If you’re trying to switch from smoking to vaping, selecting the right nicotine strength is vital to your success. Fortunately, e-liquids typically tell you exactly how much nicotine they contain on the packaging label, but how do you know how much nicotine is in a cigarette? This guide will help you determine the amount of nicotine you’re used to consuming so that you can choose a comparable e-liquid. First, you need to know a little about nicotine in cigarettes and its impact on the human body.
How Much Nicotine is in Cigarettes?
The average tobacco cigarette contains about 12mg of nicotine with amounts typically ranging between 8-20mg; however, more important than the overall nicotine content is the amount of nicotine your body absorbs via smoking, which is about 1-2mg per cigarette. How much nicotine you actually take in depends on the cigarette brand, how often you smoke and even genetics.
Smokers also control how much nicotine they consume based on how they inhale. This process is called self-titration, and it’s usually performed subconsciously. Therefore, it’s hard to say how many cigarettes someone must smoke before they become addicted to nicotine. Nonetheless, the FDA has recently proposed limiting the nicotine content of cigarettes to lower the risk of addiction.
What is Nicotine?
Nicotine is best known as the addictive substance in tobacco, but that doesn’t mean nicotine is harmful by itself. Tar, ammonia, carbon monoxide and the other toxins found in traditional cigarettes are what cause smoking related illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, but nicotine is the chemical that makes tobacco habits so hard to break.
According to research, e-cigarettes can help smokers satiate their nicotine cravings without the harmful effects of smoking. They work on the same principle as other nicotine replacement therapies, like gums or patches, but e-cigs are possibly more effective since vaping closely mimics the act of smoking.
How Nicotine Affects the Body
If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking cold turkey, you likely experienced some mild anxiety, irritability and intense cravings for cigarettes. These symptoms, often referred to as “The Smoker’s Flu”, are caused by nicotine withdrawal. Slowly decreasing your nicotine intake can prevent withdrawal and drastically increase your chances of quitting tobacco.
On the other hand, taking in too much nicotine at once can result in nicotine poisoning, which causes many of the same symptoms as withdrawal. Additionally, consuming an excess of nicotine can lead to increased heart rate, nausea, insomnia and even ringing in the ears. If you’re a light smoker, then vaping an e-liquid with high nicotine content could make you feel sick.
While ingesting large amounts of pure nicotine would be dangerous, it’s not possible to overdose on nicotine from smoking or vaping. Your body can tell when it’s had enough, so you would start feeling ill long before you consumed enough nicotine to pose a serious threat. Nonetheless, the more nicotine you consume on a regular basis, the more addicted you become.
The FDA Seeks to Regulate Content of Nicotine in Cigarettes
In July 2018, the FDA announced its intention to eventually limit levels of nicotine in cigarettes to below addictive levels. Creating very low nicotine cigarettes has been a goal of tobacco control scientists for decades, but enforcing such a rule would be extremely challenging. Regulations of that magnitude take several years to implement, and the process could easily be derailed by Congress. Of course, there’s always the potential for a black market to emerge.
— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) March 18, 2018
Although the FDA was previously hostile toward e-cigs, tobacco harm reduction advocates have been successful in shifting public opinion. Since we know that vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking, there’s no reason to deny smokers an alternative that can save their lives. Thus, the FDA is now hoping that reducing nicotine content in cigarettes will encourage more smokers to switch to vaping while preventing future tobacco addictions altogether.
Smoking Nicotine in Cigarettes vs. Vaping Nicotine in E-Liquid
Although e-cigs were originally invented to simulate the act of smoking, there’s a big difference between vaping and smoking. While tobacco cigarettes contain additives that accelerate the nicotine in cigarettes delivery, e-liquids are composed of just water (PG), nicotine, vegetable oil (VG) and flavoring. Consequently, vapers take in less nicotine per puff than smokers do.
On top of all the tar, cigarettes contain ammonia, which creates a “freebase” form of nicotine that is even more potent. The compounds in cigarette smoke also act as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, which reinforce nicotine’s effect on the brain making cigarettes even more addictive. The absence of these chemicals in e-cigarettes make self-titration much easier. In other words, vapers have a better idea of how much nicotine they’re actually taking in.
Which Nicotine Strength Should You Choose?
As you can see, comparing tobacco cigarettes to e-liquids is a bit like comparing apples to avocados. To make matters more confusing, different e-cig companies measure nicotine content in different ways. For example, White Cloud uses NBV, or nicotine by volume, because it most accurately reflects an e-liquid’s potency.
To better help all smokers transition to vaping, White Cloud offers six different nicotine strengths ranging from 5.4 percent NBV for heavy smoker to a nicotine-free option for vapers who miss the feeling of smoking but no longer need nicotine. Social smokers or those who smoke less than one pack each day should start with our 0.8 or 1.6 percent cartridges. The 2.4 percent NBV strength is ideal pack-a-day smokers while the higher strengths are only for the heaviest of smokers looking to reduce their consumption.