Nicotine: How Much Is Enough?

I can’t begin to tell you how often I hear from new Vapers complaining of headaches, nausea, and even tingling fingers after vaping. Assuming that there is nothing medically wrong with them, the most common cause of these maladies is too much nicotine in their eLiquids, being consumed too quickly. So, I thought it might be an idea to write a refresher course on nicotine and how to avoid over consumption. In fact, you might just find out that the level, or strength, of nicotine you have been vaping has been all wrong.  You never know.


Nicotine Is…

For some people, but not all, nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Some people, once addicted, are never able to kick it. Yet, others seem to be immune to its addictive properties. Our publisher is one such individual. Nicotine, or for that matter anything others might find addicting, has never been an issue for him. He is unable to become addicted to anything.

For others, like myself, nicotine feels as addictive as heroin. Unfortunately the ‘high’ from nicotine isn’t anywhere near the ‘high’ of heroin, or so I’ve heard, I’ve never touched the stuff myself. But you get the point, it is a drug and it does have addictive properties. It also has beneficial properties that no one seems to want to talk about. It’s a stimulant; it helps people focus, keeps them alert, and acts as an appetite suppressant. I’ve often wondered how snookered people are by the government and corporations that love to hide the real truth about, hell, everything, in order to maintain this illusion we’ve come to know as reality.

Coffee, with its addictive chemical caffeine, is praised, TV commercials entice you with talk of aroma, luxury, and taste, all the while knowing the real reason people drink coffee in the morning is to wake up (caused by the stimulant caffeine) and to get your bowels moving. Makes for funny lines in sitcoms, but are hidden from viewers watching commercials. Anyway…

The definition of nicotine reads as follows:

Nicotine is a toxic colorless or yellowish oily liquid that is the chief active constituent of tobacco. It acts as a stimulant in small doses, but in larger amounts blocks the action of autonomic nerve and skeletal muscle cells. Nicotine is also used in insecticides.

By the way, water is also used in insecticides, so you know, there’s that.

Smoking and Nicotine

As a smoker there are plenty of chemicals in cigarettes besides nicotine that people become addicted to. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes are also carcinogens. Nicotine however is not one of them. Other than the addictive property of nicotine there isn’t a whole lot ‘wrong’ with nicotine by itself. In small doses nicotine can be beneficial and is now being studied as an aid to memory loss and dementia in elderly patients.

In any case, I’m confident that every smoker has, at one time or another, experienced the dreaded ‘smokers headache’ or ‘smokers nausea’. It used to happen to me when I was clubbing. I would go through at least a pack of smokes a night, from 9PM to 3AM I would consume at least 20 cigarettes, in addition to alcohol, and my head would start pounding long before the alcohol’s effects would kick in that ugly hangover that comes the next morning.

Too much of anything is bad thing, and that certainly holds true for nicotine and caffeine. When it comes to vaping, however, finding the right level of nicotine is not only important to warding off cigarette-type headaches and the like, but to also maintain a proper blood level of nicotine so that the desire to pick up a deadly cigarette is held at bay. That is what is Spinfuel’s Guide To Vaping is about. Vaping correctly keeps you off tobacco, keeps you alive longer, and in better health.

Vaping in the beginning…

There are certain ‘best practices’ that have been established by the vape community about nicotine levels in eLiquid and they are based on how many cigarettes the new Vaper used to smoke on a daily basis. But those best practices can only take you so far. They are a good starting point, but it will most likely be necessary to make adjustments along the way, and the sooner the better. We lose a good many Vapers to cigarettes because they start too high or start too low, become easily frustrated and toss the e-cigarettes and go back to smoking. Granted, not all the ex-Vapers leave over nicotine, but that’s the subject of a future Guide to Vaping.

Noobs and Best Practices

If you are new to Vaping it pays to look into the best practices concerning nicotine strength and be very attentive to how you react. Make changes as soon as you recognize the need to, and don’t ever feel as though Vaping isn’t going to work, it will and millions of ex-smokers can attest to that.

The Typical Smoker

This LINK  is a fascinating read on current smokers and very much worth a look. It’s not exactly on point, but still worth a read.

Best Practices And What Spinfuel Says

Below are some of the established ‘best practices’ told and retold over and over by veteran vaping looking to answer the question from noobs, “How much nicotine should I have in my eLiquid?” Accompanying these practices is “our” ‘adjustment’ to the established ways, things we’ve learned that provide a better way of thinking about nicotine and vaping.

Best Practices: If you smoke less than a half pack of cigarettes on a typical day then starting out with an eLiquid that has no more than 6mg (0.6%) of nicotine is a good starting point.

Honestly, if you are someone that smokes less than half a pack a day in my opinion you’re not addicted to the nicotine, you’re addicted to the habit of smoking.

Spinfuel Says:  If you find 6mg to be adequate to keep you away from cigarettes then you can stay at the level for as long as you want. If you are still getting the urge to pick up a cigarette there is only one of two possibilities. The 6mg nicotine is not really 6mg (where are you buying your juice?) or the hardware you are using is not giving you the same tactile feel that you needed from cigarettes. In other words, at less than half a pack a day, you’re probably smoking because you like the way it feels in your hand, you like the smoke… don’t try vaping with something like a ProVari, an iTaste “anything”, or other non-cigarette style PV. Use a cig-a-like from Halo or Triple 7, or, do even better with an eGo-size device that can be held like a cigarette but provides much thicker vapor. You would probably enjoy the experience with an eGo/Halo Triton set up better than a cig-a-like…but maybe not.

