Quitting cigarettes and converting to vapes can be quite the challenge with all of the different types of vapes, vape nicotine levels, coils, and tanks and pods - all the new terminology to get your head around can be rather daunting.
Vapes are a form of e-cigarette and come with a wide range of flavours - a far cry from the limited flavours with tobacco cigarettes.
Vapes operate by vaporising e-liquids (hence the name!), of which usually contain flavourings, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, and, in some cases, nicotine as well. This releases a vapour that you can inhale rather than the harmful smoke in tobacco products.
Transitioning to vapes to quit cigarette smoking is a method smokers often use. One study even found that there was an increase in successful tobacco cessation as smokers increasingly used e-cigarettes - but it is also true that the switch can be intimidating and confusing for those who have never used vapes before.
In particular, the different levels and strengths of nicotine in vape e-liquids can trouble new vape users. If you are a (newly) former cigarette smoker looking to vape as an alternative, but find the varying nicotine strengths complicated - you have come to the right place.
Here is a comprehensive guide on e-liquid nicotine strengths and which nicotine levels are best suited for you.
The Basics - What Is Nicotine?
To start off, let’s first explain what nicotine is.
Nicotine is classified as a stimulant drug and commonly found in tobacco products like cigarettes, though it can also be found in e-liquids of e-cigarettes.
Nicotine stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain, particularly dopamine, which incites pleasure and ultimately boosts people’s moods.
As a result of this, it can become an addictive substance, and thus trigger nicotine cravings.
Is Nicotine Harmful for You?
It is worth noting that nicotine is not risk-free. Nicotine and tobacco research have shown that the addictiveness of nicotine can be harmful as it can be a factor in why someone may not want to quit smoking, but it is arguably a better alternative than carbon monoxide and tar, which are found in tobacco products.
The cons of smoking tobacco cigarettes vastly outweigh that of using e-cigarettes - the most harmful substances are usually from tobacco smoke, and whilst various chemicals in e-cigarettes may be unhealthy as well, this is at a considerably lower level than that of the former.
The option of different nicotine strengths, including nicotine-free, in e-liquids can help smokers decrease the amounts of nicotine at a gradual pace, rather than all at once where they are more likely to experience heavy withdrawal symptoms.
It is said that the amount of nicotine in the average 15 puffs of an e-cigarette is 0.5-15.4mg.
Nicotine Strengths Explained
There is a wide range of e-liquids with various nicotine levels available in the market, labelled in mg/ml or percentages. These include:
The nicotine strength that you pick should match your smoking habits to get the best possible solution as a former - or current but transitioning - cigarette smoker. It’s also important to remember that certain strengths are better for devices that optimise mouth-to-lung (MTL) vaping - less vapour, higher strengths - and others optimised for direct-to-lung (DTL) vaping - more vapour, lower strengths.
The rule of thumb is that:
- 0mg-5mg is for social smokers
- 6mg-11mg is for light smokers
- 12mg-17mg is for average smokers
- 18mg-20mg is for heavy smokers
Therefore, if you want a bigger nicotine hit, you need to go for a higher nicotine concentration.
However, this may change according to what you feel works for you.
If you’ve recently quit smoking, it can be worth trying a higher nicotine strength and then slowly reducing it as you feel more comfortable with not having the urge to smoke.
Nicotine Strength in mg/mL vs Nicotine Strength as a Percentage
Did you know that a study found that some people, especially adolescents and young adults, have difficulty understanding the different nicotine concentrations labelled on e-liquids?
It is not a surprise, then, if you also do not understand, as measurements of nicotine levels in mg/mL and as percentages may be quite confusing if you’ve never seen these before.
We’ve simplified it for you here:
Mg/mL shows how much nicotine is present per millilitre of liquid - so if an e-liquid had 3mg/3mL, it has 3mg of nicotine per millilitre of liquid.
Nicotine levels may also be presented as a percentage, showing the percentage of nicotine by volume. As an example, 3mg is therefore 0.3% of nicotine whilst 10mg would be 1%, and 18mg is 1.8%.
Once you understand that, this then means that a 10ml bottle of 3mg nicotine would amount to 30mg of nicotine (ml x mg).
The Range of Nicotine Strengths
Now, the question is - what are the differences between the different nicotine levels and which one should you choose?
