Guide to Vaping and Nicotine Strengths

Vapor4Life Goal

Our goal at Vapor4Life has always been to provide the best vaping eliquids and devices at the lowest price, and support your order with same day shipping and a customer service department that is ready to answer any vaping related question you may have.

At Vapor4Life, we would like nothing more than for all smokers to switch to vaping and for our customers to reduce their nicotine intake. There is nothing we would like more than if all of our customers are able to eventually enjoy a lifestyle free of nicotine and vaping.  

While FDA prevents us from making specific recommendations concerning smoking cessation, crafting individual titration plans or a specific roadmap for reducing nicotine levels, due to the fact that nicotine is an addictive chemical and vaping is regulated in the same fashion as tobacco, providing a guide that explains the various types of vaping devices and which eliquid strengths are most frequently by each type of device certainly falls within our purview. At Vapor4Life we carry a wide range of nicotine strengths so that our customers can find the lowest nicotine strength option for their preferred flavors. This is why our founder Steve Milin insisted on providing seven nic strengths, including nicotine free, for our Wow and Premium line of ejuices when our competitors offered at most three or four. 

Of course, if you live outside of the US, specifically the UK, harm reduction information and guidance is available. The UK National Health Service (NHS) has a website dedicated to using ecigs to quit smoking.

Even former-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, no ally of the vaping industry, stated if would be a net benefit if all smokers were to switch to vaping. Compare Scott Gottlieb’s negative but empirically based view on vaping to the nonsense generated by groups like the Orwellian-named Truth Initiative. Their banner study, a debunked link between vaping and heart disease, was retracted with little fanfare last year.

It was also in the UK that the New England Journal of Medicine study comparing nicotine replacement therapy with vaping was conducted. In this study, vaping crushed nicotine replacement therapy.  

This article describes the state of ecig technology to the current smoker and vaper. The term nic salts will appear with some frequency. For more information on nic salts, check out our feature article: Intro to Nic Salts.

Hopefully, this information will help you navigate the road to zero nicotine.  




There is a huge variety of eliquids on the market. They can be broken into two major categories. The first category consists of eliquids that use regular/freebase nicotine and the other uses nicotine salts. The science behind nic salts is covered in more detail in our feature, What is Salt Nic? Freebase may be a scary word but describes the nicotine that was used in all eliquids before the appearance of nic salts. Most ecig nicotine is derived from tobacco. Nic salts simply add benzoic acid to the freebase nicotine found in regular eliquids. There are some synthetic nicotine eliquids on the market but this style remains a niche market.

In terms of user experience, nic salts have a lower pH. This means that more nicotine can be added to an eliquid and it will still remain palatable. Contrast this with regular eliquid nicotine, where high levels will create a stiffer throat hit due to the greater pH level.

There are many vapers who prefer the authenticity of the stronger throat hit and chest burn. For this reason, they seek out potent freebase nicotine eliquids. But there is still a limit to tolerance when it comes to freebase nicotine. You will rarely see a regular ejuice with a strength above 36mg/ml.

Nicotine salts also cross the blood brain barrier more readily. The advantage of a higher nicotine level is simple. You don’t need as powerful of a device to obtain a satisfying vaping experience. Disposables and vape pod kits both owe their popularity to the strength of nic salts. But nic salts should never be vaped using a subohm tank system, the amount of vapor produced is far too high when the eliquid has such high nic levels.

There is no reason why a manufacturer couldn’t make their lower nicotine ejuices with nic salts.



VG/PG Ratios

The types of devices used to vape nic salts and the fact they aren’t to be used at higher wattage levels pulls the VG/PG ratio of eliquids into the spotlight. Nic salts are vaped using smaller and higher resistance coils that place an emphasis on flavor rather than vapor.

VG is short for vegetable glycerin and PG is propylene glycol. These are the foundations of eliquids. There are a few ejuices that are 100% VG, mostly created for those who are allergic to PG, but most eliquids have a blend of the two. As a rule of thumb, higher VG ejuices are sweeter and used in more powerful devices because of vapor production. High PG ejuices have stronger flavor and are meant to be used in more traditional ecigs.