The point is, a smoker with a habit of less-than-half-a-pack a day needs to replace the cigarette with something like a cigarette, not a completely foreign object reminiscent of a pipe bomb more than a Winston. If, on the tiniest of chances you smoked that little amount of cigarettes and you are addicted to the nicotine, you’re probably addicted to many things in your life, from donuts to certain TV shows. You have an addictive personality. Ten cigarettes spread over 24 hours produces very small amounts of nicotine. Too little to become a serious addiction on it’s own.

To Low For Zero: If you’re interested in eliminating nicotine altogether, and you are actually addicted to such small amounts of nicotine, our advice is to buy your eLiquid, at first, with 6mg and a bottle of the same flavor in Zero nicotine. Vape half the bottle of 6mg juice, then refill that bottle with the Zero nicotine juice. You’ve now lowered your nicotine to 3mg. Once you vaped that bottle down to half full, refill it again with the remaining Zero nicotine level and you’re now vaping less than 1.5mg of nicotine. After that, go ahead and move to Zero nicotine and simply enjoy the flavor and the vapor. You’re done with nicotine, and now you’re just enjoying the hand-to-mouth action, the ‘lungs full of vapor/smoke’ thing, its harmless fun.

Best Practices: If you are a smoker that smokes half of a pack to one pack a day then 12mg of nicotine is a good starting point for you.

Spinfuel Says: Hogwash! This is why hard and fast rules are sometimes ineffectual. If you smoke 10 cigarettes a day you can get by on 6mg juice, but if you smoke 11 or 12 cigarettes then double the nicotine to 12mg?

What we say is this: If you smoke under a pack a day you can get by on either 6mg or 12mg, depending completely on your reasons for smoking. What are you addicted to, nicotine or the cigarette? Again, less than a pack a day means you’re probably addicted to the act of smoking more so than nicotine. Any nicotine effect you feel is probably of the beneficial variety, the little jolt of attentiveness, or the ability to focus better.

Our advice is to buy two small, 5ML to 10ML bottles of eJuice, one at 6mg and one at 12mg. Stick with a cig-a-like PV or an eGo device. If you are satisfied with 6mg stay there if you want, if you feel a little better with 12mg then stay there if you like. But by using a device that is not that much bigger than a cigarette gives you that much needed tactile feel of smoking, which is more than likely the reason you’re smoking anyway. That said, when you get to 18,19 or 20 cigarettes a day nicotine can play a part in your addiction, and you just may need 12mg or even 18mg to stay satisfied. The point is; discover the reasons why you smoke as quickly as you can.

Best Practices: If you are a smoker that smokes a pack a day to a pack and a half a day then if you are not immune to the addictive properties of nicotine then 18mg of nicotine is a where you want to be.

Spinfuel Says: 18mg is often the ‘sweet spot’ for the majority of Vapers. It packs a punch both in throat hit and nicotine satisfaction. Best Practices is pretty much spot on here. A pack and a half daily Smoker is smoking often enough to become addicted to nicotine, as well as the whole smoking experience. You will need a certain amount of nicotine in your bloodstream to ward off the urges of smoking.

I smoked about a pack and half a day, and I was able to get by with 8mg to 12mg nicotine for the longest time by using hardware that produced enormous amounts of vapor, but I moved to 18mg a few months ago only because I wanted a bigger throat hit than 12mg could offer, and I wanted that extra ‘kick’ that nicotine can provide. Many people fit that profile, so we say that if you smoked anywhere from a pack to two packs a day you can get by on 18mg eLiquid. Unless you are very addicted to nicotine, that can happen when those 20-30 cigarettes a day are bunch together in smoking sessions; 2 or 3 at a time during a smoke break, 4 or 5 on the drive home from work, 2 or 3 after dinner, or a pack during a night on the town. If this is your smoking habit you’re feeding a nicotine habit.

Best Practices: If you are a smoker that smokes over one and a half packs of cigarettes a day then 24 mg of nicotine is a good choice to start vaping with.

Spinfuel Says: Be careful with 24mg (2.4%) eLiquid, it is a lot of nicotine. If you find 24mg to be the most fulfilling, be it the throat hit, or the nicotine buzz, there is the possibility to come in to ‘vaping’ with a lesser habit and developing an addiction for higher amounts of nicotine.

If you consumed less nicotine as a smoker (many social settings might have you burning up cigarettes in an ashtray and not directly absorbing 2 packs a day) this is where you are most likely to suffer from nicotine over consumption. The headaches, nausea, and so forth happen frequently at this level is you vape a lot. If you were/are a heavy smoker than by all means try 24mg, but pay attention to how your body reacts and if you can move down to the 18mg level you’ll be better off. Less headaches to worry about, less nausea when you over vape, and the addicting properties at 24mg is substantially higher than 18mg…

18mg is the sweet spot for most Vapers, especially new Vapers.

Smoking And Vaping Are Not The Same – Again

Lets assume you are not a teenager and you’re not smoking because you think it makes you cool. Adult smoking is a habit brought on by addiction to nicotine or the addiction of the smoking experience. The dividing line is the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. People that tend to smoke heavily do so because of the nicotine addiction, people who smoke a pack a day or less smoke tend to smoke because they like the experience of smoking… usually. Again, find out which category you fit into first.

People that choose to Vape are, for the most part, looking for that smoking experience without the dangers of tobacco. It’s a smart move, and it should be encouraged. But, smoking cigarettes and Vaping are two very different things. How many smokers do you know of that smoke cigarettes that contain zero nicotine?


So yea, there are some best practices that can help you in the beginning, but they will always need to be tailored to your personal habits and reasons.

Whatever the nicotine choice is, it’s yours for the making. It is a matter of preference, after all.  Whether you start at 0mg, 6mg, 12mg, 18mg and 24mg of nicotine or wind up at any of these levels, is your own adventure. But if you do it right, if you pay attention to what your body and your mind are telling you there is no reason, ever, to pick up a cigarette.

Tom McBride