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Choosing your nicotine level
Once you have your vaping device (including the coil), you need to choose your e-liquid.
Even though one of the great things about vaping is the experience (and the range of amazing flavours you can choose from), in practical terms it’s an alternative to smoking and it needs to replace your habit.
To do that, it has to satisfy your cravings like any other nicotine replacement therapy.
This section is a clear guide which will help you understand how nicotine levels work in vaporisers and will help you choose the right strength for you.
If you’ve already decided what strength you want and are ready to mix it, go to Calculating your nicotine level to get step-by-step instructions. It’ll show you how to mix your e-liquid and take you to our E-Liquid Nicotine Calculator.
Of course, if you’re not vaping to replace a smoking habit, then we highly recommend you don’t start adding nicotine.
Go straight to Storing your e-liquids to learn about keeping your e-juice safe.
How nicotine levels work
What the numbers mean
The amount of nicotine in an e-liquid is usually written as a number of milligrams (mg).
The most common in the UK are 3mg, 6mg, 12mg and 18mg – if you are making your own vape juice and using a nic shot, it is really easy to calculate how much to add.
What often confuses people is the fact that this not the total number of mg in the bottle but the number of mg (milligrams) of nicotine in each ml (millilitre) of liquid.
It can sometimes be seen written as mg/ml (e.g. 3mg/ml).
If the bottle is bigger, the strength of the liquid remains the same, only you have a larger quantity of it.
Sometimes the strength is expressed as a percentage (although this is getting less common). This tells you what percentage of the liquid is nicotine.
Instead of 3mg, you will see 0.3%
Instead of 6mg, you will see 0.6%
Instead of 12mg, you will see 1.2%
It comes in a solution of PG and/or VG.
What strengths are available
In Britain and the EU, the size and strength of nicotine liquids you can buy is restricted. It is now not available in Britain and the EU in bottles larger than 10ml, or in a strength higher than 20mg.
With DIY vaping, you can decide exactly how much goes into your e-juice.
You can choose not to add any at all.
The most common strengths are 3mg, 6mg and 12mg.
The calculations for these levels are easy and are explained in Calculating your nicotine level.
This is the reason that (in Britain and the EU), it is most commonly sold at 18mg strength.
How much nicotine in a vape compared to cigarettes
There is no standard amount of nicotine in a cigarette. It can range from 4mg-14mg.
How much you get from smoking depends on:
- The brand of your cigarette
- The size of your cigarette
- The number of cigarettes you smoke a day
The advantage with vaping is that you can control your nic strength rather than take a pre-packaged amount in a cigarette.
It is hugely variable, but broadly speaking 3mg is ideal for people who smoked fewer than ten cigarettes a day.
People who smoke more than ten cigarettes a day will either want to increase their nic strength to 6mg or 12mg, or vape for longer or more often.
Long-term vapers like these often cut their nic strength down over time until they reach 3mg.
The effects of nicotine
Like caffeine, nicotine is a mild stimulant in the quantities found in e-liquid.
It is the primary addictive substance in cigarettes but does not cause the harm associated with smoking (it is the plant and toxic smoke which causes the damage).
When making DIY e-liquid, obviously people want to know they’re mixing a safe strength.
In extremely high concentrations, nicotine can be lethal but this is in concentrations much, much higher than that of the nic shots available for e-liquid.
Choosing the right nicotine strength
It’s important to get this right.
Getting it right will help you feel satisfied so you can quit smoking for good and will mean you enjoy your vaping experience.
All of the following are suggestions based on experience but can be adapted according to your own personal preference.
Feel free to adjust and experiment.
It’s generally recommended to start with a lower nicotine level and increase the strength if you need to as this is safer and easier.
Although vaping mimics the sensation of smoking, it is different and the amount of nicotine you inhale is different.
Even heavy smokers often find they don’t need a high strength in their vape.
To work out what strength you should vape, you need to consider several things:
- your current nicotine intake
- your vaping goals
- your vaping habits
- your vaping device
- your taste preferences
Satisfying your nicotine cravings
To make the switch from smoking to vaping, your nicotine intake from vaping should match what your nicotine intake was from smoking, at least initially.
This ensures that you do not get withdrawal symptoms as you will feel satisfied by your vape and encouraged to continue with this alternative.
Once you have completely made the switch, you can start to slowly lower your intake.
Vaping tends to give you a slower nicotine hit than smoking, and is one of the reasons that vapers tend to vape small amounts regularly throughout the day.
