in the strength range that will most likely satisfy your nicotine cravings. You can also explain what mg/mL means, what the percentage values on e-liquids mean, and convert between them easily. No matter where you’re ordering from, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. But if you don’t nail it on the first try, don’t give up! With so many nicotine levels available, you will eventually find the e-liquid strength that works best for you.

Share your thoughts with us! Have you tried e-juice that felt too strong or too weak to you? What was the nicotine strength that helped you quit smoking?

Nicotine Strengths: How to Choose What's Right for You (3)

Nicotine Strengths: How to Choose What's Right for You (4)

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(Video) How To Choose Your E-liquid Nicotine Strength: A Beginner's Guide

FAQs

How do I choose the right nicotine strength? ›

Choosing The Right Nicotine Strength Level

If you're a social smoker or smoke 10 cigarettes or less a day, you'll want to go with a lower nicotine strength. If you smoke around a pack a day, you'll want to go for a medium nicotine strength. Two packs a day or more means you'll want a high nicotine strength.

What nicotine level should I vape? ›

In general, you start high or mid-range (around 12-18mg of freebase nicotine) and then adjust until you're satisfied. You're at a good level if you're taking two to three puffs on the vape to satisfy a craving.

What strength is 2% nicotine? ›

E-liquid strength ranges from zero nicotine, up to 20mg/ml, or 2%. This means there are 20 milligrams of nicotine present in each millilitre of e-liquid.

Is 3mg of nicotine a lot? ›

3mg nicotine - This is the lowest level nicotine you can get in a liquid (unless you mix it yourself with some 0mg to dilute it). It's often the ideal final step for people quitting smoking, who have reduced their intake to almost nothing.

Is 5% nicotine a lot? ›

5% Nicotine May Be A Lot But Many Vapers Still Use It

Given that it's a very high concentration to be vaping, the only ones that should even consider it are heavy smokers that are trying to switch to vaping and feel as if they need a high strength e-liquid to successfully switch. Otherwise, 5% is probably too much.

Is 20mg nicotine salt a lot? ›

Is 20mg Nicotine a lot? A 20mg/ml nicotine strength is usually advised for smokers who used to smoke around a pack of cigarettes a day. For vapers who smoke less than a pack a day, lower strengths are more likely to be better for you. 20mg/ml of nicotine may be too much for many vapers if they only smoke lightly.

How many times should you hit a vape a day? ›

There is no specific number of puffs that can be considered safe. The biological factors and several modes are one of the factors that an acceptable daily intake of nicotine is based on.

Is vaping worse than smoking? ›

1: Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but it's still not safe. E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings and other chemicals to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic.

Is 50 mg nicotine a lot? ›

50mg is considered the equivalent to the nicotine level that's in cigarettes, meaning that those who are used to smoking are more likely to feel satisfied after they vape due to the fact that they're getting about the same level of nicotine that they're used to.

What vape strength do I need? ›

6mg/ml or 0.6% (Low) - suitable if you are smoking 5 to 10 a day. 12mg/ml or 1.2% (Medium) - suitable if you are smoking 10 to 15 a day. 18mg/ml or 1.8% (High) - suitable if you are smoking 15 to 20 a day. 20mg/ml or 2.0% (Very high) - suitable if you are smoking more than 20 a day.

What is 6% nicotine in mg? ›

Just divide the amount of nicotine in mg/mL by 10. To convert back from the percentage to mg/mL, just multiply it by 10.
...
Converting Nicotine Strengths.
0mg= 0mg/mL= 0%
3mg= 3mg/mL= 0.3%
6mg= 6mg/ML= 0.6%
12mg= 12mg/mL= 1.2%

What does 3mg nicotine mean? ›

A 3mg nicotine level explained

A liquid that contains 3mg nicotine has 3mg of nicotine per ml of liquid. This means that in a 20ml bottle, there are 20ml of liquid, with 3mg of nicotine in each ml.

How many cigarettes is 2mg of nicotine? ›

The highest likely absorbed amount of nicotine from a cigarette is: 2mg x 20 cigarettes per day = 40mg. A 2ml disposable device of 20mg nicotine would be: 2ml x 20mg/ml = 40mg. This suggests that a whole disposable is roughly around the same nicotine value as that of a pack of strong cigarettes.

