Nicotine Strength | Where Should You Start?

History of Nicotine

Before we were worrying about nicotine strength in vape liquid, the chemical hadn’t even been discovered yet. Ever wondered when nicotine was first used? Nicotine has been used as a stimulant and medicine for more than 2000 years. However, crude nicotine was known by 1571.  Nicotine is indigenous to America, and it was first spread to Europe by European invaders who loved its effect. In Europe, it stirred up divided opinion. While some saw it as medicinal, others saw it as toxic and addictive. In the early 1600s, smoking pipes and cigars spread widely. In 1763, nicotine was first used as an insecticide. It wasn’t until 1828 that the first purified version was obtained. Nicotine’s correct molecular formula was found in 1843, and the first laboratory synthesis was reported in 19043

Why is nicotine so addictive?

Nicotine is highly addictive and even lethal2 when used in high dosages, which is the reason why it is used as an insecticide. Nicotine changes the balance of two chemicals in the brain, dopamine, and noradrenaline, which causes one’s mood and concentration to change4. Nicotine also causes a surge of endorphins in the reward areas of the brain, which leads to euphoria. This surge, however, is not like getting high on other drugs5. It is much briefer, meaning you have to keep on taking nicotine to experience euphoria. Repeated exposure in search of this feeling leads to addiction. Moreover, repeated exposure to nicotine increases the level of dopamine in the brain which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug.

The Difference Between Vaping and Smoking

Most vapers were smokers. Also, most newbies in vaping are seeking to quit smoking. Therefore, the comparison between vaping and smoking is one that cannot be ignored. The most apparent reason why vaping nicotine is better than smoking it is that when you smoke nicotine in a cigarette, it produces tar which blocks your respiratory system and causes respiratory diseases such as bronchitis.

Smoking nicotine in a cigarette requires combustion of thousands of chemicals found in the traditional cigarette. More than twenty of these chemicals are carcinogenic. E-juices on the other hand, contain nicotine, flavor, Propylene Glycol, and Vegetable Glycerine. When vaping, there is no need to combust anything, and that is why most harmful chemicals found in tobacco are eliminated in e-juices. Vaping reduces exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens6 found in the traditional cigarette. 

Smoking cigarettes increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. According to research, other chemicals in smoke, other than nicotine, increase the risk of dying from these diseases. Carbon monoxide, for example, is emitted when you combust the traditional cigarette. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this gas damages the heart and circulatory system, which could lead to heart attacks. 

Carbon monoxide and several other harmful compounds are not found in e-cigarette vapor at all. Other compounds are also at a much lower concentration in e-juices hence reducing the risk of disease.

How much nicotine should you start with?

Nicotine levels can be very confusing for new vapers, mainly because when smoking the traditional cigarette no one bothers to look at the level of nicotine. In vaping, however, this amount is significant. Finding the right level will help you hit the sweet spot and enjoy vaping. How much nicotine is right for beginners?

The right level depends on the kind of experience you are looking for when vaping, and the amount of nicotine you are used to taking from cigarettes. To find the perfect level, consider:

  • Usage: how many times a day do you plan on vaping? If you want to vape many times a day, low levels of nicotine are the best to avoid dizziness and nausea. However, if you plan to vape once or twice a day, you can go for higher levels
  • Throat hit: high nicotine levels in e-juices give them a harsh taste and throat hit. To enjoy better favor and smooth throat hit, go for low-level nicotine.
  • Equivalency: some people prefer to look for a nicotine level that is equal to what they were taking, getting an equivalent level of pleasure.

Nicotine in e-juices is measured in milligrams per milliliter. Finding the perfect nicotine level is different for every vaper. Here are some levels to help you out:

  • 3mg/ml: this level is ideal for you if you were formally a light smoker (less than 10 cigarettes a day). It is also an excellent level for vapers who are downgrading on the amount of nicotine they take.
  • 6mg/ml: this is the best level for new vapers who were previously moderate smokers or those who were used to smoking light cigarettes.
  • 12-18mg/ml: if you were a heavy smoker, this level is the best for you. Also, it works well for people who were previously smoking unfiltered cigarettes.

How to wean down and benefits

Weaning, or gradually reducing the amount of nicotine you take, is the best way to eliminate withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine. Gradual reduction gives your body few changes to adapt to which results in minor withdrawal symptoms. 

When weaning down, set goals for the amount you will reduce every day or every week. Begin by setting a quit date a bit far from the current date, depending on how heavy you smoke. Keep reducing the number of cigarettes you take as you approach this date. Along the way, switch to light brands.

Weaning down takes a lot of discipline. So ensure that you have a plan on how to maintain that discipline. For example, instead of smoking before dinner, take an evening walk. Always keep in mind that the greater goal is to stay healthy to avoid slipping back into heavy nicotine usage. 

How does weaning down benefit smokers? Here’s how:

  • Weaning down reduces withdrawal symptoms, which makes quitting less unpleasant.
  • Weaning helps you reduce the susceptibility of suffering nicotine related diseases.
  • Weaning is proven to be the most successful way to quit smoking over the long-term

What are nicotine salts?

Nicotine salts (nic salts) refer to processed nicotine used in e-juice. As opposed to freebase nicotine, nic salts allow you to vape high levels of nicotine without getting a harsh throat hit. Nic salts allow users to take in more nicotine per puff. In addition to this, they allow usage of stronger liquids compared to freebase nicotine. These salts work best in low powered devices.

Which devices need what nicotine levels?

RDAs: these devices need low nicotine levels such as 3mg/ml. these devices support high vapor production and lead to more nicotine ingestion

Sub-ohm: sub-ohm devices also work well with low nicotine levels (3-6mg/ml). More vapor is produced leading to better ingestion. As a result, vapers hit their sweet spot even with low nicotine levels even if they were heavy smokers. Sub-ohm devices do not do well with high nicotine levels.

Cartomizers and pens: these do well with high nicotine levels like 12mg/ml. This is because they have poor vapor and nicotine production.

It is important to note that vaping may lead to a different experience form smoking. It is easy to get more nicotine when vaping than when smoking so, do not go too high on the levels. Also, with different flavors to choose from, vaping can prove more enjoyable and help you quit smoking traditional cigars. 

You may also like our article on the history of nicotine!

Caroline Sparks

Writer, Vaper, Advocate Have an idea? Comment below!