- 3mg or 0.3% is the lowest dose of nicotine you can get, and extremely popular with sub-ohm vapers - if you’re one of them, there are high VG options in 3mg. If you’re not, however, there are also high PG options for more discreet clouds. This strength is probably best for those weaning themselves off nicotine, so if you’re in the final stages of quitting nicotine or smoking in general, this is likely the best solution for you. One of our favourite picks is the USA Mix, which is great for a conventional tobacco-reminiscent flavour.
- 5mg or 0.5% is another low nicotine strength, perfect for those who don’t smoke regularly. If you’ve recently quit cigarettes, 5mg is a great nicotine strength if you were only a light and casual smoker. We recommend Blue Razz Ice to get a combo of berries and icy freshness.
- 6mg or 0.6% nicotine level is still a low nicotine strength, but more suitable for those who usually finish half a pack of cigarettes in a day. It’s probably one of the most popular nicotine concentrations for e-cigarette users. If you’re a vape cloud connoisseur, try the high VG e-liquids for bigger vape clouds, but for more subtle vapour, try high PG or 50/50 e-liquid vapes. We love Strawberry Cheesecake as a flavour we can puff multiple times a day.
- 10mg or 1%, 11mg or 1.1% and 12mg or 1.2% are good nicotine concentrations to choose from as they’re considered medium strength (suitable for smokers who may finish a pack a day). In particular, 12mg can hit the throat tougher than its lower counterparts - why not try Black Jack for a liquorice and aniseed twist?
- 18mg or 1.8% and 20mg or 2% are the highest nicotine levels (suitable for heavy smokers on more than one pack a day). These levels will provide a similar throat hit as traditional cigarettes. These concentrations may be suitable for you if you’re new to vaping and were previously a frequent cigarette smoker. Rhubarb and Custard in 18mg is a deliciously nostalgic flavour to try if you’re a fan of boiled sweets.
Are There Nicotine-Free Vapes?
Vapes come in all shapes and sizes, but choosing the best vape for you is all dependent on your own preferences.
At TABlites, we offer a collection of diverse vapes including rechargeable vape kits, which require topping up with your favourite e-liquids, and disposable vapes, which come pre-filled with fixed nicotine strengths of 10mg and 20mg.
Vape kits are more flexible with nicotine levels, as you simply need to purchase the e-liquid that you would like to use. This is recommended for smokers trying to quit, as you are able to lower the nicotine strength as you progress.
For vaping beginners, especially if you are trying to quit smoking, we suggest purchasing starter vape kits.
All vape kits at TABlites come with a free e-liquid - of which there are a few options that you can choose from. We recommend:
- Aspire PockeX AIO Kit - A best-seller at TABlites, this is available in 6 different colours and has a sleek design - it’s perfect for those who want a compact vape kit. You can pick from 3 free different e-liquid flavours to come with the vape, including Tobacco, Menthol, and Blueberry. These can be 0mg, 3mg, 6mg, 12mg, or 18mg nicotine concentration. This vape can easily be used for sub-ohm vaping as well as for casual use and has a simple functionality - a single button operation system. It’s ideal for both beginners and more advanced users with its compatibility with both MTL and DTL coils.
- UWELL Caliburn A2 Pod Kit - Another best-seller, it is lightweight and an excellent MTL vape starter kit for beginners. It comes in 5 colours, including a unique Iris Purple shade. The free e-liquid selections consist of Blue Sour Raspberry, Menthol, Passionfruit Kiwi Guava, Strawberry Ice, and Tobacco - in nicotine levels of either 10mg or 20mg. As a pod kit, it has more of the conventional vape design, which is ideal for on-the-go vaping, as simply taking a puff can activate it via the auto draw mode. Or, you can press the fire button if you prefer it that way.
- UWELL Caliburn AK2 Pod Kit - A bit wider than the others, yet still slim, this vape can easily fit in your pocket, or even be attached to the lanyard that comes with it. Like with the A2 Pod Kit, it has the same e-liquid flavours to choose from, and it’s straightforward to use - just inhale on the mouthpiece and the vapour releases. The sensation of smoking a cigarette is replicated through the 15W output, making it a classic MTL starter vape kit for beginner vapers. The cool options of colours like Neon Orange, Turquoise Blue, and Sakura Pink also make it a stylish vape kit if you appreciate bright and bold colours.
