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How Much Nicotine Is In One Cigarette?

By Tony Clayborn

Wednesday March 18, 2015
mg of nicotine in a cigarette

How much nicotine is in one cigarette? This is an important question to ask. As we all know, nicotine is the addictive stimulant that gives you the craving to smoke. You are not addicted to ammonia, benzene, tar, carbon monoxide or any of the other thousands of toxic compounds found in cigarette smoke. It is the nicotine in cigarettes that is largely the culprit behind the addiction.

If you are smoker who wants to cope with and manage the addictive craving but you also want to reduce your exposure to the damaging impact of the toxins in cigarette smoke it is a good idea to understand the nicotine levels in cigarettes. It is tough to replace the nicotine in a cigarette unless you have an idea how much nicotine you are taking in.

If you can get an idea of how much nicotine that you are ingesting, it gives you a baseline for understanding how much nicotine you would need from an alternative source, such as an ecig (the FDA has begun to refer to ecigs as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) or NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) product.

Obviously, everyone is different. The one size fits all ecig products, such as Vuse for example, that you find in retail locations treat everyone the same. Offering one or two nicotine levels serves only that segment of smokers looking for an alternative. Understanding nicotine levels is going to help you make a decision that will optimize your chance to kick tobacco to the curb.

One thing that you also must keep in mind is the accompanying chemicals derived from the cigarette additives that tobacco companies add to cigarettes to increase addiction. The nicotine in a single cigarette reaches your brain in seconds. Tobacco additives such as ammonia and tar basically add jet fuel to the nicotine and supercharge the speed at which it hits your system.

You may be surprised to learn that despite all of the bad press that cigarettes have gotten over the last couple of decades, this has not stopped Big Tobacco from adding more toxic compounds to make cigarettes burn faster and increase nicotine absorption. In addition, it is now believed that tobacco smoke contains other addictive chemicals besides just nicotine.

Quitting smoking is one of the best gifts that you will ever give yourself. It is worth every effort and exploring every avenue that might work. Acquainting yourself with as much information as possible, including cigarette nicotine levels, can only add to your chance of success.

When you quit, your body will experience a remarkable resurgence. Take a look at our Quit Smoking Timeline to see just how fast you experience the benefits of getting tobacco out of your life. The benefits of quitting are immediate and long lasting.

How Many MG Of Nicotine In A Cigarette

the amount of nicotine in cigarettes variesCigarettes contain anywhere from 8 mg of nicotine up to 20 mg of nicotine. Most cigarettes are at the lower end of the spectrum, which puts the average amount on nicotine in one cigarette at 12 mg.

While the total amount of nicotine in a cigarette may vary, the amount that you actually absorb is relatively constant.

According to most of the data out there, including CDC cigarette data, you absorb less than 1 mg of that nicotine when you smoke a cigarette. According to studies, it is about 0.95 mg so for sake of simplicity, we’ll go with 1 mg of nicotine absorbed with each cigarette smoked.

The total absorbed amount of nicotine in a cigarette is relatively constant but the number of cigarettes you smoke has a direct impact on how much nicotine is in your bloodstream. The more you smoke, the more nicotine that you have in your system.

You absorb approximately 1 mg of nicotine with each cigarette that you smoke.

The cravings that you experience is your brain wanting more nicotine and nicotine provided at a familiar level. Scientists measure the nicotine in the bloodstream in nanograms per milliliter. The bloodstream of a smoker typically indicates between 10 ng/ml and 50 ng/ml. The difference can vary greatly depending on how much you smoke.

The average smoker is at about 30 ng/ml. This is a level that satisfies the nicotine cravings of your brain. The good news is that when you reduce nicotine your body will adapt and remain satisfied. Obviously, going from 30 ng/ml to 10 ng/ml will present a challenge but the good news is that a plan to reduce at a graduated scale over time is certainly not a bad strategy.

The quality, reputable ecig companies that appear on our charts offer a variety nicotine levels including a zero nicotine ecig option. These brands can accommodate a graduated reduction over time and might help you reach the ultimate goal of ridding your nicotine cravings altogether.

