If you’re new to vaping, one big question you likely have is what level of nicotine content you should use in your e-juice. If you were a smoker, you never needed to worry about nicotine levels, as a cigarette is a cigarette. Similarly, if you’re a new vaper who has never smoked, you have no experience in nicotine at all. So how do you decide what type of nicotine level to go with when you’re buying your first bottle of juice?

I readily admit how confusing this can initially be. Thankfully we have the answers for you!

What is Nicotine?

You may smoke, yet still don’t quite understand what nicotine is. Or you may not have any experience with nicotine at all. Let’s get into what exactly nicotine is.

Nicotine is a toxic, colorless (or yellowish) liquid with an oily consistency. The molecular formula for nicotine is C10H14N2; it is a chemical found in the tobacco plant, and acts a stimulant when consumed in small doses.

In larger doses, nicotine is toxic and can block the action of nerve and skeletal muscles, or, if ingested directly in liquid form, can cause nausea, vomiting, and death in rare cases.

Although nicotine is toxic, it is not the poison of choice of any murderer or assassin. This is because if you do manage to drink pure liquid nicotine, your body will almost always begin to throw up most of the substance from your system to avoid internal injury.

A form of nicotine is also used as an insecticide to protect crops. Pretty cool how a chemical taken from plants is also used to protect them!

Nicotine is also an ingredient in the making of e-liquids, combined with vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG).

Different Ways to Consume Nicotine

Nicotine can be consumed by the body in a few different ways.

        1. Cigarette smoking: This is the most prominent way that humans consume nicotine.
        2. Cigar smoking: Nicotine is also consumed by smoking cigars.
        3. Chewing or Snorting: Chewing or snorting tobacco products releases more nicotine into the body than smoking cigarettes does. Note: Snorting nicotine is not recommended. 
        4. Vaping: The newest method of consuming nicotine, deemed more safer than the alternatives. Vaping e-juice that has nicotine content.

Nicotine Effects on the Body

Nicotine is both a sedative and a stimulant. This means that it can have both an exciting effect on the body as well as a relaxing one.

When an individual consumes nicotine, they usually get a stimulative effect in the form of a “kick”. In other words, they feel more mentally alert and ready to take action. Caffeine has similar effects, which is why smokers or vapers like to drink coffee while they smoke or vape to amplify each of the others effect. Various studies have shown that in this capacity, nicotine may improve memory and concentration.

Where does this nicotine “kick” come from? Partly from nicotine stimulating the adrenal glands, leading to the release of adrenaline. The influx of adrenaline produces the stimulating effect on the body, also resulting in the release of glucose, an increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.

In addition to releasing adrenaline, nicotine also indirectly causes dopamine to be released in the motivation and pleasure areas of the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that is released when you generally do things the body and mind considers as good or productive towards evolution and/or survival, like having sex, winning a basketball game or even receiving a text message.

Another effect of nicotine is that it makes the pancreas produce insulin, leading to slight increases to blood sugar or glucose levels. Nicotine also increases lebels of beta-endorphin, when reduces anxiety.

Although nicotine has its benefits on the body when used responsibly, it is also a highly addictive compound. Some studies suggest that nicotine is at least as difficult to give up as some of the most highly addictive drugs.

Explaining E-Juice Nicotine Levels

Most e-juices come in either one of the following nicotine levels: 0mg, 3mg, or 6mg. Sometimes you’ll see nic levels as high as 12mg, 18mg or even 24mg. Most of the brands VIBLEO carries has a maximum nic level of 6mg, though you can find some, like the Coheiba line, that have higher nic levels as they are primarily to satisfy former smokers.

    • 0mg simply means there is no nicotine in the e-juice.
    • 3mg of nicotine means that there is 3mg (milligrams) of nicotine per one ml (milliliter) of e-juice.
    • 6mg of nicotine means there are 6 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of juice.

This is where there is a lot of confusion lies surrounding this topic. When an e-juice is labelled as 3mg of nicotine, this doesn’t necessarily mean there is 3mg of liquid nicotine in the bottle, rather there is 3mg of liquid nicotine per milliliter of e-juice.

