Vaping has become a popular alternative to smoking, with people switching to e-cigarettes and other vape devices. However, many individuals are unaware of the differences in nicotine levels between cigarettes and vaping. Just how much nicotine is there in vape, and how does this compare to a cigarette?
The answer to these questions aren’t straightforward. Firstly, how much nicotine is in a vape, and how much nicotine is in a puff of a vape, are two different questions with two very different answers.
Secondly, there are many factors that affect the amount of nicotine in a vape such as the nicotine concentration of the ejuice used, the size of the tank, the power of the device, and the resistance of the coil.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the type of nicotine in a cigarette and the type of nicotine in a vape are not always the same type of nicotine.
In this guide, we’ll go over what nicotine is, as well as the difference between the nicotine in a vape and the nicotine in a cigarette. We’ll also go over the amount of nicotine in a cigarette and show you how to calculate the amount of nicotine in your vape.
Plus, you’ll learn a rough way to estimate the amount of nicotine per puff when using a vape mod, pod vape, or disposable.
Sit back, prime your coils, and prepare to take a journey into how you can understand, calculate and control the amount of nicotine in your vape.
What is Nicotine and Why is it so Addictive?
Nicotine is found in various tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and vape juice (or e-juice).
It’s a stimulant that affects the nervous system and it’s known to be highly addictive. This is because nicotine triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward. The immediate rush of pleasure makes it difficult for individuals to quit.
Over time, the brain’s reward system becomes dependent on the drug to release dopamine, leading to addiction.
Nicotine also affects other neurotransmitters in the brain, such as acetylcholine and norepinephrine, which can impact mood, concentration, and energy levels, further contributing to addiction.
How is Nicotine Absorbed into the Body?
When a person inhales smoke or vapor containing nicotine, it quickly reaches the lungs, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body.
It can also be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes, such as the mouth, nose, and eyes.
When a person vapes, the e-cigarette or vaping device heats a liquid solution (also known as e-liquid or vape juice) containing nicotine, flavors, and propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin.
The coil in the device heats up and vaporizes the e-liquid, which the user inhales as an aerosol or vapor. Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs, where it circulates through the body and brain.
When a person smokes a cigarette, the tobacco leaves are burned and the smoke is inhaled into the lungs. The smoke contains nicotine in its vaporized form (as well as countless toxic chemicals), which is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs.
From there, the nicotine travels to the brain where it binds to receptors, leading to the release of dopamine. This causes the pleasurable sensations associated with smoking.
Is There a Difference Between the Nicotine in Cigarettes and Vapes?
You may wonder if there’s a difference between the nicotine in your favorite pack of cigarettes and your favorite vape. First, let’s take each form and break it down into bite-sized chunks.
Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the leaves of the tobacco plant. When burned and inhaled, nicotine is absorbed into the body.
Freebase e-juice refers to e-liquid made with nicotine in its pure and natural form. It is the most common type of e-juice and is created by extracting nicotine from tobacco leaves and adding it to a base of Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG) along with flavorings.
The nicotine used in freebase e-juice is not chemically altered, resulting in a harsher throat hit and slower absorption. Freebase e-juice is typically used in sub-ohm vape tanks and mods, requiring higher wattages to vaporize adequately.
Salt nicotine e-juice (or nic-salt) is an e-liquid that uses a combination of nicotine and an organic acid, benzoic acid. It is absorbed by the body in a similar way to regular e-juice, only quicker due to the addition of benzoic acid.
Benzoic acid lowers the pH level of the nicotine and makes it more easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
When the vapor is inhaled, it enters the lungs and is absorbed into the bloodstream through the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs in the lungs. From there, it is distributed throughout the body to various organs, such as the brain, heart, and lungs.
How to Calculate Nicotine Consumption
Now that we have broken down each of the different forms of nicotine, it’s time to figure out how much we intake into our bodies.
The nicotine levels in vapes and cigarettes can vary based on multiple factors, including the kind of device or brand of cigarette, the potency of the nicotine solution or tobacco, and the individual’s smoking or vaping habits.
Nevertheless, there are some general guidelines to follow when calculating the content in vapes versus cigarettes.
On average, one cigarette contains around 12mg of nicotine, but this may vary from 8mg to 20mg depending on the brand and type of cigarette.
To determine the total intake, multiply the content per cigarette by the number of cigarettes smoked daily.
Example: If someone smokes 20 cigarettes per day and each cigarette contains 12mg of nicotine, their daily nicotine intake would be 240mg.
The nicotine levels in vape e-liquids are usually measured in milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml) or as a percentage of the total volume of the e-liquid.
To determine the total intake, multiply the content per milliliter by the amount of e-liquid consumed daily.
Example: If someone vapes 5ml of e-liquid per day, and the e-liquid holds 6mg/ml of nicotine, their daily nicotine intake would be 30mg.
Calculating the Amount Nicotine Per Puff
Determining the amount of nicotine per puff in a vape can be difficult due to various factors such as the device, coil resistance, airflow, wattage, and puff duration. However, you can estimate the nicotine content using this general method:
- Check the e-liquid label or manufacturer’s website for the nicotine concentration in your eliquid. This is measured in mg/ml (e.g: 6mg/ml).
- Fill up your tank or pod.
- Multiply the nicotine concentration by the e-liquid volume in your tank or pod system to find the total nicotine content (e.g: 6mg/ml x 2ml pod size = 12mg total content).
- Use your vape and count your puffs. You can also use the puff counter found on many vapes.