Your vaping goals
If you’re starting to vape purely for leisure then we recommend vaping 0mg as nicotine is addictive.
If you’re using vaping as a way to quit smoking, you need to decide whether you want to maintain the amount of nicotine you’re inhaling or whether you want to gradually decrease it.
Vaping habits – frequency and length of sessions
This is one of the ways in which nicotine affects your overall vaping experience.
The exact dose of nicotine you get from vaping varies depending on the device, how long the session lasts, the nicotine strength and how you inhale.
It can even vary according to the time of day and your mood as they affect these factors.
Vaping small amounts regularly throughout the day satisfies your nicotine cravings and is extremely convenient.
It can mean that a low-nicotine strength will satisfy.
Your vaping habits might stem from your smoking habits, but they don’t need to.
For example, you can often vape indoors, which will make your relationship with your e-cigarettes different from your relationship with cigarettes.
One of the advantages and disadvantages of vapes is that there is no ‘end of cigarette’, which means you simply stop when you are satisfied and take no more and no less.
However, that can make judging the amount of nicotine inhaled in one session virtually impossible, as even with the same person it can vary each time.
Type of device you’re planning to use
With a sub-ohm device, you produce more vapour, meaning more nicotine is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
If using this device, you might want to reduce your nic strength as you inhale more vapour and therefore might get more nicotine than you intended.
A device designed for mouth-to-lung vaping generally produces less vapour and therefore you might choose to use more nicotine.
Your taste preferences
Nicotine liquid has a distinct taste and will flavour vape juice.
Whether you like this taste or not is a matter of preference.
Higher concentrations have a stronger flavour.
Whether you like the harsh throat hit associated with smoking cigarettes is a matter of preference but this is unlikely to be affected by your nic strength.
Your PG/VG ratio plays a much bigger part in this as higher percentages of PG give a stronger throat hit.
Once you have decided what nicotine level you want to vape, see ‘Calculating your nicotine level’ below to get a practical guide to mixing that strength e-liquid.
Calculating your nicotine level
Once you have decided what strength e-liquid you want to make, you need to work out how much to add to your base liquid.
This guide provides you with all of the information you need to safely work out the nicotine levels in your vape liquid.
Read on if you:
- Are new to DIY or shortfill e-juices
- Have changed your nic strength and want to check your calculations
- Have changed your volume of nicotine-free vape juice and want to check your calculations
We are assuming in this piece that you are using ‘nic shots’, which are 10ml bottles of 18mg-strength nicotine.
What the numbers mean
If you’re not sure what the numbers mean, or you want to work out which strength will be best for you, go back to Choosing your nicotine level.
This refers to the strength of the liquid.
3mg actually means 3mg of nicotine per ml of liquid.
In a 10ml bottle, there are 10mls of liquid, each with 3mg of nicotine in. So in a 10ml bottle there are 3mg x 10ml = 30mg of nicotine in total.
(mg x ml = total nicotine in the bottle)
E-Liquid Nicotine Calculators
Below are clear instructions for making 3mg-strength and 6mg-strength e-liquid as these are the most common.
However, if you want to mix your own e-juice in a different quantity, that is fine – our E-Liquid Nicotine Calculator will tell you exactly how much to safely use for the strength you want. It’s easy to use and you have to simply follow the steps to add in the details of the vape juice you want (what strength you want, what percentage PG/VG base you have and what quantity you want to make).
- If you are making your e-juice from scratch, go to our e-liquid calculator
- If you have a shortfill and would like to know how much 18mg nicotine liquid to add to achieve a required strength, use our pre-calculated table
Mixing 3mg or 6mg nicotine strength
You will need to add your own nicotine if you are using shortfills or making your own DIY vape juice.
If you’re looking to find out how to make a 3mg or 6mg strength vape juice, the calculations are done for you below.
Making 3mg e-liquid
To make a 3mg e-juice, mix 1 part nicotine to 5 parts flavoured base (your PG, VG and flavour concentrates).
That means you divide the volume of the base e-liquid by 5, then add that much of the 18mg liquid. For each 50ml of nicotine-free e-liquid, you add 1 nic shot (which is 10ml).
