April 29, 2022 5 min read

When you’re new to vaping, buying e-liquid for the first time is very likely to be one of the most confusing aspects of your transition away from smoking. The reason why buying e-liquid can be so intimidating for first timers is because of the wide range in the amount of nicotine a vape juice can contain. Many popular e-juices have nicotine strengths as low as 3 mg/ml, while other e-liquids have strengths up to 20 mg/ml. Nicotine-free vape juice is also available. That’s a tremendous variance in the level of nicotine an e-liquid can contain – and as you can probably imagine, your vaping experience won’t be great if the nicotine strength that you’re using isn’t right for your needs.

Here at Simply ELiquid, it’s our goal to make your switch from smoking to vaping as easy as it can be. With that in mind, this is our e-liquid strength guide. What strength e-liquid do you need? We’re going to explain exactly how it works. First, though, we’re going to start you off with a short answer that’s likely to be a perfect fit for most new vapers.


Short Answer: Which E-Liquid Strength Is Best for Quitting Smoking?

“What strength e-liquid should I use?”

We’ll begin this article with a quick answer to the question that most likely brought you here.

The most likely reason why you’ve decided to start vaping is because you’re currently a smoker, and you want to quit. When you shop our selection of vape starter kits, you’ll see a wide variety of different products. We suggest choosing a small and simple vape device such as a vape pen or pod-based system. You should then go the nic salts section of our website and choose a few flavours that appeal to you. For each flavour, you should choose the highest available nicotine strength, which is usually 20 mg/ml. With a few brands, the maximum nicotine strength is 18 mg/ml. The two nicotine strengths will feel approximately the same.

We suggest choosing e-liquids with higher nicotine levels when you’re new to vaping because that’s what’s necessary for your vaping device to deliver nicotine with efficiency similar to that of a cigarette. If you feel like you’re getting more nicotine than you need, you can buy a lower nicotine strength. Unless you smoke significantly fewer than 10 cigarettes a day, though, that probably won’t be necessary.


E-Liquid Nicotine Strength Explained: How Is Nicotine Content Measured?

We’ll continue this article with a vape liquid strength guide that’ll help you understand what you’re reading when you look at a bottle of e-liquid. You’ll usually see an e-liquid’s nicotine strength expressed in milligrams. A bottle of vape juice with a nicotine strength of 20 mg/ml, for instance, will say “20 mg” on the label. That, however, doesn’t mean the bottle contains 20 mg of nicotine in total; it means that the bottle contains 20 mg of nicotine per millilitre of e-liquid. Therefore, a 10 ml bottle of e-liquid with a strength of 20 mg/ml has 200 mg of nicotine in all. Bear that in mind as you try to manage your daily nicotine intake.


How Do Freebase Nicotine and Nicotine Salts Affect Nicotine Delivery?

If you’ve read a bit about e-liquid, you’ve probably noticed that vape juice is available with two different types of nicotine: freebase nicotine and nicotine salt. Nicotine is a salt before it’s extracted from the tobacco plant. The extraction process converts the nicotine into a free base, though, because freeing the nicotine from its salt-based form increases the yield of the extraction. Freebase nicotine is what’s used for almost all nicotine replacement products, and it was also used for all vape juice until the first nicotine salt e-liquids were created.

Nicotine salt e-liquid may contain a form of nicotine that’s more similar to the nicotine in tobacco leaves, but what really makes it different from a usage standpoint is that it has a more neutral pH than freebase nicotine vape juice. Freebase e-liquid is somewhat alkaline, and some people find it difficult to use at high nicotine strengths because it can be irritating to the throat. Nicotine salt, in comparison, is much smoother. That’s why we recommend nicotine salt e-liquid for new vapers.

If you happen to be a particularly heavy smoker, though, it’s worth mentioning that a high-strength freebase nicotine e-liquid will produce a powerful throat hit. If you find your vaping experience unsatisfying even with the strongest nicotine salt e-liquid, you should try a high-strength freebase nicotine vape juice. What some people perceive as throat irritation, you may find quite enjoyable.


How Your Vaping Hardware Relates to E-Juice Nicotine Strength

When you look at the different types of vaping devices that are available, you’re going to notice that some of them look significantly fancier and more elaborate than others. Many of the beginner-oriented vape pens and pod systems may look a little mundane in comparison.

There’s a very important reason, though, why we suggest buying a smaller device if you’re new to vaping. It’s because the nicotine strength of your e-liquid will always have an inverse relationship with the vapour production of your hardware. If you have a large sub-ohm vape, you’ll need to use an e-liquid with a low nicotine strength. Otherwise, you’ll end up consuming too much nicotine because sub-ohm devices produce enormous clouds.

If you use an e-liquid with a low nicotine strength, though, you won’t experience the same throat hit that you feel when smoking a cigarette – and many new vapers need to feel an assertive throat hit in order to enjoy vaping fully. To replicate the feel of smoking, you need to use an e-liquid with a high nicotine strength. That’s why we suggest using a small device and a high-strength e-liquid if you’re a first-time vaper.


How MTL and DTL Inhaling Relate to E-Liquid Strengths

Just as the right e-liquid nicotine strength can vary with the power of your vaping hardware, it can also vary with your inhaling style. With a smaller vaping device, you’ll vape by drawing the vapour into your mouth before inhaling it – as if you’re smoking a cigarette. Larger vaping devices, on the other hand, are designed to be used by direct inhalation into the lungs. As we mentioned above, the direct-to-lung (DTL) inhalation style requires an e-liquid with a lower nicotine strength because DTL vaping devices always produce very large vapour clouds.

  • If you use a mouth-to-lung (MTL) vaping device, we suggest starting with the 20 mg/ml nicotine strength and switching to a lower strength of nicotine salt e-liquid (usually 10 mg/ml for most vape juice brands) if you get a sore throat from vaping or feel like you’re consuming more nicotine than you require.
  • If you use a direct-to-lung (DTL) vaping device, we suggest starting with the 3 mg/ml nicotine strength and moving up to a higher nicotine strength if you feel like you’re consuming less nicotine than you require. Modern DTL vaping devices are so powerful that the 3 mg/ml strength provides sufficient nicotine for most vapers. If you’re certain that you aren’t getting enough nicotine, step up to the 6 mg/ml strength.