Put another way, 3mg of nicotine e-juice has 0.3% nicotine as a whole, 6mg has 0.6% nicotine as a whole, 12mg of nicotine is 1.2%, and so on.

Now that you know how to read nicotine levels in e-juice, it’s time to decide what nicotine level is right for you. This depends primarily on one factor - whether you’re an ex-smoker or not.

Finding The Right Nicotine Level For (Ex) Smokers

If you’re trying to quit cigarettes through vaping, it’s important that you’re getting a decent amount of nicotine to satisfy your urges and keep you from going back to cigarettes. For this reason, the right nicotine level to start off for (ex)smokers can be a bit tricky and may require experimentation.

However as a good starting point, the nicotine level all depends on how many cigarettes you used to smoke per day.

A helpful formula to calculate the mg nicotine level you want to buy for your first bottle of e-juice is the following:

          ‣‣ Nicotine Content (in milligrams) x Tank Capacity (in milliliters) = Number of Cigarettes

Smoking one cigarette equals approximately 1 mg of nicotine absorption in your body. This means:

           ‣‣ 1 cigarette = 1mg of nicotine

Example #1: You Smoke 10 Cigs a Day, Your Vape Has a 4ml Tank Capacity

Most vaporizer tanks carry a maximum of 4 millimeters of e-juice - if you already have a vape or plan to buy one soon, check out the tank capacity. Assuming the tank capacity of your vape if 4mL, then:

           ‣‣ Nicotine Content (mg) x 4mL = Number of Cigarettes

If you’re smoking half a pack of cigs a day (10 smokes), that equals just about 10 mg of nicotine body absorption daily. 

           ‣‣ 10 mg of nicotine = 10 cigarettes

If you’d like to get the same levels of nic in your system, you’ll need to vape 10mg of nicotine per day.

           ‣‣ Nicotine Content (mg) x 4mL = 10 cigarettes

Now, all we have to do next is solve for nicotine content to get which nicotine level e-juice we want to buy if we want to get the same amount of nicotine as the body absorbs smoking 10 cigs.

           ‣‣ Nicotine Content (mg) = 10 / 4 = 2.5mg

If you’re smoking half a pack a day, you’ll want to choose a 3mg nicotine level in your e-juice and fill up your 4mL tank. You’ll need to vape that entire tank in one day to absorb as much nicotine as 10 cigarettes.

Example #2: You Smoke 10 Cigs a Day, Your Vape Has a 4ml Tank Vapacity

Let’s walk through one more example just to be clear. Let’s say you have a 6mL tank capacity and smoke 20 cigarettes (a full pack) a day. Again, we want to determine which nicotine level vape liquid we want to buy. Using our formula, we get:

           ‣‣ Nicotine content (mg) x 6mL = 20 cigarettes

           ‣‣ Nicotine Content (mg) = 20 / 6 = 3.33mg

In this case, we would want to choose the 3mg nicotine and fill the 6mL tank to capacity, or choose 6mg nicotine and fill the 6mL tank to half capacity to get the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigs. 

The Right Nicotine Level For Non-Smokers

The right level of nicotine for non-smokers is a different story.

If you’ve never been addicted to cigarettes but want to try something new and different, or have heard a lot about the flavors and experience of vaping, then you should choose 0mg nicotine strength. This is because, since you don’t have any nicotine in your system already, and therefore are not addictive to the substance on a mental or physical level, it is not necessary to have nicotine in your e-juice to still have a great experience.

If you want a little bit of nicotine in order to enjoy the simulative effects and benefits, then go with 3mg nicotine e-juice and use it sparingly. I would not recommend any higher nicotine level than 3mg for non-smokers, as it is just not necessary.

How Many Cigarettes Does 3mg of Nicotine Equal?

Although one cigarette contains more than 1mg, as discussed earlier, your body only absorbs approximately 1mg of nicotine from every cigarette you smoke. This means:

Pure Nicotine: 3mg of pure nicotine = 3 cigarettes

Remember, the 3mg of nicotine listed on an e-juice bottle means that there is 3mg of pure nicotine per milliliter of e-juice. Based on this, and assuming you’re vaping a 4ml tank filled with e-juice, then:

E-Juice in Your Vape: 3mg x 4mL = 12 cigarettes* 

Vaping a 4ml tank of 3mg e-juice will equal 12 cigarettes of nicotine consumption.

