Vaping and Nicotine


Choosing a nicotine level can be confusing. Vaping offers a variety of nicotine levels, including completely nicotine-free e-eliquid. Usually people chose a nicotine level based on how much they smoke or if they prefer filters, wides, lights, etc. Basically this means a higher level for heavier smokers and a lower level for lighter smokers. The truth is, most smokers have no idea how much nicotine their cigarettes deliver. Unfortunately this doesn't make choosing the right nicotine level in e-liquid any easier. That's why we've created a comprehensive guide to help you make an educated decision.

Nicotine in cigarettes vs Nicotine in vaping

If you're trying to figure out how much nicotine is in your favorite brand of cigarettes you may find varying answers. A cigarette contains from 8 to 20 milligrams of nicotine on average. (But only about 1 milligram of nicotine is actually absorbed by the smoker. Cigarette smoking is a worldwide health crisis. It is linked to countless diseases and causes nearly six million deaths annually worldwide. But e-cigarette vapor doesn’t contain smoke. Therefore it doesn’t create the tar that causes the vast majority of the damage from regular cigarettes. The carbon monoxide and thousands of other chemicals created by the combustion process are what make smokers so prone to heart disease, cancer, and various lung conditions.. According to this research study "(...) smoking predicted cancer in this analysis and nicotine replacement therapy did not."

Nicotine levels

We measure e-liquid nicotime levels in milligrams-per-milliliter (mg/mL), sometimes abbreviated to x mg. The most common nicotine strengths are 0-, 3-, and 6 mg/mL. Somewhat less common are 12-, 18-, and 24 mg/mL. Quite rare now, but sometimes still seen is 36 mg/mL. Some closed systems that use pre-filled cartridges or pods, and disposable cigalikes, use even higher nicotine strengths.

  • 0 mg/mL - meaning there are zero milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid. Occasional smokers or those who prefer to avoid nicotine often chose this level.
  • 3 mg/mL - meaning that there are three milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid. Light smokers or those who are cutting back on nicotine often chose this level.
  • 6 mg/mL - iligram, meaning that there are six milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid. Smokers using powerful devices, or vapers who use low-power devices often chose this level.
  • 12 mg/mL - meaning that there are 12 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid. Heavy smokers will sometimes still chose this level to begin with, but only with mouth-to-lung (MTL) atomizers and tanks. Sub-ohm-type devices are too powerful for such a high nicotine level.
  • 18 mg/mL - meaning that there are 18 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid. Regular or heavy smokers will choose this level but it has become increasingly rare with the advent of more powerful hardware. However, the benefit of using a high-nicotine e-liquid is that a smoker will have to vape a lot less of it to get the nicotine they desire.
  • 24 mg/mL - meaning that there are 24 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid. The terms "old-school" and "hardcore" come to mind with this nicotine level. Unless used in a very small MTL device, most vapers find this level overwhelming. But recent ex-smokers may find 24-, or even 36 mg/mL, just perfect -- but NOT in a powerful sub-ohm device!
  • Closed, pre-filled pod or cartridge systems usually contain higher strengths of nicotine but in smaller portions. The JUUL pods, for example, have about 35 milligrams of total nicotine per refill (0.7 mL of 50 mg/mL liquid).

Devices matter!

There is a huge difference between taking a puff on a 'mod' (higher powered advanced personal vaporizer) set at 20 watts or higher, and a tiny cigalike or pod device. The major variance is the amount of power output and the size of the coil, which equals more vapor (and more nicotine) per puff. Smaller devices usually produce less vapor, though this is changing as technology improves. With less vapor production a higher level of nicotine is required to satisfy cravings -- or the vapor must take many more puffs. High levels of nicotine are common with compact devices. More powerful devices produce more vapor. This means that the user inhales more nicotine per drag and needs fewer drags to get the same effect as smaller e-cigs. Low levels or zero nicotine are common with ”cloud-producing” devices.

Can I overdose on nicotine by vaping too much?

Current scientific thinking tells us that an adult would have to ingest 500-1,000 mg of nicotine to reach a fatal dose. That doesn't sound like much, but with such low concentrations in vapor, it would be impossible to vape (or smoke) enough to overdose.

Nicotine overdoses are extremely rare -- and they always come from ingesting (drinking) or injecting into the blood stream. Before reaching a critical level the user would experience "nicotine sickness." The symptoms include nausea, racing heart, anxiety and clamminess. While incredibly unpleasant, none of these things are life-threatening to a healthy adult. All of them, however, serve as a warning to the user to stop their behavior. And, most importantly, nicotine cravings cease during this phase. The dangers of e-liquid are mostly to children, who may accidentally drink enough nicotine to become very sick, or even die. Vaping equipment, and nicotine-containing e-liquid should always be stored out of reach of children and pets.


Nicotine has a bad reputation because of its connection to smoking. But newer research suggests that nicotine by itself may be useful in reducing pain, stress, blood pressure, anxiety, and even possibly useful in treating Parkinson's and Alzheimer's patients. Smoking is a proven-deadly way to consume nicotine, and vaping doesn’t have more than a tiny fraction of the risk of inhaling burning plant material. But the ability to carefully control your nicotine intake is another reason vaping is a better choice.

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