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How to Choose Nicotine Strength?

Nicotine: it's one of the simplest and yet least-understood compounds in the natural world. In other articles in Breazy’s vaping educational series, we dive into into what it is and what it does, but in this tutorial let's focus on the most practical of approaches. How much nicotine should you be using when you vape?

First off, are you an adult smoker? If not, we don't recommend vaping at all. If you're choosing to vape recreationally anyway, we strongly suggest sticking with products that contain zero nicotine. There are myriad options when it comes to nicotine-free e-liquids; one is sure to fit your needs without exposing you to one of the most addictive chemicals known to humankind.

Going forward, we're going to assume you're already familiar with tobacco products and nicotine, and that you either already vape or you're looking to switch to vaping as an alternative to continuing to smoke.

Types of e-cigarettes

The vaping world has largely branched off into two classes of hardware in recent years. One category includes traditional devices that use refillable tanks paired via threaded connection to a power source, or "mods." The other kind of e-cigarettes are newer, ultra-compact "pod mods" that use a smaller tank, usually one that snaps into a proprietary battery system without using threads. What kind of device you're using will affect your choice in liquids containing nicotine pretty significantly.

For standard open-system mods, you're going to want to stick with conventional e-liquids with what’s called “freebase nicotine” and avoid the ultra-high nicotine levels found in "nicotine salt" products. The strength of these liquids is measured in the number of milligrams of nicotine in each milliliter of liquid (mg/ml)—common doses are 0mg, 3mg, and 6 mg, with some recipes available in 12mg, 18mg, or higher.

Pod systems operate at much lower power levels, producing less vapor than standard devices. For this reason, the nicotine in liquids is frequently more concentrated—benzoic acid is added to nicotine extract to create a "salt-based nicotine" solution that allows users to consume much more nicotine without feeling the harsh "throat hit" typically associated with higher concentrations. Nicotine levels in salt-based liquids can be as high as 50 mg/ml, though there's wide variance between manufacturers. And if you're using a closed system that only accommodates pre-filled pods, you will have less choice in selecting precisely how much nicotine you are getting.

How Much are you Smoking?

If you choose an open system that allows you to select a more precise nicotine level, the big question is how many cigarettes you’ve been smoking. Here are some rough guidelines to help you get going:

  • Light smokers (less than ½ pack per day) might start off with a low nicotine level of 3 or 6 mg and be fine.
  • Moderate smokers (more than ½ pack, less than a full pack-a-day habit) might find a better entry point to be 6 mg to 12 mg.
  • Heavy smokers (pack-a-day or more) are probably best going with a liquid that's available in 12 mg to 18 mg or higher concentration.

If your preferred vaping setup restricts you to proprietary pods or runs off a refillable pod designed for salt use, your options will be much more limited and you'll have to experiment with regulating your nicotine dose by limiting the amount of time you spend vaping rather than precisely calibrating the amount of nicotine you’re putting into your device.  

If this doesn't sound appealing, it may pay to look into an open-system mod as a secondary device, particularly if you're using your vape more frequently than you'd anticipated and are concerned about the amount of nic you're consuming. (An open-system will also save you money over the long run.)

Effects of Nicotine

One thing to keep in mind is that nicotine is a stimulant, and as such it may interfere with your sleep habits if you vape at night. Many vapers find it handy to have more than one tank available to swap out on their mod, substituting a lower nic dose before bed or having a high-strength tank to pop on if the urge to smoke gets particularly strong.

Something new vapers often notice is that nicotine use is fluid rather than static. When transitioning to vaping from smoking you want enough nicotine to keep your cigarette cravings at bay. But over time most users gradually begin to scale back their consumption as dependence on the drug weakens. If you've successfully quit smoking and have been using 12 mg liquids for a while, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you can transition to 6 mg without any negative effects. We definitely recommend giving it a try.

Many people eventually transition off nicotine entirely and even ultimately quit vaping.  So, if that's your end goal, rest assured it's entirely achievable.

Check out Breazy’s vast library of vaping resources here.