Vaping is considered by the NHS as a highly effective way of quitting smoking, but to know how much nicotine to choose for your e-liquid as you make the transition can be a little tricky. In this post, we will look at how much nicotine is in one cigarette and how this influences the nicotine strength you should choose for your first e-juice.

If you want an unbiased view on how vaping and nicotine affect your health, head over to our Vaping Health Facts Guide.

What is nicotine

Cigarettes contain over 5000 chemicals and, as we know and Cancer Research UK points out, many of these are poisonous and are known to cause cancer. Particularly nasty are benzene (a petrol additive), arsenic (a poison), formaldehyde (used to embalm the dead), polonium-210 (a radioactive element) and benzo(a)pyrene (a DNA-damaging chemical).

However, it is not these chemicals that cause the addiction to cigarettes; nicotine is responsible for that. Though not a cancer-causing chemical, nicotine does increase the risk of stroke, blood clotting and diabetes. It’s also extremely difficult to quit with some saying it’s almost as hard to break away from as highly addictive Class A drugs!

How much nicotine is in one cigarette

So now we come to the question of how much nicotine is in one cigarette. Though vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking, the goal of switching is to gradually wean yourself off or at least reduce your nicotine intake over time. Starting with the amount of nicotine in your vape juice comparable to the amount you smoked but gradually reducing the nicotine strength when you are comfortable would be the best way.

Obviously, with the array of cigarettes available on the market, including light and ultra-light brands, nicotine content varies considerably. Also, you don’t smoke the entire cigarette and how much smoke you take in varies from person to person and depends on the filter. It’s also worth mentioning that your body only absorbs a small proportion of the nicotine in the smoke and that can even be affected by body mass.

In general though, a typical normal unlit cigarette usually contains around 12mg of nicotine but an average smoker will only absorb 1mg of that according to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

As far as vaping is concerned, it’s easier to match the nicotine strength to the amount you smoked rather than how much nicotine is in one cigarette. You can choose your nicotine strength by using the following calculator:

  • 0mg – No nicotine at all
  • 3mg – The most popular choice for vapers
  • 6mg – Full flavour e liquid with a higher nicotine percentage
  • 12mg – The mid-range for ex casual smokers
  • 18mg – Very high for those who were a heavy smoker

Everyone is different though, so only use this as a guide. Also, remember that vaping delivers nicotine differently and without all the other nasty chemicals found in cigarettes, so the nicotine hit may be milder. As such, you might find yourself needing a higher strength to begin with. Even so, we suggest choosing a lower strength and working yourself up to the level that suits you then slowly decreasing that level to wean yourself off nicotine completely.

Making the transition from smoking to vaping

If you have decided to make the transition from smoking to vaping, congratulations! Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians say there’s at least 95% less risk from electronic cigarettes.

To make a successful switch, first choose an e-cig which suits you. See our Beginner’s Guide to Vape Starter Kits to get up to speed with the various types of e-cig available.

For people looking to quit smoking with vaping, we suggest a draw-activated device designed for mouth-to-lung (MTL), i.e. an e-cig with a tighter draw where you hold the vapour in your mouth momentarily before inhaling. This action mimics smoking so is useful for those people making the switch from cigarettes to e-cigs. MTL devices are often lower wattage so higher strengths of nicotine can be vaped. A good choice would be the SMOK MICO.

If you are willing to shell out more and don’t think you need to vape very high strengths of nicotine (6mg or less), you could try a mod with an adjustable airflow, so you can change the tightness of the draw and other settings to your exact preferences. The VOOPOO Drag X Pro is a great mod and highly customisable.


Improving on the near-perfect original Drag X, the Drag X Pro boasts increased performance in every way. The kit includes the innovative UFORCE tank and 2 UFORCE sub ohm coils.

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To learn more about sub ohm vaping and why sub ohm kits are not really suitable for very high strengths of nicotine, see our Sub Ohm Vaping Guide.

Next to choose is your flavour of e-liquid. This is very much down to personal preference and with the vast array of vape juice flavours, you’re spoilt for choice.

Popular around our office are:

Heisenberg E Liquid

Classic vape flavour combining bold, juicy berry flavours and aniseed.

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Fantasi Cola Ica E Liquid

Exactly like an ice cold can of cola pop right out of the fridge, this is the most refreshing and authentically tasting cola e-juice you can buy!

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Strawberry Milkshake E Liquid

Get the taste of an authentic American burger bar shake with this mix of creamy, rich ice cream and fresh, succulent strawberries.

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Though there are tobacco flavoured e-liquids available, ex-smokers may want to move away from that familiar taste so you can make a clean break from smoking.

Nicotine in e-liquids can be either supplied separately as nic shots for shortfill e-liquids, or pre-mixed in 10ml e-liquids. You need to decide whether you prefer standard (freebase) nicotine or salt nicotine. Salt has less of a throat hit, making it useful for vaping higher strengths of nicotine so is a good choice for those using vaping to quit smoking.

Salt also releases nicotine into the bloodstream a lot quicker than standard nicotine which is closer to the feeling of smoking.

However, some ex-smokers still prefer standard nicotine because the throat hit is more similar to the sensation of smoking cigarettes. Learn more about the difference between standard nicotine and salt here.

Lastly, you’ll need to adapt to vaping. Though vaping mimics smoking very closely, you’ll have to understand that a vaping break is not the same length as a cigarette break. Where you would normally smoke a whole cigarette, 3 or 4 drags on an e-cig tends to be enough but you’ll likely pick it up more often.

Thankfully, when it comes to nicotine, our bodies tell us when we’ve had enough. This is called self-titration and, as a result, you’ll soon get used to vaping with a nicotine strength that suits you, gradually reducing that strength and enjoying the health benefits of quitting smoking for both your body and your wallet.

How do you choose the nicotine strength for your vape juice? What e-cig or e-liquid flavour do you recommend for ex-smokers? Let the community know in the comments below.

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