- Once you’ve vaped all of the ejuice in your tank, divide the total nicotine content by the amount of puffs to determine the nicotine amount per puff. (e.g: 12mg ÷ number of puffs).
For example, if you fill up a 2ml pod/tank with a 6mg/ml e-liquid, the total nicotine content is 12mg. If it takes you 100 puffs to finish the tank, then the nicotine content per puff is roughly 0.12mg (12 ÷ 100).
Keep in mind that this is only an estimate and nicotine content can vary depending on many factors.
Calculating Nicotine Consumption with a Disposable Vape
Yes, you can! Because disposables come prefilled with a certain amount of eliquid in a specified strength, and are also rated as good for a certain number of puffs , determining your estimated nicotine consumption per puff is straightforward.
For example, let’s say you purchase a 50mg/ml disposable that comes prefilled with 12ml of ejuice. It is rated for 5000 puffs.
To determine the amount of nicotine per puff, we must first find out the total nicotine content by multiplying the nicotine content per ml (50mg/ml) by the total amount of ejuice (12ml).
50 x 12 = 600mg total nicotine content in the disposable.
Next, we divide the total nicotine content (600mg) by the amount of puffs that the device is rated for (5000).
600 ÷ 5000 = 0.12mg of nicotine per puff.
Other Factors that Affect Nicotine Consumption
We’ve determined how to calculate how much nicotine we’re consuming, so surely that’s it, right?
Actually, a few more things need to be covered before we can determine our exact nicotine consumption levels. However, rest assured, a little bit of light education goes a long way.
Let’s take the analogy of two different types of people in a boxing match.
The first person, let’s call them Boxer A, has trained professionally for most of their adult life and is considered one of the best in the world.
The next person, Boxer B, is semi-pro and has been training for only a few years.
If you asked both people to throw a punch, who do you think would punch the hardest? Of course, Boxer A!
What has this got to do with vaping devices?
The more powerful the device, the more nicotine you will receive per puff. But there are some other elements to this, which we will cover next.
MTL vs. DTL vaping
Suppose you want to measure your nicotine consumption accurately. In that case, you must be aware of your vaping technique and the type of device you are using, as it can significantly impact nicotine absorption.
This is where we introduce MTL and DTL vaping, but what exactly does this mean?
MTL (mouth-to-lung) vaping and DTL (direct-to-lung) vaping are different draw styles that provide distinct vaping experiences:
- MTL vaping involves taking a puff of vapor into your mouth, holding it for a moment, and then inhaling it into your lungs. This style of vaping produces a similar experience to smoking a cigarette and is often recommended for those new to vaping or trying to quit smoking. MTL vaping typically uses lower-wattage devices and produces less vapor per puff.
- DTL vaping, on the other hand, involves taking a puff of vapor directly into your lungs, similar to taking a deep breath. This style of vaping produces larger clouds of smoke and is often used by experienced vapers looking for a more intense experience. DTL vaping typically uses higher-wattage devices and delivers more vapor per puff.
Is there a Difference in Nicotine Intake Between MTL and DTL vaping?
MTL vapes generally have less nicotine per puff than a DTL vape. This is because MTL vaping involves taking smaller, less powerful puffs, leading to less e-liquid vaporization and less nicotine inhaled.
In contrast, DTL vaping involves taking larger, more powerful puffs, leading to more e-liquid vaporization and more nicotine inhaled per puff.
What About Sub-ohm Devices?
A sub-ohm device is a vaping device with a coil with a resistance of less than one ohm. When using a sub-ohm device, the coil is heated up more quickly and to a higher temperature, resulting in larger clouds of vapor and more intense flavor.
Regarding nicotine levels, sub-ohm vaping can affect the strength of the hit. Because sub-ohm devices produce more vapor, they can deliver more nicotine per puff, making the overall experience more intense. As a result, many vapers choose to reduce the strength of their e-liquid when using a sub-ohm device.
Choosing the right device for your ejuice
You need to be careful with the different types of nicotine (freebase or nicotine salt) and the type of device that you are using. Let’s consider the following scenario.
- A tank that contains 50 mg nic-salt e-juice
- Sub-ohm coil
- A mod that’s set to 100w
With this setup, vaping just one puff could easily cause you to absorb too much nicotine and feel sick. Too much nicotine can cause the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Breathing difficulties
Nic salt e-juice contains a higher nicotine concentration than traditional e-juice, making it more potent.
High-powered vaping devices can deliver nicotine more efficiently and quickly, leading to a potentially hazardous increase in intake.
Therefore, it is not recommended to vape nic salt e-juice with a high-powered vaping device. Instead, use a lower-power pod vape with a coil resistance that is at or above 0.8Ω.
If you need help determining which type of device works the best with salt nic, check out our guide to the best salt-nic devices available in 2023.
Alternatively, for the freebase lovers, view our round-up of the best e-juices available to ensure you’re buying the best type for your device and personal preferences.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the difference between nicotine levels in a cigarette and in a vape is crucial for anyone who is looking to regulate their nicotine intake.
While you can make educated guesses to calculate your estimated nicotine intake per puff, there are many factors involved such as the resistance of your coil, the wattage that you’re vaping at, and the amount of airflow, which make determining the exact amount of nicotine per puff difficult to do.
Instead, calculate your nicotine intake by the strength of your ejuice (mg/ml) and the amount of ejuice that your tank holds. This is the simplest and most straightforward way to control and understand your nicotine intake.