Because nic salts are generally vaped in disposables, prefilled pods or refillable vape pod kits, the most common ratio is 50/50. VGod nic salts use a 70% VG blend and Mr Salt-E uses a 60 percent VG formula but these are the exceptions.

Vapers looking for the most authentic experience of all prefer high-PG eliquids, such as Wow and Premium Eliquids. These are available in nic strengths ranging from nic free to 3.6 percent. In this case, the road to zero nicotine is laid out perfectly into seven steps. For nic salt vapers, the drop from 5 percent to 2.5 percent to zero is far steeper.

Most higher-VG eliquids use freebase nicotine and are generally consumed using subohm tanks and box mods, or more powerful tube mods that generate a lot of vapor. We will examine the various styles of equipment below. But it is worth noting that the most popular nic strength for box mods is 3mg/ml. Compare this to the 50mg/ml found in most disposables. This nic strength discrepancy really illustrates the vast differences in different types of ecigs and ENDS devices. 

The high-VG ejuices generally come in the most fanciful and sweetest flavors as well. All often during the attacks on flavored vapes, a delightful high-VG, lower nicotine ejuice would be brought out as exhibit A. The fact is that box mods are loud, thirsty and hard to conceal. They were never the choice of teen vapers, whose flavor and device of choice was Juul Mint and not Scooby Snacks or Unicorn Milk. Check out our analysis of the CDC study on Why Kids Vape. The answer is not flavors.



Mouth to Lung versus Direct to Lung Vaping

Whenever you read vaping reviews, you will see the terms MTL and DTL thrown around. They describe the basic mechanism for inhalation. A box mod will fire vapor straight into your lungs if used as designed. A tighter drawing and less powerful device will basically facilitate the vapor first filling your mouth before being drawn into your lungs.

Direct to lung vaping is usually done with lower nicotine ejuices and mouth to lung vaping more closely resembles smoking. MTL vaping is usually the choice of nic salt vapers. But the simple expedient of covering the airflow or inhaling more deeply can change the performance envelope of your ecig. So in this case, it all boils down to personal preference. If you use the same device and reduce your nicotine levels, it hardly matters if the draw is restrictive MTL or DTL. It is more useful to consider these terms after finding your device of choice, in order to locate a device you may also enjoy using.


Vaping Technology

Vaping technology has been adapted for multiple purposes, namely CBD, THC and even vitamin B12, by far its most common application is as an electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS). But don’t let the simple acronym fool you. Ecigs come in a huge range of sizes and styles.

At one end you have disposable ecigs. The simplest of these designs are little more than a battery affixed to some wire that heats up eliquid soaked cotton polyfill.  

At the other end are box mods and subohm tanks. Outfitted with adjustable wattage and color screens, box mods are the apogee of vaping technology.

The difference in power and vapor production is astronomical. Where a basic disposable has a 250mAh battery, a box mods most frequently are powered by a pair 18650 batteries, which can equal 6000mAh or more.

Box mods generally have a peak power output of 200w or more. A disposable vape will be putting out less than 4w. As far as coil resistance, which is a measure of how fast a coil heats up and the lower number means more vapor created more quickly, most box mods use coils with a resistance of between 0.15 and 0.50ohms. A disposable vape will have a resistance of 4ohms. With this power differential in mind, it is obvious why there is such a wide range of nicotine strengths.

Keep in mind that wattage is adjustable. A box mod with a high enough resistance coil and low enough wattage setting is certainly capable of vaping nic salts. But as a rule of thumb, avoid subohm coils and hard hitting mods if you vape nic salts. This is the thought process behind devices like the Smok RPM80 and Fetch Pro. They have 80w performance but are compatible with coils that can be used for nic salts. Check out our feature on the best RPM pods for regular eliquids and our extensive guide to Smok vape pods and vape mods for more information.



Ecigs and Cigalikes

The original ecigs were cigalikes and followed in short order by more powerful and capable device like the Vapor Titan, Vapor Zeus and Ego Twists. These devices remain just as relevant today as they did five years ago because the preferences of adult vapers have changed again and authentic ecigs delivering cigarette style performance is back in style. And nothing delivers a more authentic experience than a cigalike or ecig loaded up with high-PG ejuice. The difference in wattage and battery power isn’t all that great between some MTL vape pods and ecigs. It comes down to form factor and flavor. The cartomizer/Smileomizer design certainly more than holds its own on this front.