*12 cigarettes worth of nicotine, not the other bad stuff that's in cigarettes like tar, urea, hydrogen cyanide, etc. 

How Many Cigarettes Does 6mg of Nicotine Equal?

Pure Nicotine: 6mg of pure nicotine = 6 cigarettes

E-Juice in Your Vape: 6mg x 4mL = 24 cigarettes*

Vaping a 4ml tank of 6mg e-juice will equal 12 cigarettes of nicotine consumption.

*24 cigarettes worth of nicotine, not the other bad stuff that's in cigarettes like tar, urea, hydrogen cyanide, etc. 

How Many Cigarettes Does 12mg of Nicotine Equal?

Pure Nicotine: 12mg of pure nicotine = 12 cigarettes

E-Juice in Your Vape: 12mg x 4mL = 48 cigarettes*

Vaping a 4ml tank of 12mg e-juice will equal 48 cigarettes of nicotine consumption.

*48 cigarettes worth of nicotine, not the other bad stuff that's in cigarettes like tar, urea, hydrogen cyanide, etc. 

How Many Cigarettes Does 18mg of Nicotine Equal?

Pure Nicotine: 18mg of pure nicotine = 18 cigarettes (just under a full pack of cigarettes)

E-Juice in Your Vape: 18mg x 4mL = 72 cigarettes

Vaping a 4ml tank of 18mg e-juice will equal 72 cigarettes of nicotine consumption.

*72 cigarettes worth of nicotine, not the other bad stuff that's in cigarettes like tar, urea, hydrogen cyanide, etc. 

Is Vaping Without Nicotine Bad For You?

Vaping e-juice without nicotine isn’t bad for your health over vaping e-juice with nicotine. In fact, if you haven’t smoked cigarettes in the past, vaping e-juice without nicotine is best as you will avoid any type of reliance on nicotine in the long run.

Although vaping is not considered good for your health, it is a far superior smoking alternative from a health perspective than cigarettes and cigars.

Is 3mg of Nicotine A Lot?

An e-juice with a 3mg nicotine level, when filling a 4ml vape tank, is approximately equal to 12 cigarettes in terms of nicotine content. It is up to you to decide if this is a lot or not, and this will depend on how many cigarettes you used to smoke, and how much you plan to vape.

If you’re used to 12 cigarettes worth of nicotine, and you want to vape all day, then going through a 4ml tank of 3mg nicotine daily will equal to 12 cigarettes. If you want to vape less, and get more nicotine, then you can choose a higher nic level for your e-juice and simply vape less.

3mg x 4mL = 12 cigarettes

Going From 3mg to 6mg

If you want to gradually increase your nicotine intake from vaping, it’s first best to have your body get used to 3mg of nicotine e-juice. This means you should stick to 3mg e-juice for a few months until your body is used to it.

Then, if you’d like to increase your nicotine intake, after a few months of 3mg e-juice you should be ready to buy a 6mg e-juice. Be advised that increased nicotine levels in e-juice may alter the taste of your favorite juice a bit, for the better or for the worse, depending on your taste. So once you buy your most liked e-liquid in 6mg, don’t be surprised if the taste is a bit different, or the throat hit is a bit harsher.

Going From 6mg and up

I wouldn’t recommend going higher than 6mg of nicotine if you have never smoked cigarettes, as it is unnecessary since you do not have any prior reliance. However if you would like increased nicotine levels in your e-juice simply because you want to vape less, or can’t vape too often, then follow the same practice of gradually increasing nicotine levels over long periods.

I hope this article helped clear up what nicotine is, the role of nicotine, and which nicotine levels are right for you when you’re buying your first e-juice bottle. You can either use the math in this article to find the exact nicotine level you should buy based how much you used to smoke, or you can just use trial and error (which would cost a bit more money).

If you have any questions, suggestions or anything else to add, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. VIBLEO carries the best e-juice brands out there with the highest quality nicotine. Browse our selection here.