Nicotine, a naturally occurring substance found in tobacco plants, can have a range of effects on the user including calmness and mood elevation. However, this enjoyable psychological reaction makes nicotine a highly addictive substance.

While quitting smoking is the single best health choice that a smoker can make, that doesn't make it easy. Vape kits are a great alternative for those who want to quit smoking, offering an alternative nicotine delivery system which can keep nicotine cravings at bay while also feeling similar enough to the act of smoking to address the physical habit.

1 ml of 20 mg/ml nicotine strength e-liquid is roughly equivalent to 20 cigarettes a day. From this, you can work out what strength e-liquid you should buy for your vape so you’re getting enough of a nicotine hit.

Read on to find out how you can find the best kind of vaping experience for your personal needs.

Understanding nicotine strengths

Understanding nicotine strengths in cigarettes and vapes means getting to know how it’s measured, which is in milligrams.

Cigarettes have anywhere between 8-20 mg of nicotine in them. It’s generally accepted that for every cigarette you smoke, the actual nicotine absorption is around 1-2 mg of nicotine per cigarette. This is because a lot of the nicotine is exhaled when you breathe out. It’s actually a pretty inefficient way of getting a nicotine hit, especially if you take into account the health drawbacks from smoking cigarettes.

If you’re looking to switch to vaping, you can roughly work out how much nicotine you’ll need in your vape based on the above. If you usually smoke 10 cigarettes a day, you’ll be after roughly 10 mg/ml of nicotine in your vape juice; if you smoke 20 cigarettes or more, you’ll want 20 mg/ml of nicotine.

It’s important to note there isn’t an exact science with measuring nicotine levels in cigarettes and vapes; it depends on a whole host of factors, even coming down to your own body composition and lung capacity.

The vaping experience is highly customisable depending on what type of throat hit you’re after. There are thousands of different vape kits and e-liquids available on the market, each with different designs and features that make them more suited to different types of vapers.

Nicotine in vape juice

While nicotine levels in cigarettes are measured in milligrams, some vape e-liquids will show the nicotine strength as mg/ml while others may show it as a percentage. A typical range for percentages would be anything from 0.3% all the way through to 2%. But how does that translate into mg/ml?

If you’re looking at a nicotine percentage in an e-liquid, this just shows how much nicotine is in the bottle in comparison to the other ingredients (vegetable glycerine, or VG, and propylene glycol, or PG). So if you had a 2% e-liquid, then this would be the nicotine strength while the remaining 98% is made up of VG and PG.

You can easily convert mg/ml into a percentage by simply dividing the mg/ml amount by 10. As an example, if you’re after 20 mg/ml of nicotine then you’d be looking for a 2% e-liquid.

Is 20mg of nicotine high?

In the UK, nicotine containing e-liquids have a maximum nicotine strength of 20 mg/ml (2%), so this is the highest strength you will be able to find.

While higher strength vape juice may be available in other countries, if you see an e-liquid being advertised as being higher than 2% this is not legal in the UK and is a product which has likely not been subjected to the appropriate quality and safety checks, making it not safe to use.

Which nicotine strength e-liquid is right for me?

Vape liquid generally come in six standard nicotine levels: 0 mg/ml, 3 mg/ml, 6 mg/ml, 12 mg/ml, 18 mg/ml, and 20 mg/ml. Which nicotine strength will best suit you depends mainly on your previous smoking habits, for example, light smokers will need a lower nicotine strength than heavy smokers.

Light and casual smoker

If you’re a casual smoker that enjoys the odd cigarette with some friends, then a lower range nicotine strength would likely suit your needs.

Nicotine free, or 0 mg/ml e-liquids are great for those that want to address their physical smoking habit but do not actually need nicotine included, while a 3 mg/ml e-liquid has a very low nicotine level that is ideal for casual smokers or light smokers, those who smoke infrequently or only a couple a day.

Average smoker

If you would usually smoke 5 - 10 cigarettes a day, a slightly higher nicotine strength like a 6 mg/ml is a good place to start, whereas if you tend to smoke 10 - 17 cigarettes a day a 12 mg/ml would likely suit you better.

Heavy smoker

Heavier smokers, those smoking 17+ cigarettes a day would likely need a high nicotine strength like an 18 or 20 mg/ml.

Why is the right nic strength important?

Finding the right nicotine strength for you is crucial to helping you on your stop smoking journey, as it will help to stave off nicotine cravings and prevent any withdrawal symptoms.