100ml (at 3mg strength)
100ml base + 20ml nicotine = 120ml of 3mg e-liquid
50ml (at 3mg strength)
50ml base + 10ml nicotine = 60ml of 3mg e-liquid
10ml (at 3mg strength)
10ml base + 2ml nicotine = 12ml of 3mg e-liquid
Making 6mg e-liquid
To make a 6mg e-juice, mix 1 part nicotine to 2 parts flavoured base (your PG, VG and flavour concentrates).
That means you divide the volume of the base e-liquid by 2, then add that much of the 18mg liquid. You add 2 nic shots (which is a total of 20ml) to every 40ml of nicotine-free e-liquid.
80ml (at 6mg strength)
80ml base + 40ml nicotine = 120ml of 6mg e-liquid
40ml (at 6mg strength)
40ml base + 20ml nicotine = 60ml of 6mg e-liquid
8ml (at 6mg strength)
8ml base + 4ml nicotine = 12ml of 6ml e-liquid
It’s always better to be sure you’re safe when you’re using any nicotine products. If you’re not sure whether you’ve made the right calculations, then we recommend getting somebody else to check them.
Once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes second nature and you’ll wonder why you ever thought it complicated but, until then, take your time and make sure you’ve got it right.
If you’d like any advice regarding this, then please feel free to contact us – we’re happy to help.
In order to get your nicotine level right, you need to decide what strength you want and calculate how much to add to the vape juice you have.
If you want another option, check out ‘Nicotine Salts’ below as they are an alternative to the common nic shots.
The next step is to learn how to keep your vape liquids safe and full of flavour, so go to Storing your e-liquids.
You’ll need to store your e-juice correctly whether you’ve already mixed it or not, and even shortfills and liquid pods have to be kept in the same way as they will all react to heat and light.
This is an alternative to the nic shots that most people use.
They are a recent addition to the vaping market but are rising in popularity, mainly because of their fast-acting and high-strength options.
What it is
Despite the name, it still comes in liquid form because it has been processed and mixed with Benzoic Acid which allows it to be absorbed efficiently by your body, as well as reducing the natural pH of the nicotine liquid.
It can come in very high concentrations.
With nic shots (also known as freebase nicotine or nicotine liquid), high concentrations have a much harsher throat hit but nicotine salts are smoother.
Someone who vapes 3mg e-juice might discover that they can vape more than 25mg of nic salt e-liquid without finding the throat hit too strong.
Nicotine salt Versus nicotine liquid
With freebase nicotine, the low strength and slow absorption means it’s best to vape in small amounts regularly throughout the day to keep your craving satisfied.
With nic salt, the high strength and fast absorption make it work much more like a cigarette, giving you a high dose all at once.
This means that your vaping style will be similar to your smoking habit, which some people find makes it easier for them to make the transition.
However, it will mean that you will feel your cravings ebb and flow whereas with nic shots your craving will be steadily satisfied with low-level nicotine.
- Slower absorption
- Harsh throat hit
- Low to medium strength options
- More flavour
- More vapour production
- Less expensive
- Faster absorption
- Smoother hit
- Low to high strength options
- Less flavour
- Less vapour production
- More expensive
Using nicotine salt
Nic salt vape juice is usually used in pod systems rather than sub-ohm devices as it doesn’t produce as much vapour.
If you use it in a powerful device which produces a lot of cloud, you may inhale too much nicotine at once.
If you’re using an e-cigarette with adjustable settings, we recommend that you reduce the wattage so that you produce less cloud.
You can get nicotine salt e-liquid in many ready-made pods for pod systems.
This is because these pod systems work to mimic the habit of smoking by being very small devices which aren’t that powerful and don’t produce a lot of vapour, and having a high-nicotine e-liquid means you can use them in the same way as cigarettes.
You can also get a range of e-liquids with nicotine salt in them which can be used in any device that has a refillable tank.
They are flavoured e-liquids already mixed to create a certain mg strength. Like other pre-mixed e-liquids, they are easy and convenient to use.
You can also get nicotine salt in 10ml bottles which are designed to be used in the same way as a nic shot.
It means you can use them both with shortfills (which are really easy to use) and when you’re making your own DIY e-liquid (which is much more fun).
If you think nicotine salts are for you, then browse through our range of nicotine salt e-liquids and pods here.
With all the elements of your e-liquid ready, the next thing to find out is how to use it.
Read ‘Storing your e-liquids’ below to find out how to keep them secure so they don’t deteriorate, or jump to Changing e-liquid or a liquid pod for a step-by-step guide.
