Electronic Cigarette Nicotine Content

Posted on August 30th, 2009 by Jack Stone

Most electronic cigarettes are available with cartridges with differing amounts of nicotine. When first starting on electronic cigarettes, many users wonder what level of nicotine they should opt for with their cartridges. The answer to that question varies depending on how much you currently smoke tobacco cigarettes. Also, it should be noted that electronic cigarettes cartridges are designed to last the equivalent of multiple cigarettes and are not meant to be smoked completely in one sitting.

Nicotine content of a tobacco cigarette

Traditional tobacco cigarettes have varying nicotine contents depending on the brand. Nicotine contents of tobacco cigarettes have trended down over the past 30 years from an average of 1.35 mg per cigarette in 1968 to an average of 0.90 mg per cigarette in 1994. Per brand breakdowns are as follows and are based on a study done by the United States Federal Trade Commission on1206 varieties of domestic cigarettes between the years 1994 and 1997:

  • Lucky Strike Regular        1.6 mg per cigarette
  • Marlboro Red                    1.2 mg per cigarette
  • Marlboro Light                  0.8 mg per cigarette
  • Newport Regular             1.2 mg per cigarette
  • Newport Light                   0.7 mg per cigarette
  • Camel Regular                   1.4 mg per cigarette
  • Camel Light                         0.9 mg per cigarette
  • Camel Wide                        1.2 mg per cigarette
  • Capri Super Slim               0.8 mg per cigarette
  • Chesterfield Full Flavor  1.5 mg per cigarette
  • Parliament Light               0.7 mg per cigarette
  • Salem Regular                   1.2 mg per cigarette
  • Salem Light                         0.9 mg per cigarette
  • Basic Regular                      1.0 mg per cigarette
  • Basic Light                           0.7 mg per cigarette
  • Kool Regular                       1.1 mg per cigarette
  • Paul Maul Regular            1.7 mg per cigarette
  • Virginia Slims                      1.1 mg per cigarette
  • Winston Regular               1.2 mg per cigarette

Nicotine Content of Electronic Cigarette Cartridges

Most electronic cigarette cartridges are available in 4 different nicotine strengths: 1) Full flavor 2) Medium 3) Light 4) Nicotine free. Each brand varies, but most are close to the following numbers:

  • Full flavor            16 – 24 mg
  • Medium               12 – 16 mg
  • Light                      4 – 8 mg
  • Nicotine-free     0 mg

As you can see, electronic cigarette cartridges contain much higher amounts of nicotine because they are not meant to be smoked completely in one sitting. Which nicotine level you choose depends on your personal preference and how you foresee smoking the eCigarette.

According to BluCigs FAQ, their cartridges last approximately 60-80 puffs, which they place as being about the equivalent of 6 traditional cigarettes. That said, if you’re not sure what to purchase, most people find that full flavor (or full strength) works well if they smoked full-strength tobacco cigarettes, such as Marlboro Reds, medium strength (12 – 16 mg) is adequate for smokers used to light cigarettes such as Marlboro Lights, and light strength (4 – 8 mg) is adequate for smokers used to ultra light cigarettes or occasional smokers. And nicotine-free are useful for those looking to quit smoking altogether without giving up the habit of smoking right away.

In Practice, It Depends on Your Habits

In practice, you can smoke an electronic cigarette as long or as short as you want. So, perhaps the more pertinent question to ask is not how much nicotine each cartridge contains, but rather how you plan to smoke your electronic cigarette. Personally, I smoked Parliament Lights and found the medium strength cartridges (12 – 16 mg) allowed me to smoke for the same amount of time I would with a tobacco cigarette and get the same feeling. I’ve heard from others who used to smoke full-strength cigarettes, such as Marlboro Reds, that the full-strength cartridges are more akin to what they’re used to.

However, if I was looking to spend less time smoking without sacrificing nicotine, I could have purchased full-strength cartridges and only taken a couple of hits during each smoke break. Because electronic cigarette cartridges are not designed to be finished in one sitting, and you don’t have to worry about finishing a full cigarette during each break, you can get a higher nicotine content cartridge and smoke less than you did with tobacco cigarettes and get the same satisfaction.

