Is 5% Nicotine a Lot? How to Pick Perfect Nicotine Level for Vaping


by Christina Matthews

Updated: July 9, 2021

Vaping devices and e juices

How much nicotine should I get in my vape juice? Is 5% nicotine a lot? Read on to get answers to some common questions that beginner vapers and veterans alike may be asking.

Keep in mind that vape juice nicotine levels vary in products, so what an individual’s tolerance for nicotine is, to begin with.

How Do Nicotine Levels Work?

For people looking to replace smoking with vaping, nicotine levels need to do a couple of things:

  • the nicotine level should match what they were getting from cigarettes. Otherwise, they are not likely to keep vaping.
  • the sensation of vaping should mirror that of smoking cigarettes. To get the same kind of throat hit as a cigarette, the nicotine level, in addition to the type of device, should be enough to replicate what it feels like to smoke like with mouth to lung vaping.
Some ex-smokers are looking for an alternative to smoking and want to match the right strength that they feel comfortable with. While others are looking to start with a high enough strength and then eventually step down their consumption to zero.

Since nicotine is addictive, it is essential to curb that craving of a cigarette. The effects of this compound are what make smoking so dangerous because the craving makes people smoke more. When the right strength can be found, then an ex-smoker is more likely to stay just that. An actual EX-smoker.

On the flip side of the nicotine level coin is the person new to vaping that has never smoked cigarettes. There are many 0% juices out there that nonsmokers can enjoy.

The Difference Between Vaping and Smoking

e liquid bottles with vape device and cigarettes
Rain Ungert/Shutterstock
Vaping e-juice acts as a vehicle to get nicotine into the body in the same way that smoking does. By inhaling. That is where the similarities end, however.

How Much Nicotine Is in a Cig Compared to Vaping

Most cigarettes have between 4 and 14 mg each.

How much of that is absorbed into the body depends on how deeply the person inhales and how much of the cigarette is actually smoked. Not all of that nicotine gets into the body as most people take breaks between puffs which means that a portion of the cigarette is burned without being inhaled.

This is the same for vaping. How much nicotine gets into the body, regardless of what the strength of the vaping liquid, depends on:

  • how deep a breath the vaper takes,
  • how often they puff and what kind of device is used.

The amount of this compound absorbed by vaping is 20-50%. It means that the vaper will deliver to the body in the amount of 3.6 to 9 mg, in comparison with an ordinary smoker will get 4 mg and 40 mg of nicotine for just 10 cigarettes.

How much vape it takes to equal a cigarette depends on too many factors to reasonably answer that question. It will take some experimenting with different vape juice strengths to find the sweet spot.

Keeping in mind what is a nicotine high vaper should be careful with this. The big advantage vapers have over smokers is knowing exactly how much nicotine their e-juice contains and whether 5% of nicotine is a lot.

The Nicotine Strengths in A Vape Juice

There is no set strength for vape juice. What’s in vape juice as far as nicotine goes? Is 5% nicotine a lot?

To understand the vape levels, the amount is listed in milligrams per milliliter. Strengths range from lowest e-liquid, i.e., zero, to 36 mg per milliliter.

Zero nicotine obviously will be listed as 0%

The strength of nicotine, which is written on the bottle, is the number of milligrams per milliliter of liquid.

  • This means that a 10 ml bottle with a strength of 18 mg/ml will have 180 mg of nicotine in it (18 mg x 10 ml).
  • Likewise, a 30ml bottle of 18mg/ml e-liquid will have 540 mg of nicotine in it (18mg x 30ml).

Next, you need to figure out how many milliliters of liquid you use over a period of time, for example, a day. On average, a vaper uses about 1 ml per day, with a strength of 18 mg/ml, this is 18 mg, but do not forget that not the body absorbs all nicotine.

What Is a Good Nicotine Level for Vaping?

As a general rule of thumb, high-concentrated e-cigs will provide more nicotine than a drip system tank mod.

Usually, e-cigs or cig-alikes can satisfy smokers with the level of nicotine and the smoking sensation. The high strengths that heavy smokers need can usually be found in e-cigs.

Each manufacturer sets its standards for the strength of the e-liquid for smoking. But still, there is a gradation that has been established for a long time:

0 mg/ml means that e-juice does not contain nicotine at all
3 mg/ml the lowest level, ideal for those who want to reduce the amount of nicotine
6 mg/ml used by people who wish to enjoy a full e-juice taste but with a low level
12 mg/ml for those who used to smoke 1 pack a day
18 mg/ml for those who used to smoke more than 1 pack a day
24 mg/ml a very high level; for heavy smokers who used to smoke more than 2 packs a day
36 mg/ml the highest level used to dilute an e-juice with a low level of nicotine

Sub-Ohm vaping generally means lower nicotine concentration. Although the levels are lower, it is possible to get similar inhalation as cigarettes. Sub-Ohm vaping produces more vapor, so more nicotine is able to be inhaled.

