Switching Smoking to Vaping - a guide to nicotine levels

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Switching Smoking to Vaping - a guide to nicotine levels

Switching from smoking to vaping can be a transformative journey, but navigating the complexities of nicotine strengths and types can be daunting.

This guide aims to clarify how to choose the right nicotine strength and whether nic salts or freebase nicotine is best suited for you, based on your previous daily smoking habits.

Nicotine Strengths: How Much is Enough?

When transitioning from smoking to vaping, the amount of nicotine you require in your e-liquid is crucial for a successful switch. Nicotine strength in e-liquids is typically measured in milligrams per millilitre (mg/mL). The goal is to match your previous nicotine intake from cigarettes to the amount delivered by your vape.

Here's a rough guide to nicotine strength based on your smoking habits:

  • Light Smokers (1-5 cigarettes per day): 3-6 mg/mL
  • Moderate Smokers (6-10 cigarettes per day): 6-12 mg/mL
  • Heavy Smokers (11-20 cigarettes per day): 12-18 mg/mL
  • Very Heavy Smokers (20+ cigarettes per day): 18-24 mg/mL

Nicotine Types: Freebase Nicotine vs. Nicotine Salts

Choosing between freebase nicotine and nicotine salts is another important decision. Each type has its own characteristics and effects, influencing throat hit, nicotine absorption, and overall vaping experience.

Freebase Nicotine:

  • Overview: The most common form of nicotine in e-liquids, freebase nicotine, is the purest form of nicotine.
  • Characteristics: Provides a stronger throat hit, which some former smokers find satisfying. It has a higher pH level, making it more alkaline.
  • Absorption: Slower absorption rate, requiring higher power devices for effective nicotine delivery.

Nicotine Salts:

  • Overview: Nicotine salts are a more recent development, combining nicotine with benzoic acid to create a more stable compound.
  • Characteristics: Provides a smoother throat hit, making it more comfortable at higher nicotine strengths. Lower pH level results in less irritation.
  • Absorption: Faster absorption rate, which can satisfy nicotine cravings more quickly. Works well with lower power devices.

Matching Nicotine Strength to Smoking Habits

To choose the right nicotine strength and type, it's essential to understand your previous smoking habits and how they translate to vaping.

Light Smokers (1-5 cigarettes per day)

Recommended Nicotine Strength: 3-6 mg/mL

Freebase Nicotine: Ideal if you prefer a noticeable throat hit and use a higher power device. 3 mg/mL provides a mild hit, while 6 mg/mL is slightly stronger.

Nicotine Salts: Better if you use a lower power device or want a smoother experience. 3-5 mg/mL should be sufficient.

Moderate Smokers (6-10 cigarettes per day)

Recommended Nicotine Strength: 6-12 mg/mL

Freebase Nicotine: 6-12 mg/mL offers a balanced throat hit for moderate smokers. A mid-range strength like 9 mg/mL can be an optimal choice.

Nicotine Salts: 5-10 mg/mL provides a smoother hit and quicker satisfaction. This range is effective for those who want a more immediate nicotine effect.

Heavy Smokers (11-20 cigarettes per day)

Recommended Nicotine Strength: 12-18 mg/mL

Freebase Nicotine: 12-18 mg/mL gives a strong throat hit suitable for heavy smokers. The higher strength offers more satisfaction, mimicking the experience of smoking.

Nicotine Salts: 10-20 mg/mL is effective for those preferring a smoother experience and faster nicotine absorption. This strength quickly satisfies cravings without harshness.

Very Heavy Smokers (20+ cigarettes per day)

Recommended Nicotine Strength: 18-24 mg/mL

Freebase Nicotine: 18-24 mg/mL provides a robust throat hit, essential for very heavy smokers. The higher end of this range can deliver a powerful smoking-like experience.

Nicotine Salts: 20 mg/mL offers an intense nicotine experience with minimal throat irritation. This is ideal for very heavy smokers needing quick relief from cravings.

Summary Table: Nicotine Strength Recommendations

Smoking HabitCigarettes per DayFreebase Nicotine (mg/mL)Nicotine Salts (mg/mL)
Light Smokers1-53-63-5
Moderate Smokers6-106-125-10
Heavy Smokers11-2012-1810-20
Very Heavy Smokers20+18-2420


Choosing the correct nicotine strength and type of nicotine for your e-liquid is essential to ensure a successful transition from smoking to vaping. Understanding your smoking habits and how they correlate with nicotine strength and type can significantly enhance your vaping experience.

If you were a light smoker, lower nicotine strengths with either freebase nicotine or nicotine salts will likely suffice. Moderate smokers might find mid-range strengths more satisfying, with a choice between the throat hit of freebase nicotine or the smoothness of nicotine salts. Heavy and very heavy smokers will benefit from higher nicotine strengths, with nicotine salts providing faster absorption and less throat irritation, while freebase nicotine offers a more intense throat hit.

Ultimately, the best nicotine strength and type will depend on your personal preferences and the vaping device you use. It may take some experimentation to find the perfect match, but with the right information, you can make a more informed decision and enjoy a smoother transition to vaping.


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