Disposable vapes are easy enough to use, and you don’t need to worry about things like changing the pods or cleaning your vape. Do note, though, that the selection of flavours and nicotine strengths are limited with disposable vapes, but this shouldn’t deter you from disposables as there are still tempting flavours to choose from.
As they come in limited strengths, mainly 10mg and 20mg, disposables are able to satisfy your nicotine cravings whilst offering a juicy and tasty flavour.
If you’re more interested in low-maintenance vape smoking, a disposable vape may be a quick fix for you. They’re simple MTL devices, imitating the experience of smoking a cigarette with their auto draw function, so you can walk and puff effortlessly.
Here, we’ve listed a few of our favourite disposable vapes that we suggest for you to try out if you’re trying to quit smoking:
- Elf Bar 600 - A popular brand of disposables, they come in strengths of 0mg and 20mg, with the latter being a better choice for recently quit smokers. They’re beginner-friendly, discreet, and last up to 500-600 puffs. There’s a variety of flavours to choose from, including Blueberry Sour Raspberry and even Cola.
- Nasty Air Fix by Nasty Juice - For heavy smokers, these are the ideal starter disposable vapes, with 10mg and 20mg of nicotine, and approximately 675 puffs. With adjustable airflow, this allows you to pick from a tighter or looser draw, emulating the sensations of smoking traditional cigarettes. We recommend trying the Menthol flavour if you aren’t used to different flavours, but if you’re willing to try, then Watermelon Ice and ASAP Grape are delicious.
- Pod BM600 by Lost Mary - Designed for first-time vapers, these 20mg disposable vapes are one of the best beginner disposables. If you can’t tell by the name, it lasts up to 600 puffs, delivering subtle vapour. If you have a sweet tooth, flavours like Cotton Candy Ice and Strawberry Ice will surely satisfy you.
If you are not a fan of nicotine and prefer a nicotine-free solution, there are e-liquids with 0mg or 0% nicotine. Additionally, disposable vapes of 0% nicotine strengths are also available if you would rather not maintain a vape kit.
There are still some risks associated with nicotine-free smoking and it may have adverse effects, especially if you were a particularly moderate smoker and suddenly change to nicotine-free. Some potential effects of smoking nicotine-free fluids include:
It's also worth noting that more research still does need to be done to understand the health effects of long-term e-cigarette use.
However, clinical studies have discovered that e-cigarette users showed greater dependence on products with nicotine compared to those who used nicotine-free ones. With any form of vaping, there are potential risks, but the bottom line is that vaping without nicotine does appear to be safer than vaping with it.
If you’re looking for nicotine-free vaping options, TABlites recommends the following:
- Tobacco e-liquid - The perfect solution for smokers who have recently quit, offering a tobacco taste without the toxic elements in tobacco smoke.
- Menthol e-liquid - If you prefer a menthol taste over typical tobacco, this is a great solution for trying out vape e-liquids.
- Blueberry e-liquid - A classic fruity flavour that is perfect for transitioning into the different e-liquid flavours.
- Elf Bar 600 in Watermelon - A part of the popular Elf Bar 600 range, the Watermelon flavour is sure to delight your taste buds.
- Elf Bar 600 in Apple Peach - Two (of fruit) a day is better than one a day.
- Elf Bar Shisha NC600 in Two Cherry - Elf’s NC600 range features 0mg of nicotine in each device and the flavour Two Cherry is a must for fans of fruity and sweet.
Vape Nicotine Levels and Nicotine Bases
E-liquids are formed from a mixture of Propylene Glycol (PG) or Vegetable Glycerin (VG) and nicotine - these form the different nicotine bases. There can be variations of these, which may mix both PG and VG, creating VPG nicotine bases.
There are mainly two different types of nicotine bases of nicotine e-liquids - freebase (of PG or VG variety) and nicotine salts.
Freebase nicotine is usually a PG/VG mixture and is the traditional nicotine base in mostly all e-liquids found on the market. Freebases offer a strong throat hit, which can be increasingly harsh on the throat as you move up the nicotine strengths. It may provide similar sensations to smoking cigarettes so is better suited for those who wish to quit smoking.
Freebase nicotine comes in different variations, including:
- 50/50 e-liquids - composed of 50% PG and 50% VG, used for devices that support both DTL and MTL inhalation and available in 0mg-18mg nicotine levels. We recommend the Deluxe Tobacco by Simple Essentials in strengths of 0mg-12mg, a combination of tobacco notes and caramel.