Typically, sub-Ohm vape mods contain 3 to 6 mg to give a smoker the same satisfaction of smoking. It is not recommended to go for high-strength juices as it may be too harsh and impart too much active substance, even for heavy smokers.

What Is the Highest Nicotine Level in Vape Juice?

The highest vape juice with nicotine, aka nic salt.

These nicotine salts can see strengths up to over 50mg per milliliter of juice. This may sound like a lot, and it is. However, usually, a puff or two of these high nic e-cigs can satisfy the craving for nicotine.

The Juul pen-type e-cig uses nicotine salts and contains 5% per pod or capsule of e-juice. So, how much nicotine is in a Juul pod? This is roughly the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. Not all e-cigs contain high amounts like Juul, but they are generally stronger than drip mod vape liquids.

However, nicotine is a drug and a dangerous one at that. Though nobody is likely to encounter nicotine poisoning while vaping, it can cause sickness if the dose is higher than what a vaper is used to.

How Do I Lower the Nicotine in My Vape?

The goal is to wean off, then the best way to find the right level to vape and then steadily reduce intake is by trial and error.

Since the nicotine level in e-juice is pretty straightforward, it is easy to make adjustments. A heavy smoker will likely want to start out with an e-cigarette that not only offers the right strength but also replicates the sensation of smoking. To experiment is better by starting with higher strength and seeing how it feels.

How often one vapes as well as how deeply one inhales will play a part in how satisfying it can be. Once it is understood where the right level is, then gradually, that can be reduced by going for a lower intensity juice or nicotine salt.

One thing to avoid is rushing to lower the strength or to give up if, say, the mod being used does not provide the right feel or need for that nicotine buzz.

Going too fast to lower strength nicotine juices may result in feeling unsatisfied and send a vaper back to being a smoker. As with most things in life, no one size fits all approach to vaping with nicotine. Some may never wean completely clear, and others may find satisfaction with the act of vaping and enjoy zero juices. Both vapers and smokers can get tips on stopping a nicotine addiction.

It does mention that the FDA recommends using Nicotine Replacement Therapy, aka vaping, to wean completely off of nicotine. Since using a vaporizer to stop smoking still means being controlled by nicotine, the goal should be weaning off of nicotine completely.

The journey to finding the right vaping nicotine level can be at times, exciting and frustrating. The key is to go in with an open mind, ask lots of questions and stay informed. Do this, and the reward may be years of enjoying a smoke-free life.

Conclusion About This Nicotine Levels Guide

When choosing a liquid, consider the peculiarities of smoking habits. The best option, chosen by many novice vapers, is 1.5-3 mg/ml.

It is important to consider the frequency of vaping. So, if you only take a few puffs, you should prefer liquids containing medium to high amounts of nicotine. If the electronic cigarette is always with you, choose a liquid with a minimum content of nicotine.

Published: May 22, 2018Updated: July 9, 2021

Christina Matthews

I love the written word, and in my career as a journalist, I strive to provide the facts about everything I write about. There are too many false and alarmist stories out there about life and vaping mainly. My mission is to make e-cigarettes less scary to people with informative articles and extensive research on not only the possible evils of cigarettes and Big Tobacco, but the objective side of e-cigs.


Leave a comment

4 comments on “Is 5% Nicotine a Lot? How to Pick Perfect Nicotine Level for Vaping

  • Amir khan

    April 6, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    Hi, This helps a lot, I am a cigarette and marijuana smoker + oral Snuff and I left everything it was a very hard time for me, Vaping was the only safe way for me to soothe my withdrawal effects I didn’t know about the nicotine levels I opt for the 36mg nic salt, and the device I use is variable wattage 5-25 watts, 36mg nic salt was way too much for me and gave me a slight headache even on 5 watts of power. I used to smoke 5-6 cigarettes/ day, I think I will now get another Juice with 12 to 18 mg nic salt that will suite me better, thank you for the graph.

  • Michele

    August 24, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks for the info!! ?

  • Allen

    December 5, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    Yes, it is important to get knowledge about the nicotine level that we should consume. Everything is good until it crosses the limit. Here it is presented nicely that we can get enough knowledge about the nicotine level of vaping.

  • BortherBob

    June 4, 2018 at 3:48 am

    You did a good job, with a difficult subject. I could not have done better.