What Strength Do You Need for Nicotine & E-Liquid?

Selecting the right nicotine strength is one of the keys to switching to vaping successfully.

It may even be THE most important factor.

There is a lot of incorrect information written about e-liquid nicotine strengths.

As a result, many smokers do not convert to vaping.

The following guide is based on research, experience, and an unusual French experiment to help you choose the right nicotine strength.

There is strong evidence to suggest that nicotine is not the only addictive ingredient in tobacco.

Research indicates that vaping is not as addictive as smoking, since e-liquid does not contain other addictive alkaloids (like anabasine, anatabine, and cotinine) found in cigarettes.

In e-liquids, how is nicotine measured?
In e-liquids, nicotine strength is measured in mg, with the mg equaling the percentage strength.

Here’s some examples:
0mg: 0%
3mg: 0.3%
12mg: 1.2%
18mg: 1.8%
20mg: 2%

In South Africa, the maximum nicotine salt strength is 50mg, or 5%. Most e-liquids available in South Africa contain a maximum of 18mg Freebased Nicotine.

Many heavy smokers and former smokers (around 9% of vapers at the time) used nicotine strengths higher than 19mg a few years ago.

Can you tell me the standard advice?
The number of cigarettes smokers smoke is typically asked.

If someone smokes 10 cigarettes a day, their e-liquid might have a strength in the region of 0.6%, whereas someone who smokes 15-20 cigarettes a day might have a strength of 1.2%.

These recommendations are overly simplistic, and they don't work for many vapers.

The French Experiment

Dr. Jacques Le Houezec is an expert on nicotine and a scientist.

In addition, he works with actual smokers as well as researchers.

He described how he ran a training program for vape staff, which involved working with smokers, during the E-Cigarette Summit in 2019.

There were two reasons why smokers didn't switch to vaping.

  1. A failure to inhale properly
  2. Nicotine that is not strong enough

Huezec estimates that 2% nicotine is not sufficient for 25 - 30% of smokers, and that they should combine vaping with nicotine patches.

In addition, he warned that light smokers often need more nicotine than they think.

For example, a new starter who is trying to switch from smoking to vaping might experience the following:

After a few weeks, they might still be smoking a few cigarettes. If they are using a nicotine strength of 12mg, you could give them 18mg e-liquid, and within a week they will most likely stop smoking cigarettes entirely.

What is the research saying about e-liquid and nicotine strength?

Study by Gentry et al examines the link between nicotine strength and switching to vaping for the first time.

People who start with a low nicotine strength are more likely to relapse than those who start with a high nicotine strength.

JUUL Labs examined the differences in success rates between North America and the UK in another study.

Most of the study's participants used the highest nicotine levels available, and nicotine levels in e-liquid are significantly higher in the US.

North America had significantly more people who successfully switched from smoking to vaping after one, three, and six months than the UK.

A lot more research is needed in this area, especially since some will disregard the JUUL study due to its industry funding.

However, the current conclusions point in one direction. You are more likely to succeed in switching to vaping if your nicotine strength is higher.

Even so, there are many variables that can affect how much nicotine you need.

Among them are:

  • You may need more nicotine from your vape if you smoke strong cigarettes.
  • Nicotine salt e-liquids are smoother, making it easier to vape. Nicotine salts give some vapers a faster nicotine hit than freebase e-liquids.
  • What type of device you are using: More powerful devices produce more nicotine in the vapour than lower powered devices.
  • The inhaling technique is crucial to absorbing more nicotine.

The key to success is experimentation

Trying different nicotine strengths is the best thing you can do.

In order to satisfy your craving for a cigarette, you need something that is not so strong that it blows your head off.

You don't have to try every nicotine strength. A high strength e-liquid (for example, 1.8%) and a medium strength e-liquid (for example, 1.2%) should be sufficient for most people.

You should also be clear about your goals and only take on one at a time.

You may wish to completely stop using nicotine, but I would advise you to quit smoking first.

Although nicotine may not be good for you, it is not the cause of smoking diseases.

If you stop smoking, you eliminate at least 95% of the harm associated with it.

Choose an e-liquid strength that you like first, and worry about eliminating nicotine later.

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