- Shortfill e-liquids - contain a higher ratio of VG to PG for bigger clouds and are available in sizes of 50ml, 100ml and 200ml. These larger bottles of 0mg nicotine are not filled to the rim, allowing you to add one (or two) nicotine shot(s). Hazelnut Cookie Shortfill by Sugar Pie Vapes is our favourite at the moment, more suitable for sub-ohm vaping.
Nicotine salts, or nic salts, take freebase nicotine and add an acid, balancing the pH. This creates a smoother and gentler throat hit and, as a result, higher strengths of nicotine can be used.
Nic salts are absorbed into the bloodstream faster, which may help you conquer your cravings more quickly, so it’s perfect for smokers struggling to quit and/or new vapers.
This is also suitable for those who want to satisfy their nicotine cravings but don’t smoke often.
At TABlites, we offer nic salts ranging from 5mg to 20mg. Here are a few of our top picks to get you started:
- Bubblegum by IVG - comes in either 10mg or 20mg, for those who enjoy bubblegum candy with tinges of strawberry and banana.
- Frozen Berries by Doozy Vape Co. - available in 10mg and 20mg, this is a perfect blend of berries and crushed ice for a cool and refreshing flavour.
- Menthol by TABlites - a classic flavour if you want to keep it simple with strengths of 12mg and 18mg for a smoother experience.
Nic salts are also present in high-strength disposable vapes such as:
- Geek Bars - 20mg nic salt designed to last as long as 20 cigarettes.
- Tasty Fruity Zoom Bars - offers 20mg nic salts of a range of fruity flavours, with a lifespan of around 600 puffs.
FAQs: Vape Nicotine Strengths
If you’re new to vaping, you may find the tremendous amount of choice a little, well, overwhelming. Here are some common questions that we often get put to us, which will hopefully help you get your bearings.
What Strengths of Nicotine Are Available in E-Liquids?
Nicotine strengths can vary from 0mg to 20mg. The higher the number, the higher the nicotine level.
- 0mg - nicotine-free
- 3mg-5mg - low concentration
- 6mg-11mg - low to medium concentration
- 12-17mg - medium to high concentration
- 18-20mg - high concentration
Is 2% Vape a Lot of Nicotine?
A 2% vape or 2%/20mg of nicotine in an e-liquid is considered high strength.
A 2% nicotine concentration may be harsher on the throat and is recommended for heavy smokers who may smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day.
How Much Nicotine Is in a Cigarette?
The nicotine content in a cigarette amounts to approximately 1.1mg-1.8mg, which equals 22 mg-36 mg in a pack.
Nicotine content in e-cigarettes on average is 0.5mg-15.4mg per 15 puffs.
Is 20mg the Same As 2% Vape?
In terms of nicotine levels, 20mg is the same as 2% vape - this means that there is 20mg of nicotine per millilitre or 2% per volume.
In a 10ml bottle of 20mg, there is then 200mg of nicotine (ml x mg).
What Level of Nicotine Should I Vape?
The level of nicotine that you vape is dependent on your own preferences, including your smoking habits and chosen device. Lower levels of nicotine are better for those who may not smoke often but still want a nicotine hit - it’s also good for sub-ohm vaping. Higher levels of nicotine are better for people who smoke frequently and require a bigger nicotine intake.
- 0mg - no nicotine, suitable for those who have worked their way down from higher strengths
- 3mg - low strength nicotine, ideal for those on the final steps of quitting and don’t often smoke
- 6mg - low strength, best for light smokers
- 12mg - medium strength, for moderate smokers who smoke a pack a day
- 18mg-20mg - high strength, suited for heavy smokers
Shop Our Range of E-Liquid Nicotine Strengths Today
So, there you have it, a guide to what you need to know about e-liquid nicotine strengths. We hope that this has helped you understand the different nicotine strengths, how they differ from each other, and which ones are most suitable for you.
TABlites is a leading online vape store in the UK, offering an extensive range of products from the biggest brands in the e-cigarette market, with orders over £20 receiving free delivery.
If you’re still unsure about vaping, why not check out our other guides to see what else you may need to know about making the transition into vaping. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns - we’re here always to help you through your quit-smoking journey.