If you’re ready to start vaping now, you can head straight over to How to Vape for four top tips on style and vaping etiquette.
Storing your e-liquids
New vapers tend to think they’ll only need a few bits and pieces for vaping, which you do.
However, with all the delicious flavours available, it’s hard not to try them all.
A lot of vapers end up with quite a collection of e-liquids and it’s impossible to vape them all at once.
If you’re going to switch between flavours, you’ll need to correctly store the ones you’re not using or, by the time you come back to them, they’ll have lost their flavour.
As with storing your e-cigarette, you need to store your e-liquid safely. It’s fairly easy to do as long as you use your common sense and follow some basic precautions.
Not only does the right storage keep it (and everyone around you) safe but it also stops the quality deteriorating over time.
It is the flavouring and the nicotine which degrade over time so they are the main concerns for storing your e-juice.
Keep it away from children
Obviously all the elements that make up e-liquid should be kept away from children.
Store your vape juice where children cannot see it or reach it – a high shelf or cupboard or a lockable box is ideal.
It is especially important to keep your nicotine out of reach of children or use a bottle with a child-proof cap because nicotine can be absorbed through the skin so, if they open it, they may ingest or absorb it.
Keep it cool
Heat will cause your e-juice to degrade.
It will certainly alter the taste of your e-liquid which – once you’ve got it just the way you like it – you don’t want.
If you are making your own e-liquid then you will need to steep it.
Some people recommend using heat to speed up the chemical reaction (and this is covered in much more depth in Steeping) but you don’t want that chemical process continuing to change the taste of your e-liquid once you’ve got it just the way you want it.
If you’re using shortfills or ready-made e-liquids, heat can still affect them.
It’s best to store all your e-liquids in a cool place.
Generally speaking, a cupboard or out-of-the-way corner should be fine.
As long as it’s not next to a heater or in direct sunlight where it will get hot, your e-liquid should stay as delicious as the day you bought it.
If your e-liquid is affected by heat, light or air then it may become slightly darker.
That doesn’t mean it’s gone off, only that a reaction has taken place.
The flavour may not be as intense and the nicotine strength may reduce.
Keep it away from light
Sunlight particularly is one of the main reasons that e-liquid deteriorates as it not only exposes the e-liquid to light but warms it, too.
UV light creates energy in e-liquids in much the same way that heat does, which means it causes a chemical reaction to take place which diminishes the flavour.
It’s not dangerous to vape it when that happens, it just won’t taste as great as the flavoursome liquid you’re used to.
One way to keep it away from light is to transfer your e-liquid from plastic bottles to tinted glass ones.
This is particularly useful if you’re going to store your vape juice on a shelf or in a cupboard that’s used regularly, where it’ll be exposed periodically to light.
Keep it airtight
Air also degrades e-liquid.
That is why some people recommend ‘breathing’ your e-juice to help its flavour mature.
The trouble is that, if it continues to react to the air once it is ready, the flavour will begin to lessen.
If you want to know more about it, then go to Breathing your e-liquid.
Some vapers recommend (if you’re using a plastic bottle to store it) squeezing the bottle before putting the cap on in order to remove most of the air.
By the same token, storing your e-juice in small bottles means each batch will be exposed to a minimum amount of air, unlike storing it in a large bottle that gradually gets more and more air in as you use the e-liquid.
Check the expiry date
The shelf-life of e-juice varies (depending on flavour profile and manufacturer) but it generally has an expiry date of about two years.
After that, it will begin to lose flavour no matter how well you stored it.
Make sure you check your supply regularly to make sure there’s no lonely bottle at the back which is about to go out of date.
A cupboard is best as it keeps your e-liquid both out of sight (of children), out of the way and in the dark.
Our top tip is to have a ‘vape juice box’ to store it all in.
Any old box will do – an old shoebox, lunchbox or toolbox or, if you wouldn’t store your precious e-liquid in an old shoebox, then something to reflect your style is perfect.
The advantage of keeping all your e-liquids in one box is that:
- You won’t lose the odd one or two if you put them down somewhere and forget where
- You can move them all at once
- You won’t knock bottles over if they’re on a shelf and you want to reach something behind them
- It’s helpful for steeping
- You can use a lockable box to be absolutely certain that nobody gets to your e-liquids (this is mainly for those with children but if you have a particularly covetous vaping friend you may need it to keep your vape juice safe from them)
To learn more about getting e-liquids right, go on to ‘Changing e-liquid or a liquid pod’ below for a step-by-step guide on changing e-liquid in tanks and pods.