How many cigarettes is equal to a vape? ›

One JUUL pod contains 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine.

The amount of nicotine in one standard JUUL cartridge is roughly equal to the amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes, or about 200 puffs, according to the JUUL website.

How many puffs of a vape is equal to a cigarette? ›

When we transfer it into puffs on average, it means that you will have to take 500 hits of vape to smoke as much nicotine as you would with a single cigarette.

What does 5% NIC mean? ›

When you see a per cent like 5% in conjunction with a given e-juice, what is being conveyed is the nicotine strength of the liquid. With 5% strength, there is 50mg of nicotine per millilitre of vape liquid.

Are nic salts harmful? ›

Are Nicotine Salts safe? If you are looking for a direct answer, nicotine salts are neither safer nor less safe. A nicotine salt E-liquid only differs from standard E-liquid because they add benzoic acid to it. This acid might create irritation in the throat and lungs in some cases.

Is 10mg NIC salt strong? ›

A 10mg nicotine salt will provide a mild throat hit and will work perfectly with a pod system that supports a 1-1.6ohm coil. If you're a light smoker who smokes 2-4 cigarettes a day and find 10mg too strong, we recommend using a 5mg nicotine salt or even trying out freebase nicotine.

How much nicotine a day is okay? ›

In fact, it suggests a daily limit on nicotine intake ranging from no more than one milligram per kilogram (or . 22 mg/lb. for a 160-pound adult) per day to a maximum of . 5 mg/kg (1.1 mg/lb.)

How do I choose nic salt strength? ›

Nicotine salts use high nicotine strengths such as 50 mg nicotine levels compared to the usual 3 or 6 mg in regular e-juices. Low wattage devices are perfect for nicotine salt because you don't need to consume as much vapor to get the same amount of nicotine in a high powered device.

How many mg nicotine is too much? ›

"Nicotine poisoning occurs when nicotine begins to exhibit more dire toxic effects on an individual." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that 50 to 60 milligrams of nicotine is a deadly dose for an adult who weighs about 150 pounds.

What is chain vaping? ›

Chain vaping is when a user takes multiple draws within a small time frame (usually around 5-10 seconds between each draw), keeping the wick from soaking up enough e-juice before the next hit, causing the wick to burn.

How long should you wait between vape hits? ›

Don't Chain Vape

You must let your wicks saturate to reduce the possibility of a dry hit. The general rule is to wait 15 to 30 seconds before puffing again. For people who are trying to quit smoking, 30 seconds can be a long wait. In this case, you can buy e-juice with a higher nicotine level.

What happens if you vape all day? ›

According to Healthline, vaping can lead to your mouth becoming dry and irritated. It also can cause gum inflammation and raises your risk of developing cavities and gum disease. This is because the vapors created by e-cigarettes expose your teeth to bacteria.

Is 50 mg of nicotine a lot in vape? ›

50mg is considered the equivalent to the nicotine level that's in cigarettes, meaning that those who are used to smoking are more likely to feel satisfied after they vape due to the fact that they're getting about the same level of nicotine that they're used to.

Is 12mg nicotine strong? ›

With the average cigarette containing approximately 10-12mg of nicotine, a lot of which is burnt along with another 3,000+ chemicals, 12mg is generally enough nicotine in vape juice to being the process of switching over from smoking for a moderate consumer of cigarettes.

Is 6mg nicotine a lot? ›

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.

How do you choose nicotine strength in e juice? ›

The lower the mg/ml or percentage, the less nicotine is contained in the e-liquid. So, an 18mg or 1.8% is much stronger than a 3mg or 0.3%. As a general rule the stronger the e-liquid the more nicotine is delivered to the vaper and the more pronounced the throat hit.

Videos

1. VU102: Finding Your Nicotine Strength
(Mister-E-Liquid)
2. Beginners Guide To Nicotine Strength In Vaping
(Flavour Vapour Ltd)
3. Which Nicotine Strength is Right For You?
(Walled City Vape & CBD)
4. How To Choose Your E-Liquid Nicotine Strength by https://www.jumponthevape.com
(Vaperama)
5. What Nicotine Strength Should I Be Using | Beginner Vaping Advice
(Vape and Juice TV)
6. What the science says about the safety of e-cigarettes
(CBS Mornings)

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