Nicotine Absorption when Vaping

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…

Girl holding traditional and electronic cigarette

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

 

  1. Vaping as a Smoking Cessation Tool 
  2. Nicotine – Deadly Poison or Promising Medicine
  3. Ecigarette Research Advocates Group “Nicotine Absorption from Electronic Cigarette Use
  4. Scientific Reports “Nicotine Absorption from Electronic Cigarette Use
  5. Tobacco Control “Electronic cigarettes and nicotine clinical Pharmacology”
  6. Oxford Journal “Electronic Cigarettes: Effective Nicotine Delivery after Acute Administration
Tim is Mt Baker Vapor's resident creative weirdo. He writes, composes music, draws, designs, produces podcasts, investigates, and blows the trumpet for the Common Man.

40 thoughts on “Nicotine Absorption when Vaping

  1. Great article! I can agree from personal experience that as you become more experienced in vaping technique, you are able to more closely replicate smoking a cigarette as far as nicotine absorption goes. As a former 50 year smoker, I am totally comfortable with my Mt. Baker Vapor 24 mg juice, and have absolutely no desire to smoke cigarettes.

    1. I have COPD, and my Oxygen Levels have risen from 78% to 99% within the first couple of months of Vaping, ” while simultaneously lowering my traditional cigarette smoking from (1) pack to (1&1/2) packs per day down to just (3) cigarettes.” My Doctor has told me to continue Vaping after seeing that the E-Juice that I use only has (4) ingredients. I have stopped smoking cigarettes completely since February 4th, 2016.

  2. Thanks for the informative article. I had my suspicions but now they’re confirmed. Luckily I use 24mg as well and am content with the delivery. Although I do vape all day! Non the less, after heavy smoking for 35yrs it’s now been over two and a half without and I have no desire to pick up a cigarette. I’d like to see a follow up blog on the methods used to attain levels. Would have been useful when I started so I didn’t have to go through all the different tanks. Now I’m one step away from building mods and dripping, just can’t make the jump. Not that I need to for the nic, I’m content with my tank set up. I just want to chuck some clouds.

      1. I have been a non smoker for many mamy years. I started vaping with omg but wish to add nicotine due to stress. Am I crazy? Will I become addicted to nicotine again or will it help ton relieve stress?? Help

        1. I would advocate finding other avenues for stress relief over adding nicotine. It’s very hard to cut to 0mg when you’re addicted, and I wouldn’t put a monkey on your back. Exercise, meditation, nutrition, and adequate sleep may be a better route.

          I hope this helps you.

  3. i was a pack a day smoker for 30 years. I made switch to electronics about 4 months ago with 12mg. While there wasn’t quite enough Nic to satisfy my addiction and I did go through some withdrawals I’m now on 6mg and perfectly satisfied. I will never take up smoking again. Fingers crossed the beurocrats don’t do anything stupid.

  4. Good to see someone on our side reading the journals!
    I’m an Aussie Vapers (but don’t hold that against me 🙂 ) and we seem to progress quickly from cig-a-likes to sub-ohming. One thing all of us seem to do is drop the nic as we progress.
    I started with a manual ego battery and a little aspire bdc clearo…I was at 18mg and happy. Going to protank I dropped to 14mg; aerotank I dropped to 10mg; and now I use 6mg in various high watt applications. However, my juice consumption has gone from 1-2ml/day to 8+ 🙂
    This is inline with above article, but maybe some insight into the vaping “progression” from somewhere it seems to happen fast (enough to still remember the early days) 🙂

  5. Funny that the girl in the article photo appears to be holding my personal favorite vape pen (gravity tank). That said, I was a traditional smoker for 30+ years (Marlboro, then Kool, about 1-pk a day) and with 12-15 mg nicotine per pack, I dropped into vaping trying to ‘calculate’ a similar absorption load. It isn’t easy. Assuming 1-cc of tank is close to 1-pk a day (general ballpark), you then start trying to increase nicotine to match, it’s not easy. Starting at 1.6 mg, to 2.4-mg (commercial pre-mixes), you can’t get there. It helped when I found studies that vaping delivers only 1/3rd to 1/4 of your blood plasma nicotine level as traditional smoking. In the end, what I calculated is, if you wanted to go from 1 pack of Marlboro to an equivalent body effect of the same nicotine, you’d have to go up to around 24-30 mg, far from what you can buy in the store in pre-mix e-liquids.

    The day after I figured this out (which explained why older ‘vape-pros’ were already at 24mg), I went out and accumulated me a ‘chemistry set’ (complete with graduated cylinder, pipettes, and 30-ml brown-bottles) to blend my favorite flavors at desired consistencies.

    You’d think someone would have crunched the ‘nicotine tech’ into a simple, single article by now – to prevent the college level chemistry 101 from being required to get there.

    1. This is an excellent article idea. Could you share the studies you used when researching nicotine absorption? We’d like to try and summarize the info you were talking about.

  6. Have you updated this article and/or info?

    I am vaping 18mg and am really trying to quit analogs. It is tough because I don’t feel “full”.

    Any ideas? I badly want to do away with the nasty cigarette habit.

    1. What kind of setup are you vaping on? And what is this “full” feeling you are talking about? If you’re feeling like you’re not getting enough nicotine from 18mg it’s possible you need to up your watts, but it really depends on the gear you’re using.

  7. I’ve been smoking 1 to 1.5 packs a day for over 20 years Newport 100s I had a vape pen for a day got a mod the next day used the tank for a day then started building and dripping the next day now I’m blowing clouds and vaping on 3mg haven’t had a cigarette in a week and I’m good. It’s VAPOR yall so get your drip on or use you clearo which ever works Vape on!

