How many cigarettes is 20mg of nicotine equivalent to?

Nicotine, a naturally occurring substance from the tobacco plant, can have a range of effects on the user including calmness and increased happiness levels. However, this enjoyable psychological reaction makes nicotine a highly addictive substance.

While the dangers of smoking cigarettes are well known, vapes are a good alternative for those looking to cut out the health warnings that come with cigarettes while still getting a hit of nicotine.

1 ml of 20mg / ml nicotine strength e-liquid is roughly equivalent to 20 cigarettes a day. From this, you can work out what strength e-liquid you should buy for your vape so you’re getting enough of a nicotine hit.

Read on to find out how you can find the best kind of vaping experience for your personal needs.

Understanding nicotine levels
Understanding nicotine levels in cigarettes and vapes means getting to know how it’s measured, which is in milligrams.

Cigarettes have anywhere between 8-20 mg of nicotine in them. It’s generally accepted that for every cigarette you smoke, you’re getting 1-2mg of nicotine in your system each time. This is because a lot of the nicotine is exhaled when you breathe out. It’s a pretty inefficient way of getting a nicotine hit, especially if you take into account the health drawbacks from smoking cigarettes.

If you’re looking to switch to vaping, you can roughly work out how much nicotine you’ll need in your vape based on the above. If you usually smoke 10 cigarettes a day, you’ll be after roughly 10mg of nicotine in your vape juice; if you smoke 20 cigarettes, you’ll want 20mg of nicotine.

It’s important to note there isn’t an exact science with measuring nicotine levels in cigarettes and vapes; it depends on a whole host of factors, even coming down to your own body composition and lung capacity.

The vaping experience is highly customisable depending on what type of throat hit you’re after. There are thousands of different vapes and e-liquids available on the market, each with slightly different levels of nicotine absorption.

Nicotine in e-liquids
While nicotine levels in cigarettes are measured in milligrams, some vape e-liquids use percentages instead. A typical range would be anything from 0.3% all the way through to 2%. But how does that translate into mg?

If you’re looking at a nicotine percentage in an e-liquid, this just shows how much nicotine is in the bottle in comparison to the other ingredients (vegetable glycerin, or VG, and propylene glycol, or PG). So if you had a 2% e-liquid, then this would be the nicotine strength while the remaining 98% is made up of VG and PG.

You can easily convert mg into a percentage by simply dividing the mg amount by 10. As an example, if you’re after 20mg of nicotine then you’d be looking for a 2% e-liquid.

There’s a whole range of vape liquids and pens out there for whatever level you choose.

Which nicotine level is right for me?
Vape juices and disposable vape brands generally come in four standard nicotine levels: 0mg, 3mg, 6mg and 12mg. Which level you choose depends entirely on your personal preference.

If you’re a casual smoker that enjoys the odd cigarette with some friends, then a lower range nicotine level would likely suit your needs. 0mg nicotine juices are great for those that want the feel of the vape without the nicotine, while 3mg / ml e-liquids are a very low level of nicotine for casual smokers or those weaning themselves off of nicotine.

If you’re an average smoker that would usually go through a pack of cigarettes a day, a vape juice with a 6-12 mg / ml range may suit you better. 6 mg / ml is still on the lighter side of a nicotine hit, while 12 mg / ml would be a good place to start if you’re looking to transition from cigarettes to vaping for the first time.

If you’re not sure where to start, it’s best to go for the lower levels of nicotine. More of a hit than you’re used to can result in headaches and dizziness. You can always increase the level later on.

Nicotine salts vs freebase
A newer type of nicotine available is known as nicotine salt, first introduced by JUUL with the rest of the industry quickly catching up to introduce their own versions. The main difference is that it comes from the tobacco plant making it easier to absorb than the standard vape juice using freebase nicotine. Nic salt produces a smooth inhale, which can’t be achieved with freebase nicotine if they were to have higher levels of nicotine. 

Nicotine salt can be purchased as refills or in disposable vapes. Typically, a disposable vape with nicotine salts in can have anything between 5 - 20 mg / ml of nicotine in; this is because the coils are smaller in disposable vapes, so the higher level of nicotine is needed to make it a satisfying experience.

As the nicotine is measured as mg / ml (milligram per millimetre), this would mean a 20 mg / ml disposable vape that holds 2ml of e-liquid would have a total of 40 mg nicotine inside; equivalent to roughly 20-40 cigarettes.

This can be more economical, as you need less of the vape to satisfy your cravings, but could lead to the nausea we mentioned earlier if it’s more nicotine than you’re used to. Whether you want to try vape pens with the newer nicotine salts or feel like sticking to traditional e-liquids, the choice is up to you.

Should I make the switch?
Understanding the nicotine levels and how they translate in vape juices and disposable vapes is the first step to transitioning into vaping.

A traditional vape is a good everyday option if you want to invest in a piece of equipment. This is better for the more experienced vaper that knows what type of vaping experience they’re after and how to customise it.

A disposable vape can be a great option for those looking to start vaping, if you’re on the move or you’re at an event where you might not want to carry your usual vaping kit, like a festival. They’re also great if you’re after a nicotine salts vape with a stronger hit.

Whatever you decide, both options are customisable and have hundreds, if not thousands of options available depending on flavour, throat hit and vapour. The best thing to do is experiment to see which nicotine level is right for you.