How Does Nicotine In Cigarettes Compare To Nicotine In Ecigs?

nicotine levels in cigarettesLet’s get away from talking about nanograms and go back to milligrams and milliliters.

Mg and ml are easier to work with and provide us with the best ability to compare the nicotine in cigarettes to the nicotine in ecigs. The comparison is not cut and dried, there are a lot of variables to consider.

There are a couple of important factors to consider when comparing tobacco smoke to vapor. You can’t directly compare the nicotine level in a cigarette to that of an ecig or personal vaporizer.

One, the size of the cigarette smoke particulates is 1 micron (1 micron is 1 thousandth of a millimeter). That is incredibly small which allows cigarette smoke particulates to penetrate the smallest air passages in your lungs. This accelerates the nicotine absorption process.

This should also serve to highlight another reason why cigarette smoking is so dangerous. The smoke particles penetrate to a frightening degree.

Two, alongside the size of cigarette smoke particulate, the other factor that impacts nicotine absorption are the associated chemicals and tobacco additives. As we mentioned, those additives were put there to accelerate the nicotine hit you get from a cigarette.

Ecig vapor particulates have shown to be larger than smoke and therefore do not penetrate the smallest passages of the lungs. The absence of addictives means that the nicotine delivery is much cleaner than is the case with a cigarette but without the tobacco additives the nicotine absorption is not as dramatic.

ECCR has previously covered how to choose the right nicotine level when you are attempting to replace cigarettes with ecigs. The guidelines that we have previously discussed remain true. A pack per day smoker would be best served by an 18 mg to 24 mg nicotine level.

It is always best to start the lowest reasonable level. Many ecig levels offered by the better quality companies are in the 16 mg to 18 mg levels. That’s where a pack per day smoker should start. If you want to try an even lower level, and that would actually be encouraged. If you try a 12 mg level and are satisfied then that is great.

nicotine levels in cigarettes and ecigsIf you are a pack per day smokers who has tried 12 mg of nicotine but find yourself going back to cigarettes, then a higher nicotine level is probably in order. Perhaps then you should try the recommended 16 mg or 18 mg nicotine level.

If you don’t know the nicotine level of an ecig, don’t buy it. Some retail ecigarettes have very high nicotine levels.

As an example let’s consider the Vuse ecig that has a 48 mg nicotine level. If you are not a heavy smoker, you actually run the risk of making your nicotine addiction worse.

When you vape on an ecig, the amount of nicotine that you are actually ingesting is not fully clear. Based on measurements of regular vapers who show a nicotine blood content of, on average, 15 ng/ml we do know that vapers are getting their nicotine fix and generally at a lesser amount than when they were smoking cigarettes. That’s a good thing.

The amount of nicotine in ecig vapor is less than that of cigarette smoke. You may experience mild nicotine withdrawal symptoms but adjusting nicotine levels with ecigs is easy. Evidence varies but it seems that roughly 50% of the nicotine in ejuice makes its way into the vapor. Again, that 50% number is an estimate as no definitive numbers have been established. The current state of the evapor business is rather chaotic and there are so many types of ecigs with such varying degrees of quality that performance cannot be narrowed down to a statistical constant.

All of this explains the basis of why smokers generally need a somewhat higher value nicotine eliquid level as compared to how much nicotine is in one cigarette in order to match the amount of nicotine in a cigarette.

Nicotine In A Cigarette / Ecig Overview

how much nicotine in cigarettes which ejuice nic level

Nicotine Levels Offered By Ecigs

We know that when you smoke a cigarette you are absorbing about 1 mg of nicotine.

If you smoke a half pack per day, your are taking in about 10 mg of nicotine per day.

Pack per day smokers are taking in about 20 mg of nicotine per day.

Those with a two-pack habit are taking in 40 mg per day and so on and so forth. You see the pattern.

