What’s the most important factor in ensuring that your switch from smoking to vaping will be successful? We think that the most important factor could arguably be choosing the right nicotine strength for your needs. After all, you can probably tolerate an e-liquid flavour that you don’t love while you’re still experimenting and searching for the flavour profile that’s perfect for you. If you’re using the wrong nicotine strength, though, there’s no easy way to fix that. If your nicotine strength is too low, you won’t be able to control your cigarette cravings – and if it’s too high, you may not be able to vape at all.
So, how do you choose the right nicotine strength? You can start with some general guidelines. Smaller vaping devices tend to work best with higher-strength e-liquids, for instance, while larger devices work best with lower strengths. What you really need to know, though, is how much nicotine you’re currently using as a smoker. You need to know how much nicotine is in one cigarette.
As you’re about to learn, the question of how much nicotine is in a cigarette has no simple answer – but we’re going to try to answer it anyway. If you’re trying to figure out how much nicotine you need to replace each day by vaping, we think you’ll find this information helpful.
How Is the Nicotine Content of Cigarettes Determined?
Measuring the nicotine content of a cigarette isn’t actually that difficult. Researchers and tobacco companies do that by placing the cigarettes in machines that “smoke” the cigarettes and analyse the smoke to determine its constituent components. Thanks to automatic smoking machines, it’s very easy to get a concrete measurement of how much nicotine is in a cigarette. On average, a cigarette contains around 10 mg of nicotine. Of that, you’ll absorb around 1-2 mg of nicotine into your bloodstream from smoking the cigarette.
That second range of numbers, however – 1-2 mg of nicotine – is exactly what causes problems when you try to determine how much nicotine is in one cigarette. After all, one number is twice as large as the other. That’s a big difference!
So, why is it so difficult to figure out exactly how much nicotine you’ll absorb from smoking a cigarette?
Automatic Smoking Machines Don’t Smoke Like Real Smokers
One of the reasons why it’s difficult to determine exactly how much nicotine you’ll absorb from smoking a cigarette is because people smoke differently. Many cigarette brands, for instance, have perforated filters. The perforations are designed to allow some of the smoke to escape from the cigarette before you inhale it. A perforated cigarette, therefore, will produce lower tar and nicotine measurements when it’s placed in an automatic smoking machine – thus allowing the cigarette to qualify as a “light” or “low-yield” cigarette.
The problem, though, is that smokers don’t smoke cigarettes in the same way a smoking machine would. In fact, cigarette manufacturers place the perforations exactly where you’re likely to hold the cigarette when smoking. If you’re covering the perforations with your fingers, you’ll end up inhaling more nicotine than a smoking machine would have measured for that particular cigarette.
Another thing to remember is that smoking a light or low-yield cigarette doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re consuming less nicotine than a person who smokes full-flavoured cigarettes. Perhaps you smoke your cigarettes all the way down to the filters. Someone who smokes full-flavoured cigarettes, on the other hand, may put their cigarettes out sooner. In addition, smokers of light cigarettes almost always smoke more total cigarettes in order to meet their nicotine needs.
Chemical Manipulation Alters Cigarettes’ Nicotine Delivery Profiles
The other thing that you need to consider is that the amount of nicotine measured in a cigarette is never exactly the same as the amount of nicotine that you’ll absorb into your bloodstream when you smoke the cigarette. That’s because of bioavailability. Your lungs will absorb some of the nicotine from the smoke that you inhale, but the rest of the nicotine will simply escape into the air.
Tobacco manufacturers investigated the bioavailability of nicotine during the 1960s. In its natural form, the nicotine molecule is a salt. Increasing the pH of the nicotine, however, removes the extra proton binding the nicotine to the salt, thus making it more volatile. The increased volatility makes it easier for the nicotine to escape and travel through the air as the tobacco burns, thus allowing your body to absorb more nicotine per puff. Increasing the pH of nicotine changes it from a salt to a free base.
During the 1960s, tobacco companies learned that freebase nicotine is more potent than nicotine salt at a given dose. They created freebase nicotine by processing tobacco leaves with ammonia. Cigarettes using freebase nicotine were more satisfying than competing brands, and many tobacco companies continue to modify the pH of their products to this day. Because there’s no way to determine how much of the nicotine in a cigarette is freebase nicotine, there’s no way to know exactly how much nicotine you’ll absorb from smoking it.
Your Body Will Tell You if You’re Getting Enough Nicotine
In this article, we hope we’ve enlightened you a bit on the topic of how much nicotine is in a cigarette and how the nicotine in cigarettes compares to the nicotine strength of e-liquid. Although there’s no way to know exactly how much nicotine you’ll absorb into your bloodstream from smoking a cigarette, the good news is that you really don’t have to know the answer to that question. Instead, you can simply listen to your body.
Do you think that the nicotine strength you’re using is too low? If you experience constant cigarette cravings even though you’re vaping regularly, increasing your nicotine strength might be a good idea. If you experience a harsh and unpleasant sensation in your throat when vaping, on the other hand, you might want to consider lowering your nicotine strength. If you’re enjoying your vaping experience and aren’t craving cigarettes, there’s no need to worry. Your body will tell you when you’ve had enough nicotine.