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E-liquids guide: what nicotine strength should you take?

The mass popularity of e-liquids and vaping has to do with how effective it is as a replacement to smoking. It doesn’t smell, it’s cheaper, it’s easier to stockpile, and the flavour options are basically endless! Every single success story of a converted smoker speaks to the ways in which vaping has taken over.

One of the major changes from smoking to vaping, is understanding what nicotine strength you should be using. Where picking a flavour is fun, choosing a strength can be a bit of a headache, since it’s not something you’ve had to think of so much when picking out cigarettes. Let’s get into how nicotine strength affects the vaping experience. 

Tobacco plants | Nicotine | Nic salts

What is nicotine?

When we talk about smoking, we often talk about nicotine, but what is it? As one of the many, many compounds in tobacco, nicotine acts as a stimulant, as well as providing the sense of release and satisfaction many associate with smoking. The difference with e-liquid is that none of those other nasties are there, just the purified nicotine. 

When you smoke nicotine, it’s known as freebasing it since it blends with the salts found in the tobacco leaf. This provides a more efficient hit than every-day e-liquids, but nic salts follow a very similar process! For the closest experience to smoking, these are your best bet. 

The reason e-liquids only contain nicotine rather than any of the other compounds (even though it only makes up around 3% of the dried weight of tobacco!) is because it’s the main addictive substance found in tobacco. When managing withdrawals, taking nicotine in isolation has been shown to be very effective as a substitute. 

The right vape device

Choosing the right nicotine strength for you isn’t simply a matter of power, but of considering the vape device and e-liquid you own or are planning to buy. If you haven’t got a device or a vape liquid yet, you can circle back to this after, but it’s worth thinking about beforehand. 

When using a mouth-to-lung vape, you’ll typically draw smaller clouds, meaning that you’ll want a higher nicotine strength than you would with a direct-to-lung device, which produces giant clouds on each inhale. Considering the amount of vapour you’ll produce, and how much nicotine each inhale will hit—that’s nic strength 101!

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The right vape juice

Just like your device will have an impact on how much nicotine you get on each pull, your vape juice can change it too. This is also impacted by what device they’re in, but let’s focus on the vape liquids themselves for a second, and what the best e-liquid is for you. 

The main distinction you’re going to see is between nic salts and normal e-liquids. Nic salts, or nicotine salts are so named because they’re derived from the salt-form of nicotine found in tobacco leaves. Since they used a natural acid, the throat hit is smoother, meaning you can take much higher nicotine strengths.

This will be obvious when you check bottles—the majority of standard 10ml e-liquids will be somewhere between 0mg and 10mg, with nic salts going up to 50mg and beyond. It’s different for everyone, but a lot of people say that the throat hit from a 6mg 10ml e-liquid is similar to a 20mg nic salt

Your nicotine tolerance

This might not be something you’ve ever had to consider, but everyone’s tolerance for nicotine, and desire for nicotine differs dramatically. If you smoke a deck of Marlboro Reds a day, you’re going to have a significantly higher tolerance than someone who smokes roll-ups twice a week. 

We’re gonna break the next section down based on your smoking usage, but generally we’d advise starting in the middle, then shifting up or down depending on how effective it is. Or you can buy a shortfill and adjust using nic shots gradually!

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Choosing the right nicotine strength

For each of the below options, we’re going to give a range of nicotine strengths, since everyone is different. However, if you’re using a mouth-to-lung vape device, always go to the higher end of that range, and if you’re sub-ohm vaping, the lower. 

  • Light smoker

If you smoked 1-5 cigarettes a day, then there are plenty of lighter e-liquid options for you to try out. Generally speaking you should be looking for 3-6mg nicotine concentrations, or 10-20mg for a nic salt.

  • Medium smoker

If you smoke 6-10 cigarettes a day, then kick things up a bit and look for some higher nic concentrations. Generally somewhere between 6-12mg for a 10ml e-liquid, and 20-30 for a nic salt. 

  • Heavy smoker

If you were smoking more than 10 a day, then you’ll have to experiment a bit more. Anywhere between 12-20mg for a normal 10ml, and 30-60mg for a nic salt. If you keep playing around, you’ll find the hit you need!

Buying e-liquids

With all that in mind, the best start is to grab a vape device and try a few concentrations out in your rough ballpark. We always think that a mouth-to-lung vape is the best start for someone used to smoking, which is why we recommend the Uwell Caliburn.

In terms of buying e-liquids, you’ve got way more options! We’ve got a hand filter on the side of all of our shop pages, meaning you can cut right to the chase—load your nicotine strengths in, and then see which of our crazy e-liquid concoctions takes your fancy!

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