If you want to get straight on to vaping, check out How to Vape to get some practical tips for getting the most out of your e-cigarette.
Changing e-liquid or a liquid pod
This is a simple, step-by-step guide to changing e-liquid so, if you’re not confident at that yet, read on.
Use the right equipment
Pouring e-liquid into a small tank is a delicate task and it’s much easier if you’re using the right stuff.
A bottle with a dropper is best, or you can use a pipette or a syringe to get the accuracy you need – you’re transferring very small amounts each time, after all (about 2ml)
Use a flat surface
At some point or other, every vaper has tried to change e-juice on the go and has spilled it.
Get ahead of the game and stick to flat surfaces.
You can change your e-liquid quickly and without spilling a single drop.
If you are new to it, you might spill a tiny bit, even if it’s just a slight residue that leaks over the side or gets on your fingers.
It’s best to use a wipe-clean surface or put a paper towel down just in case, especially your first few times.
Alternatively, fill it up over a sink, that way you can spill as much as you like.
Clean the tank and mouthpiece
For a step-by-step guide on how to do this, go to Cleaning your device.
It’s important to do this because it will contain residue from your last e-liquid flavour and you don’t want that to contaminate your new vape flavour.
Clean the coil
Just like the tank, the coil will have residue from your last vape juice so, if you want to get the full flavour from your new e-juice, you’ll need to clean it.
For instructions, go to Cleaning your device.
Change the coil
You can only clean your coil so many times. Once your coil starts to burn out, you’ll taste it and it’ll ruin the taste of your favourite e-juice.
Most vapers change their coil every couple of weeks (though this varies depending on how much you vape) while they’re changing their e-liquid. Go to Changing your coil for more information about how to do that.
Changing a liquid pod
This should be really simple.
Pod systems are designed to click into place easily and be ready to vape, so all you need to do is have your new pod ready before taking the old one out.
There should be no spills or leaks as the pod should be self-contained.
Dispose of your empty pods responsibly.
Using a dripping atomiser
The Rebuildable Dripping Atomiser (RDA) is usually a piece of equipment that experienced vapers use.
It’s essentially an atomiser (coil and wick) which you drip vape juice directly onto instead of filling a tank.
It means you vape only a few drops at a time but it also means you can change flavour every few drops if you want.
You don’t have to clean a tank or worry about your old flavour ‘ghosting’ through.
Going for a new flavour
If you use the same flavour e-liquid then you’ll only need to clean your tank when it stops performing efficiently (for a step-by-step guide on how to do this, go to Cleaning your tank).
If, however, you want to change your flavour vape juice, you don’t want to mix the old and the new flavours – this can be known as ‘flavour ghosting’ and is not particularly pleasant.
When they’re a similar flavour profile, you might not mind a short crossover but very different flavours do not mix well.
The only way to be certain you won’t contaminate your new flavour vape juice is to clean your tank and coil.
If you’re changing your e-liquid to a new flavour and don’t want to clean your tank, that’s fine. If your tank is completely empty and dry when you add the new vape juice, it should not contaminate the new flavour.
The wicking material, though, will still have some of your old e-liquid in.
To get as little crossover flavour as possible, vape some base e-liquid (your PG and VG mix) which has no flavour.
This will replace the old flavour in the wick so that, when you add your new flavour, it doesn’t blend with anything else.
If you don’t want to do that, you can make the crossover between the flavours as short as possible by emptying your tank and taking 3-4 short pulls.
This will dry up the wicks.
Don’t do more than that, though, and don’t take long pulls because you’re deliberately drying out the wicks but that’s what causes dry hits.
Once your wick is relatively dry, add in the new e-liquid.
Your first couple of puffs will have a mixed flavour but it shouldn’t last long.
If you’re using a rebuildable dripping atomiser, switching flavour is really simple.
Just take the top cap off and blow on your coils while firing your device.
This’ll burn off the remaining e-liquid.
Timing is everything with this as, again, you don’t want to completely dry your wick out and get a dry hit.
Once your wick is dry, drip some of your new e-liquid onto your coil and vape.
Now you have all the right equipment and know how to store it safely, you can start vaping.
It sounds easy. It is easy.
But vaping is different from smoking and new vapers will need to learn the techniques and the etiquette.
To do this, go to ‘How to Vape’ for all the information you’ll need.