Ultimately, the answer to the question of which cartridge strength to purchase depends on how you plan to smoke your electronic cigarette. If you plan to smoke the same amount as tobacco cigarettes, you should follow this general guideline:

What you smoked in tobacco cigarettes eCig cartridge strength to buy

Full strength (such as Marlboro Red)                                       Full strength (18 – 24 mg)

Light (such as Marlboro Lights)                                                   Medium strength (12 – 16 mg)

Ultra light (Such as Marlboro Ultra Lights)                             Light strength (4 – 8 mg)

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11 Responses to “Electronic Cigarette Nicotine Content”

  1. Ryan says:
    Thank you. This answered my question. The only thing im still wondering is does the vapor of the full strength nicotine feel stronger in your lungs than say, the light. like the difference between a red and a light, you can tell in your lungs.
  2. Michael says:
    I smoke ultralight cigarettes and currently smoking the ultra light electronic cartridges. I found that U will need a stronger cartridge like a light or even a regular for your mornings. I used to smoke 3 to 4 in the mornings and the ultra light cartridges DO NOT CUT IT. You’ll end up smoking again. I bought the pro smoke and the best Ive purchased yet.The most smoke out of any I’ve tried. Go on you tube to see the comparison videos like I did. it’s worth it.
  3. lizzie says:
    my friend just got the blucigs and i tried it… she got the ultra light… it actually blinks 10 times on the end when you have smoked the equivalent of a cig. i tried it out and liked it but the ultra light that she got wasent strong enough for me… i read up on the paper work in the box it was in and it said that each cartridge was equal to 15 cigs. Since there are 5 cartridges in a pack that’s about 75 cigs or almost 4 packs. When i read this i was trying to figure out what i should get but because i smoke camel lights which are .9mg per cig…. so i figured out the .9 times 20 is 18mg…. well then i went to the blucigs website and full flavored (strong) is 16mg…. their light is 12 mg…. and ultra light was 8mg…. so even the full isn’t equivalent to my camel lights? Could someone tell me if i correct in my calculations or do i have it all wrong??
  4. lizzie says:
    i figured it out on my own… ha! if there’s 18 mg to 20 cigs in a pack of camel lights… then 12 mg to 15 in one cartridge equals .8mg per “cig” in a blucig… so just .1 mg less than a normal cig for me…
    • Jack Stone says:
      That sounds about right Lizzie. If people are fairly regular smokers I usually recommend they get the full strength cartridges, just because if it turns out to be more nicotine than you need, you can just smoke less of it since you’re not burning through regular cigarettes. But if you get a lower strength and it’s too light it’s just going to be a bit of a pain when you start going through a whole lot of cartridges.
  5. melissa says:
    Thanks for all these Q & A’s really helped me. My question is have you heard of any place where u cannot smoke electronic cigarrettes?
  6. mike says:
    e-cigs do not produce harmful toxins, the vapor vanishes and is not harmful or addicting to anyone around you. So the answer is you can use it anywhere, however, initially ppl will flip, especially if it looks real. There is one brand of e-cig that comes with a neat little card explaining how harmless it is to those around you that you can hand to idiots who think vapors are harmful to them. You can even use on a plane, i have. just be discrete with it to avoid conflict. Just remember this: PERCEPTION IS REALITY. If people think it is harmful, they will not be easily deterred.

    Mad Dog

  7. ksphere says:
    All brands I found claim that one cartridge corresponds to 20 cigarettes, i.e. one pack.
    I used to smoke Marlboro light and now use a 16 mg cartridge.
    16 mg/20 = 0.8 mg per smoke, so that would correspond to a Marlboro light. However, I still don’t feel having the same nicotine in my body as before. I feel to need a smoke every half hour instead every 2 hours with Marlboro light and after the smoke I don’t feel the same strength in my body.

    I read that due to the different way of absorption (vapor vs. smoke) only 50-80% of the nicotine on cartridges get absorbed compared to regular cigarettes.

  8. Ian says:
    I’m sorry this is old now but I use to smoke Marlboro and Camel lights then about 3yrs ago I swithed to rolling my own. Got tired of that and the feeling of not being able to breath so today I bought the Nic stick 18mg turkish blend. I see now why they put more nicotine in the e-cigarettes as you won’t be actually smoking a cigarette. I tried it and about 6 puffs I felt I had enough nicotine but afterwards I felt odd like I didn’t get my nicotine, Hard to explain.

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