Get a clear understanding of the nicotine that you need when you are a smoker

When you are a smoker and you want to quit smoking using e-cigarettes, one of the first questions posed concerns the nicotine dose that the e-liquid needs.

Why is it important to get the nicotine dose that you inhale right?

  • To avoid suffering from nicotine cravings,
  • to maximise your chances of successfully quitting smoking,
  • to avoid starting smoking again once you have started vaping,
  • to be able to dose your e-liquids and other nicotine substitutes correctly.

How do you know the nicotine content that you need?

One of the mistakes you should not make when deciding on the nicotine content of your e-liquid is to refer to overly simplistic calculations such as: I smoke this number of cigarettes per day, so I need an e-liquid containing this much nicotine.

In fact, as the Professor points out, this is not the right method to use for a number of reasons:

  • The nicotine content in a cigarette varies according to its brand and model. It may be from 6 to 17 mg, but smokers only absorb 1 to 2 mg.
  • The nicotine content specified by manufacturers on packs is based on smoking machines which do not reproduce a human’s tobacco consumption. These contents are generally underestimated.
  • The link between cigarettes/day and nicotine absorption is not linear, but more like an inverted U-shaped curve.

In this way, in order to determine the actual nicotine content that a novice vaper needs, more accurate calculations are required, that J.F. Etter has made easier to understand using a short questionnaire.

Simply take a pen and paper to write down your answers and your points, then calculate your total to determine the right nicotine dose for you.

This questionnaire has been the subject of a scientific article (available to access here), so these are not just some questions taken at random. Answering these questions will give you a realistic estimation of your exposure to nicotine, allowing you to infer the dose that you really need.


Question No. 1

How many cigarettes do you smoke per day, on average?

  • Zero = 0 points
  • 1 to 5 = 1 point
  • 6 to 10 = 2 points
  • 11 to 15 = 3 points
  • 16 to 20 = 4 points
  • 21 and over = 5 points

Question No. 2

After you wake up, how much time passes before you have your first cigarette of the day?

  • From 0 to 5 minutes = 5 points
  • From 6 to 15 minutes = 4 points
  • From 16 to 30 minutes = 3 points
  • From 30 minutes to 1 hour = 2 points
  • Over one hour afterwards = 1 point

Question No. 3

Indicate, on a scale between 1 and 100, the intensity of your smoking.

  • 0 = 0 points
  • From 1 to 20 = 1 point
  • From 21 to 40 = 2 points
  • From 41 to 60 = 3 points
  • From 61 to 80 = 4 points
  • From 81 to 100 = 5 points

By “intensity of your smoking”, this question means XXXX

Question No. 4

Indicate the total quantity of smoke that you inhale every day. 10 means that you inhale so much that you could not inhale more smoke, even if you tried.

  • 0 = 0 points
  • 1 or 2 = 1 point
  • 3 or 4 = 2 points
  • 5 or 6 = 3 points
  • 7 or 8 = 4 points
  • 9 or 10 = 5 points

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. The number of cigarettes per day, the depth of inhalation, and the number of puffs.

Question No. 5

Finally, indicate the quantity of nicotine contained in your cigarettes written on their pack.

  • From 0.1 to 0.5 mg = 1 point
  • From 0.6 to 0.7 mg = 2 points
  • 0.8 mg = 3 points
  • 0.9 mg = 4 points
  • 1 to 1.3 mg = 5 points


Now add up the number of points that you scored for each question. With a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 25.

  • Between 0 and 4 points: you absorb between 0 and 7 mg of nicotine per day (average of 2.4 mg/day).
  • Between 5 and 9 points: you absorb between 7 and 14 mg of nicotine per day (average of 10 mg/day).
  • Between 10 and 14 points: you absorb between 14 and 21 mg of nicotine per day (average of 17 mg/day).
  • Between 15 and 19 points: you absorb between 21 and 28 mg of nicotine per day (average of 24 mg/day).
  • Between 20 and 25 points: you absorb over 30 mg of nicotine per day.

Quitting smoking

Before we discuss the nicotine content that you need, it is important to note that, in order to give yourself the best chance of avoiding nicotine cravings, the Professor advises keeping to the content calculated using this questionnaire for at least 3 months.

Then, to determine the dose of nicotine that you need, it is necessary to look at the findings of another study that sought to determine the nicotine dosages contained in the e-liquids used by smokers who successfully quit smoking using e-cigarettes. Below are the dosages that you will need to follow.

For this purpose, J.F Etter has prepared a summary:

  • From 0 to 4 points: you should vape e-liquids with a dosage of 10 mg/mL.
  • From 5 to 9 points: you should vape e-liquids with a dosage of 10-12 mg/mL.
  • From 10 to 14 points: you should vape e-liquids with a dosage of 12 mg/mL.
  • From 15 to 19 points: you should vape e-liquids with a dosage of 16 mg/mL.
  • From 20 to 25 points: you should vape e-liquids with a dosage of 18 mg/mL.

Now all you need to do is monitor your inhalation to check that you are inhaling the correct nicotine dose.

You will know if your e-liquid is right for you if you no longer feel the urge to smoke, if you are not experiencing any mood or concentration disorders, or weight gain.

This article is not intended as medical advice. If in doubt, contact a healthcare professional.

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