By comparison, an ecig tank or cartridge with 1 ml of eliquid that has an 18 mg nicotine concentration means that there actually is 18 mg of nicotine in your tank or cartridge. Nicotine strength is measured by the ratio of nicotine mg per each 1 ml of e-liquid.

That is why you see eliquid nicotine levels sometimes expressed as a percentage and other times in mg. It is all the same. A 24 mg nicotine level is the same as 2.4% nicotine.

So if you are vaping an 18 mg eliquid from a 1 ml tank or cartridge each day and 50% of the nicotine is present in the vapor that would mean that you are ingesting about 9 mg of nicotine per day.

This is less that a pack of tobacco cigarettes. Though it is less nicotine overall, many pack per day smokers have had success with the 18 mg level. A lot of the grey area has to do with the reported 50% figure relating to how much nicotine is actually in the vapor.

I am hesitant to even bring up that 50% number because it is based 100% on anecdotal study. Better ecigarettes may vaporize nicotine far more efficiently than cheap ecigs.

Ecig technology varies greatly. An ecig with cheap wicks or cheap foam for eliquid storage is bound to be far less efficient at vaporizing nicotine. Not to mention what byproducts might be created when heating cheaper wicks and second-rate foam from generic cigalike refill cartridges.

cheap ecigs put you at riskThis is why ECCR continually stresses, over and over again, don’t buy cheap ecigs! We know about how much nicotine is in one cigarette but for many of the ecig products out there the information is not clear.

All of the ecig companies that appear on our top ranked ecig charts are above board, high quality brands with multiple nicotine options and are reliable performers that have a proven track record of satisfying consumers.

Unfortunately, many of the retail ecig brands are generic brands that have been manufactured as cheaply as possible and sold for ridiculous markups at gas stations and convenience stores.

As an experiment, I once visited 10 such stores in one day and found that the brands that were being sold divulged very little or no information.

The clerks who worked at these stores could tell me nothing about these cheap e-cigarettes including the very, very basic information about nicotine level.

The vaping industry is not regulated at this time. Anyone can start an ecig company or blend some eliquid in their garage and sell it. In fact, recent investigative studies showed that e-liquid bought from vape shops had the wrong nicotine level. People were buying a bottle that would claim to have 12 mg nicotine but in reality would have 18 mg. This is not because of a nefarious intention on the part of the seller, it is simply because the person who blended the ejuice was unqualified to do so. You do not have to have a single qualification to blend or sell e-liquid.

There are a number of eliquid brands that adhere to the highest standards. They rely on FDA and FEMA laboratory lab standards and utilize only high grade ingredients blended by professionals.

The same variance in quality applies to ecigarettes. There is an absolute chasm between the top rated ecigs and the generic brands that are simply trying to capitalize on the growing trend of vaping.

The bottom line is that comparing the nicotine in cigarettes to the nicotine in ecigs has a lot of variables. The better products provide better results.


How many mg of nicotine in a cigarette conclusion and what it means for youThe amount of nicotine in a cigarette is a known quantity. Burning tobacco is more constant than vaporizing eliquids. Combustion of tobacco happens at predictable, constant rates and temperatures.

Burning tobacco leaves are not one temperature in Marlboros and another temperature in Camels. Burning is burning, it is dangerous, it certainly produces thousands of toxins but it is predictable.

The end result is that every cigarette you smoke probably contains 12 to 18 mg of nicotine and puts 1 mg of that nicotine into your system. That is 1 mg of nicotine into your system even when how much nicotine is in one cigarette may vary somewhat from brand to brand.

Eliquid vaporization can vary greatly in terms of temperature and heating elements. The variance in ecig product quality probably has a major influence on how much nicotine you are ingesting. The better quality ecig products provide more stable and cleaner nicotine delivery.

We do know that ecigs can provide the nicotine that your brain craves and we do know that between 3 and 4 million people in the US now vape instead of smoke.

Understanding the mg of nicotine in a cigarette is a crucial factor in understanding your current level of addiction. We hope that you can use this information to help you choose the best products and the eliquid nicotine level that might make all the difference.

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