    1. I’m smoking the Newport 100. I got myself a kangaroo EVOD,it says on it. I also got 2 24mg of juice, will this do the job of a newport, or should I say how much valine will be the same as 1 newport. Any info is greatly appreciated

  8. Tre – Keep up the good work. Your experience is similar to mine. I started smoking in the 1980’s and had been at 1-1.5 packs a day for more than 25 years. Nothing… and I mean NOTHING… seemed like any kind of realistic means of quitting.

    I started vaping in mid December, and a month later, I smoked my last cigarette. I gradually dropped from 24mg, to 18, to 15, etc. It’s been 3 months now, and I’m back and forth between 3 and 6 mg juice. I even occasionally vape the zero, and started mixing my own juice (big savings).

    Hope you keep up the good work!!!

  9. Just got a question (: the articles great by the way but I was wondering say if you breathed the smoke in a second time like ghosting (as in breathing it in through the mouth then out and breathing it in through the nose again) would there be more nicotine absorbed? Thankies (:

    1. By the time you exhale, all the nicotine has been absorbed in that hit. So you will not get more from ghosting.

  10. This is a great article. I smoked for 25 years and tried all sorts of things to quit. we were smoking less than a pack a day, however the cigarettes were strong ones (Players smooth, as I am Canadian). We got a Kangertech subvod TC each and some 6mg juice and quit smoking that same day (2 1/2 months ago). Neither of us has smoked s cigarette since. I had tried everything to quit (patches, gum, medicines on the market, hypnosis, acupuncture and nothing had worked). I advise anyone wishing to quit to move to vamping!! My husband has been mixing a 6mg and a 3mg the past few weeks and has just moved to a 3mg today. I was using a 3mg for the past month or so and just went to a 0 today!!

    1. This is amazing! I am super glad that we were able to be a part of this! It is truly a great feat when you are able to quit something that has a hold on you.

    2. If you struggle with 0mg, most decent vape shops can mix up 1.5mg of whatever flavor you choose. I am between 3mg and 1.5, sometimes i mix them to get somewhere in the 2.25mg range, i hope to be able to happily make it to zero one day!

  11. Love this article! Thanks guys!
    I vape all the time! 2 to 3 mg! I was told for surgery I would have to stop for 45 days! And they will do a blood test! If any nicotine is in my test they will not do surgery! And and yes just bought 150.00 worth of vapes! Trying to find out how long this really will stay in my system! Any answers will be appreciated! Sincerely V

    1. This all depends on your Body Mass Index. The safe answer to guarantee no issues would be 45 days. Could this be less? Perhaps. Is it worth the risk of not getting the surgery you need? That is your call! Think of this as a test of your willpower and a gauge of your addiction to nicotine! Sounds like a great self-assessment!

  12. I would like to deliver nicotine into my body in strong amounts. I know it is considered unhealthy, but I believe it could help a condition I have with my body’s system. Can I do it without using cigarettes?

  13. The biggest problem I have, my smoker friends have, and anyone I talk with has – is how do you know when you are getting enough vape? Two vapes a minute for 10 minutes? Four vapes a minute for eight minutes? one vape every 45 seconds? And for how long? I think this is what frustrates us smokers the most, we don’t know of any formula. I know for most people, including myself, about eight drags on a cigarette and I’m good for about 25 minutes. No video I watch or article I read explains this about vaping, and if you talk to someone who vapes, you get the same frustrating answer – well… it depends… and everything they say after that is fluff. If someone could tell us how to deliver the right amount of vape in a certain time frame, it would/may really help. I want to quit smoking, but as with most people who try and fail at vaping, there’s no good answers out there, which make us just give up as many of us can’t figure it out.

    1. Tom,

      I understand your frustration with not knowing how much vape equals the same amount of nicotine that you will get from how often you smoked. The reason this information isn’t available is because it varies greatly depending on what device you are using, what temperature you have it set at, how big your coils are, and what nicotine level you are vaping on. Not to mention elevation and a whole bunch of other factors that come into play. There isn’t a chart explaining how often you should smoke to satisfy your nicotine craving, you just sort of figured it out over time. This is something you will have to do with vaping. Find a flavor/blend/nicotine level you enjoy, a mod that performance well, a temperature setting that feels comfortable and vape until you’re satisfied! If you feel like you just aren’t getting enough nicotine or that you are vaping too often, increase your nicotine level. Hope this helps!

    2. I just quit smoking cigs here recently, i know the feeling. When i started to vape, i used an Aspire K3 which is a kind of low to mid grade unit, i felt like i still wanted a cig even when vaping, i ended up breaking it accidentally and switch to a Smok Alien which is a bit more expensive but also more powerful and it made a world of difference. i still wake up wanting a real cig, but after using the vape for a few minutes with my morning caffeine that feeling goes away so the setup can definitely make a big difference. The cheap ones from gas stations that look like cigs just didn’t cut it for me.

  14. The first advantage of vaping over smoking is that you are not putting smoke on your system, no more carbon monoxide, which binds irreversibly to blood cells and lower your blood oxigen percentage, then you begin to breath better and lower your respiratory risk. The second advantage is that you can regulate the amount of nicotine you put into your system, more nicotine concentration, less vaping… you vape until you feel satisfied and period. Nicotine alone does not stress the heart as smoking a single cigarrete does. A friend just told me that he can quit whenever he wants and he just smoke a few ones a day….. but he’s still sucking smoke and CMonoxide. While vaping does not.

  15. I started vaping using a Juul 3 weeks ago and am doing very well with it. No desires for a cigarette. Can you tell me how the Jull compares nicotine wise to the methods used in this article? I puff on it 3 to for times every hour or 2.
    Thank you.

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