Welcome to our 6th edition of the Knowledge is Power blog series. Today we are going to be looking at nicotine absorption into the bloodstream when vaping. In our previous editions we have discussed Vaping as a Smoking Cessation tool1, and Nicotine health effects2, both of which referenced the importance of nicotine in use of e-cigs when attempting to quit smoking. That leads to a few questions…
First, do electronic cigarettes deliver the same amount of nicotine to the bloodstream as a traditional cigarette? Answer – No. The Ecigarette Research Advocates Group3 conducted a study Nicotine Absorption from Electronic Cigarette Use where they found “Nicotine absorption from e-cigarettes was significantly lower compared to tobacco cigarettes. In reality, 5 minutes of use led to ⅓ to ¼ of the plasma nicotine levels with smoking one tobacco cigarette. Even after 1 hour of use, users could not obtain plasma nicotine levels similar to smoking one cigarette in 5 minutes. The new-generation device was more efficient in nicotine delivery, with nicotine levels being 35-72% higher than those observed by using the first-generation device.” These results are nearly identical to a study by Scientific Reports4 Nicotine Absorption from Electronic Cigarette Use. It concluded: “Compared to smoking one tobacco cigarette, the electronic cigarette device and liquid used in this study delivered ⅓ to ¼ the amount of nicotine after 5 minutes of use. New-generation devices were more efficient in nicotine delivery but still delivered nicotine much slower compared to tobacco cigarettes.” Based on these studies, it appears that vaping offers a significantly lower nicotine level than smoking a traditional cigarette. It is interesting to note that both studies showed that the newer generation e-cig delivered more nicotine than the original cigalike versions, leading us to our next question.
Second, does the hardware I use and how I vape make a difference in the amount of nicotine absorbed? Answer – Yes. Tobacco Control5 conducted a study Electronic Cigarettes and Nicotine Clinical Pharmacology. They determined “Nicotine yields from automated smoking machines suggest that e-cigarettes deliver less nicotine per puff than traditional cigarettes, and clinical studies indicate that e-cigarettes deliver only modest nicotine concentrations to the inexperienced e-cigarette user. However, current e-cigarette smokers are able to achieve systemic nicotine concentrations similar to those produced from traditional cigarettes. Therefore, user experience is critically important for nicotine exposure.” Similar results were described in The Oxford Journal6, in an article titled Electronic Cigarettes: Effective Nicotine Delivery after Acute Administration “Previous reports have described conditions of electronic cigarette use that support minimal nicotine delivery. In those studies, current cigarette smokers, who were not experienced using e-cigarettes engaged in brief periods of use. In addition, the electronic cigarettes used in those studies were cigarette-sized models. In a current study experienced users provided their preferred electronic cigarettes loaded with their selected flavor/nicotine concentration. Under these conditions, use resulted in reliable nicotine delivery. Thus, an important area for future research is the parametric manipulation of device characteristics and user behavior.” What these studies tell us is that using different e-cig hardware makes a difference in how effectively nicotine is delivered. Also, the nicotine levels were higher with experienced vapers than with those who had not used e-cigs previously. Meaning that the way we vape may also make a difference to the amount of nicotine we absorb.
Lastly, if how I vape and what I use to vape affect the amount of nicotine I am absorbing, does the nicotine level in the juice really matter? Answer – A resounding yes. The amount of nicotine in e-juice establishes a baseline for nicotine exposure. E-juice that has 3mg will never deliver as much nicotine as a 24mg e-juice, regardless of the hardware or vaping methods used.
So, what does all of this mean for vapers? Understand that the products you use do matter. Drippers will deliver a higher concentration than tank, and tanks will deliver a higher concentration than a cigalike. Also, how you vape will make a difference in your nicotine absorption. Vaping continuously for long periods will provide a higher nicotine blood level than vaping for a few minutes every several hours. Finally, know that both of these factors will effect but should not override the nicotine level you chose for your e-juice. There are general guidelines for choosing the right level of juice based on your smoking habits. However, you should take into consideration what hardware you are using and what you’re vaping habits are (or will be). By taking the time to understand how all of these factors work together, the use of vaping as a smoking cessation tool becomes even more attainable.
As always, I encourage everyone to educate themselves. Read through the studies and information listed below, and learn how you can use this information to help with your personal vaping goals. Come back next week when we look at the question “What About the Children” and discuss flavors, advertising, and selling to minors. Until then, we look forward to your questions and comments. Vape on!
Written by: Michelle Harnden
- Vaping as a Smoking Cessation Tool
- Nicotine – Deadly Poison or Promising Medicine
- Ecigarette Research Advocates Group “Nicotine Absorption from Electronic Cigarette Use”
- Scientific Reports “Nicotine Absorption from Electronic Cigarette Use”
- Tobacco Control “Electronic cigarettes and nicotine clinical Pharmacology”
- Oxford Journal “Electronic Cigarettes: Effective Nicotine Delivery after Acute Administration“