Walk into a vape shop, or start browsing a website for e-liquids, and you’ll be faced with a bewildering array of choices.
Hundreds of flavours, different ratios of PG and VG, and of course the most controversial – nicotine strength.
This one is the source of many misunderstandings and even a few arguments, so here’s a guide to steer you in the right direction…
WHAT SORT OF VAPER ARE YOU?
The first thing you need to know is that there’s no ideal nicotine strength that works for everyone. If there was, there wouldn’t be as much variety!
We’re all different, though, and that affects how much nicotine we need in our liquid. As well as personal preferences, the way you vape and the type of vaper you are also have a big influence.
How much nicotine you prefer is something that, to some extent, you’ll have to find out by experimenting. The type of vaper you are, however, is a bit simpler.
Here are the main types:
- The Simple Switcher
- The Mildly Curious
- The Hobbyist
- The Cloud Chaser
THE SIMPLE SWITCHER
Many vapers are just looking for an alternative to smoking – ideally, one that’s as much like smoking as they can make it, and as simple as possible.
These vapers aren’t interested in messing about with complicated atomisers or DIY liquid. Usually they want something that just works and can deliver a few satisfying puffs every so often just like their reliable (but deadly) old cigarettes could.
A couple of years ago most switchers would use a cig-a-like with pre-filled cartomisers, but now an eGo-style device with a clearomiser is more common.
Cigarettes are a uniquely effective way to deliver nicotine, so if you’re trying to stay off them you need vapour products that come as close to replicating that as possible.
You’ll never exactly match the nicotine hit a lungful of burning tobacco can give, but you can do fairly well if you use a high-nicotine liquid.
If staying off the cigarettes is your main goal, start with a liquid that contains at least 12mg/ml of nicotine.
Your best option is probably 18mg/ml – unfortunately, thanks to the EU’s new rules this is the strongest you can easily get now.
THE MILDLY CURIOUS
A lot of simple switchers are quite happy to stick with what works.
But some decide that, while they’re still not interested in vaping as a hobby, they’d quite like to try something that offers a few more options.
If you’re using a mod or pen-type battery with variable voltage options, paired with a tank, you probably fall into this group.
Again, you’re probably better sticking to a fairly strong liquid.
If you move to a more powerful device that generates more vapour you can look at reducing nicotine levels, but 12 or 18mg/ml is still likely to be your optimum level in the early stages.
If you enjoy tinkering with coils, and feel comfortable with mixing your own liquid, you’re probably a hobbyist.
That means you’ve probably already learned what nicotine level suits you, so this article probably isn’t going to tell you much!
THE CLOUD CHASER
Cloud chasers aren’t usually too worried about nicotine.
It’s all about tuning gear and technique to create the biggest clouds possible. For cloud chasers, vaping is an end in itself and nicotine isn’t really a factor.
Because cloud chasing uses vast quantities of liquid, nicotine levels tend to be very low – in fact, nicotine-free liquid is a common choice.
Otherwise 3mg, or at most 6mg/ml, is used. Anything higher than that will probably deliver enough nicotine to make you feel slightly queasy – which is no fun.
LOWERING YOUR LEVELS
One question many new vapers have is, “How quickly should I cut down my nicotine levels?” It’s understandable that people ask that, but there’s a better question – should you cut your nicotine levels?
Nicotine has had a very bad press, but in fact that’s almost entirely because it’s so closely linked to smoking. Here are the facts about nicotine:
- Nicotine does not cause cancer. Despite repeated studies searching for evidence that it does, none has ever been found. Nicotine is not classed as a carcinogen by the IARC.
- Nicotine does not cause heart disease. Using nicotine causes a short-term rise in blood pressure, as does caffeine or exercise. Long-term nicotine use appears to reduce blood pressure, however.
- Nicotine is not a dangerous poison. Yes, it’s poisonous at a high enough dose – but so is everything. In the UK around 40 people die every year from water intoxication. Nobody in the UK is ever known to have died of nicotine poisoning.
- Pure nicotine, separate from tobacco smoke, doesn’t even seem to be addictive. The evidence says that it only becomes addictive when combined with one or more of the 9,000 or so chemicals in smoke. Long-term studies that involved non-smokers wearing high strength nicotine patches found no sign of dependence or withdrawal symptoms.
What this means is that, if you decide to keep using nicotine in your e-cigarette, it really doesn’t matter.
The health risks of inhaling nicotine at the quantities found in e-liquid are basically nil.
In exchange there are several well-known positive effects; nicotine helps you concentrate, for example, and it improves short and medium term memory.
Long-term nicotine use also seems to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
On the other hand, there are risks in cutting down your nicotine level – especially if you do it too quickly.
Smokers are used to getting a certain amount of nicotine every day.
If your e-cigarette isn’t delivering at least that level there’s an increased chance you’ll give in and light up a real cigarette.
If you’re happy with the amount of nicotine you’re getting, it’s fine to stick with it – you don’t have to cut down if you don’t want to.
If you do cut down and find your vape is less satisfying don’t hesitate to go back up, because it won’t do you any harm.
An unusual feature of nicotine is that peoples’ sensitivity to it can vary hugely – by a factor of ten or more.
What’s enough for someone else might be a fraction of what you’re happiest with.
If you seem to be using much higher levels than other people with the same equipment, but you’re happy with it, don’t worry about it; all that matters is that the level you’re using is right for you.
What nicotine strength do you use?