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How Much Nicotine is in a Cigarette Compared to Vape?

August 03, 2020


What is Nicotine?
Nicotine in Cigarettes
Nicotine in Vapes
What Does Nicotine Do?
Nicotine Levels When Vaping Versus Smoking

If you're a smoker looking for an alternative to cigarettes, you may be considering vaping. Or perhaps you're reading this because you’re curious about cigarettes vs vapes in terms of nicotine content. It's likely you have several questions like how many puffs of vape is equal to a cigarette or how many puffs a day is normal for vaping? We'll cover all of this and more below. 

What is Nicotine?

Nicotine is a chemical compound found in tobacco. In fact, it's the main ingredient found within this plant and is found in many tobacco products including:

  • Cigarettes
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • Cigars
  • Hookah tobacco
  • Most e-cigarettes and vapes

The effects of this stimulant can be noticed in your brain, which explains why it is difficult to quit smoking. In this article, we'll cover the nicotine levels in a cigarette, vape juice nicotine content, the effects of the chemical, followed by some frequently asked questions.

Nicotine in Cigarettes

Nicotine content in cigarettes varies depending on the brand of the cigarette. At the lower end, a single stick of cigarette can contain about 6 milligrams of nicotine, while at the higher end, up to 28 milligrams. However, most cigarettes on average contain about 10 to 12 milligrams of nicotine per stick. 

Not all of the nicotine is inhaled, some are released as the cigarette burns. An average smoker inhales about 1.1 to 1.8 milligrams of nicotine in an entire cigarette, which puts a pack of 20 cigarettes at about 22 to 36 milligrams of nicotine.

You may be wondering how many puffs are in a cigarette. There isn't an exact answer as this depends on:

    • How often the smoker inhales
  • How big of a puff they take
  • How long the cigarette burns in between drags

Nicotine in Vapes

The nicotine levels in vape juices vary between brands. Some vapes offer nicotine-free cartridges or cartridges made of nicotine salts that contain as much as 50 milligrams per milliliter. Average smokers trying to compare their nicotine intake to cigarette levels would prefer vape nicotine levels of 3 to 15 milligrams per mL. Smokers with a higher daily tolerance will prefer vape juices with a nicotine content of up to 24 milligrams per milliliter.

With vape juices’ nicotine content being such a variable, many people wonder how much vaping is equivalent to a stick of cigarette. That is a difficult question to answer considering the vast variety of vape nicotine levels available. To answer this question, consider the following: 

  • The vaping device being used
  • The size of puffs taken 
  • The frequency of which they used to smoke cigarettes

A common benchmark is that a single milliliter of vape juice typically yields about 100 puffs. This means that, roughly, one milliliter of vape juice equals around five packs of cigarettes. 

The effects of the chemical, when released through vaping, are much more potent than the stimulant inhaled by smoking a cigarette. This is especially true in sub-Ohm vaping. Sub-Ohm devices produce a much thicker vapor that emits like a big cloud.

What Does Nicotine Do?

In order to understand the effects of this stimulant, you must first understand neurotransmitters. The brain is constantly active with billions of neurons that process and send information throughout the rest of your body. 

Nicotine mimics acetylcholine when absorbed by the body. 

This increases signaling activity in your brain, which makes you feel more energized after a cigarette. Eventually, your brain’s neurons compensate for the increased activity by depleting natural acetylcholine receptors. This means that when you smoke less, your nicotine levels deplete, and your body finds itself craving it more because the brain isn’t producing similar levels of acetylcholine by itself. It also mimics dopamine, which is known as the “feel-good” chemical of the brain. 

In many ways, nicotine alters your brain's chemical functions in a way that leaves you wanting more of the substance, hence, making it difficult to quit. 

Nicotine Levels When Vaping Versus Smoking

In short, the amount of nicotine consumed by vaping can be varied by such a large extent that vaping may deliver a dose that is similar or less than that of cigarette smoking. However, vapers with larger vape mods have the option of refilling e-liquids that have higher nicotine content, which may be higher than that of cigarette smoking. 

The Takeaway

Nicotine levels vary across all brands and styles of cigarettes and vapes. If you're someone who wants to quit smoking cigarettes, you should use proven methods and therapies before considering vaping. Long-term health effects of vapes aren't well understood yet, although authorities at Public Health England have indicated that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than smoking

We will say that with vapes, you can consume lower nicotine options, thereby limiting your nicotine intake. This is an upside for those who want to transition away from smoking cigarettes. 


How many puffs of a vape is equal to a cigarette?

It's not exactly clear how many puffs equal the amount of one cigarette. This depends on the atomizer and setup of your cartridge. For example, sub-ohm devices at higher wattages produce a higher vaporization level and burn through vape juice faster. It also depends on the nicotine levels of the specific e-liquid you choose compared to the cigarette brand you're used to smoking.

How many puffs are in a cigarette?

There isn't an exact answer to this question. The amount of puffs in a cigarette depends on how the smoker inhales the cigarette, the size of the puffs, and time spent between each drag. The average smoker finishes their cigarette anywhere between 8-14 puffs.

How many puffs a day is normal for vaping?

There's a large range of puffs per day across vape users. Most people report that they average anywhere between 140-300 puffs a day. This depends on the nicotine level present as well as their prior smoking habits when using cigarettes.

What are the main vape nicotine levels?

Standard vape levels come in a variety of doses. Commercial vape juice comes in doses of zero nicotine as well as 3 mg, 6 mg, 12 mg, and 18 mg per milliliter. High nicotine level cartridges of 24-36 milligrams per milliliter are also available for users with a higher tolerance level.

What is the vape juice nicotine content?

Vape juice nicotine content equals the amount of nicotine present measured by the amount of nicotine, in milligrams per milliliter of e-liquid. These levels vary across models and cartridges and can be altered to help reduce your nicotine intake over time.

Which is a reliable alternative? 

Vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking as mentioned by Public Health England. Cigarette smoke contains many chemicals and dozens of carcinogens that aren’t present in vapes. Vaping is also much less expensive than smoking. 

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