If you feel that you are still getting cravings or experiencing withdrawal symptoms, this may be a sign that you are intaking less nicotine than your body is used to, and you may want to consider trying a higher strength. On the other hand, if vaping sometimes leaves you feeling light headed or gives you a bit of a headache or nausea, you may be intaking too much nicotine and should consider dropping to a lower strength.

Finding the right nicotine level to suit you can include a little bit of trial and error, but there is always the opportunity to move up or down a strength.

Nicotine salts vs freebase nicotine

There are two different types of nicotine containing e-liquid; those made using nicotine salts and those made using freebase nicotine.

What are nic salt e-liquids?

Nicotine salt e-liquids, often referred to as nic salts, are made using a type of nicotine which more closely resembles the way nicotine naturally forms in the tobacco plant. Nicotine salt e-liquids are characterised by an extremely smooth inhale with minimal throat hit, even at high nicotine strengths. This is because the benzoic acid in them gives them a low pH.

Nicotine salts also absorb into the blood stream faster than freebase nicotine products, making them a great option for those who take short vaping breaks or need to quickly take care of cravings.

What are free base nicotine e-liquids?

Freebase e-liquids on the other hand have a high pH and so are characterised by a more pronounced throat hit which is felt more the higher the nicotine strength is. This makes them a great option for those who prefer a stronger throat hit when vaping, which is not uncommon because many people associate a strong throat hit with the feel of smoking cigarettes.

Freebase nicotine also absorbs slightly slower than nic salt e-liquid, which is ideal for those who prefer longer vaping sessions or who tend to vape continuously throughout the day.

What type of nicotine is used in disposable vapes?

Disposable vapes typically contain nic salt e-liquid and are most often available with a 20 mg/ml e-liquid strength. This means that they maintain a smooth vaping experience even though they have use high strength nic salts.

As the nicotine is measured as mg/ml (milligram per millilitre), this would mean a 20 mg/ml disposable vape that holds 2ml of e-liquid would have a total of 40 mg nicotine inside; equivalent to roughly 20-40 cigarettes.

That being said, depending on the brand, there are also disposable vapes available with different nicotine levels, allowing you to choose a lower strength if this would be more suited to your personal preference.

How do I make the switch from smoking to vaping?

Understanding the nicotine levels and how they translate in vape juices and disposables is the first step to making the switch from smoking to vaping, and most importantly, to becoming an ex-smoker.

The next step is to choose the best type of starter vape kit for you.

Prefilled pod kits

Prefilled pod kits are one of the most popular starter kits for ex-smokers when they start vaping, as they are simple to use and approachable for those who are new to the concept of vaping.

They utilise plastic pods which click into place at the top of the device and come prefilled with e-liquid. The pods are available in a variety of different flavours, letting you choose the flavours that most suit your preferences, and depending on the brand may also be available in a choice of different nicotine levels.

The pods are specifically designed to be compatible with a particular device, so they are not interchangeable between brands, and once the pod is empty it can be removed, disposed of, and replaced with a new one.

Refillable starter vape kit

A traditional refillable vape kit is a good everyday option if you want to invest in a device which will last you for a long time and allows you the freedom to choose the exact strength and flavour of e-liquid that you prefer.

Most vapers will either start with this kind of vape kit or will eventually transition on to it as there is much more room to adapt your vaping experience to better suit your needs. For example, they will often have some kind of adjustable airflow, which allows you to choose a more airy or restricted draw depending on your preference. This is better for the more experienced vaper that knows what type of vaping experience they’re after and how to customise it.

Because they can be paired with any compatible vape liquids they allow you to choose the exact strength that best matches your needs. This also means that you can drop your nicotine level over time if you would like, as many vapers will aim to eventually use a lower strength than the strength they used when they first started vaping.

Some refillable vape kits may even have sub-ohm vaping capabilities, which some vapers like to move towards as they become more experienced with vaping.

Disposable vapes

A disposable vape can be a great option for those times when you’re at an event where you might not want to carry your usual vaping kit, like a festival or night out.

They have recently become really popular on the vaping market, as they are a great short-term option for keeping your nicotine cravings under control while out and about, without the need to carry other vaping accessories like vape juice and a charger with you.

Once empty they can be responsibly disposed of and either replaced with a new one or with your usual e-cigarette.

If you feel like you need a bit more information to help you make choose the right e-liquid and vape kit combination, take a look at our switching made simple guide or our blog post 'Switch to vaping for 2023' for lots more advice and recommendations.

Alternatively, you can pop in to your local Evapo vape shop to view our full range of vaping products and speak with a member of our team of vaping experts, or reach out to our Customer Service Hub online.

Sources 2023