There are also prefilled cigalikes and ecigs. Blu is one of the major brick and mortar sources of these. They are bound by the same laws that removed prefilled vape pod flavors from the market.


Disposable Vapes

A disposable ecig is not going to provide a very satisfying experience to heavy smoker unless the nicotine level is quite high. This is why disposables generally use nicotine salts and the most common nic strength for disposable ecigs is 50mg/ml. While lower nicotine disposables are useful for vapers who are looking to reduce their nic intake, a smoker looking to switch to vaping will probably find a lower nicotine disposable to be a pathetic simulacrum.

On the flip side of the coin, a disposable vape with a higher nicotine level is going to provide a decent imitation of smoking. What many users find even more important is ease of use. Hobbyists love collecting various mods but most adult vapers are just looking for an ecig that has great flavor and is easy to use. Disposables really fit this bill. No filling or charging is required. Just open the packaging and vape. The have great flavor as well, as you don’t need to worry about switching out a worn out coil or really anything regarding their performance.

Vapor4Life offers the widest selection of lower nicotine disposable vapes. We realize that many adult vapers want the easiest to use device possible and we believe that they too deserve a full array of nic strengths.

Just because you don’t want to buy bottled eliquids doesn’t mean that you should be stuck forever at 50mg/ml nic strength. The Zaero Disposable comes in seven nicotine strengths. Dinner Lady, Cali Bar, Puff Bar and ZSticks also have lower nicotine options. In several of these cases, we are the only place to find these lower nic options.


Prefilled Vape Pod Kits

Before the federal flavor ban, which limits prefilled vape pods to only tobacco and menthol-tobacco flavors, prefilled vape pods completely dominated the vaping landscape. They took full advantage of potent nic salts. Small, easy to use and widely available at brick and mortar stores, prefilled vape pods became the face of the teen vaping epidemic.

But adults also flocked to these easy to use devices, whose smooth nic salts revolutionized how ecigs were viewed by current smokers.

In 2020, the prefilled vape pod landscape looks far different. Gone are the popular Mint and Mango Juul flavors. If you are looking for the best Vuse Alto Mixed Berry alternative, you are going to have to fill your own device or switch to a disposable.

On the plus side, prefilled vape pod kits now come in a wider array of nic strengths than ever. When Juul and Vuse Alto were launched, there was really no “off ramp”. You were either vaping a quite strong 50m/ml nic strength or not using their product. Today, Vuse Alto has an 18, 24 and 50mg/ml strength option for each flavor. Juul has two nic strengths, 25 and 50mg/ml. Juul also is down to just two flavors. Which is one just one reason that adult vapers should look into the cost savings and flexibility afforded by a refillable vape pod kit.


Refillable Vape Pod Kits

Refillable vape pod kits were created in response to prefilled vape pods and offer several advantages to both the consumer and the manufacturer. For the manufacturer, vape pods all use proprietary pod and coil designs. Unlike with mods and ecigs, there is no fitting one brand’s tank on another’s battery. If you have a Smok Novo, it will be all Novo pods from that point forward.

But for the vaper, refillable vape pod kits are also a boon. They are very easy to use and there is a huge array of styles. Some are nearly as powerful as a box mod, many others are autodraw and don’t even have swappable coils. In this case, the entire pod is pitched in the trash and a new one installed.

But the biggest advantage of vape pods is flexibility. Almost every vape pod manufacturer has a pod for vaping high-VG, low nic ejuices and pod for vaping nic salts. Check out our deep-dive into the best vape pods for regular eliquids for more information. We also reviewed the best Smok pods for regular eliquids.

The performance of vape pods can vary greatly. The Smok RPM40 and the many devices that use the RPM coils are 40w devices. This is plenty powerful for most vapers. But there are also smaller devices that were clearly designed with only nic salts in mind.

No matter how you slice it, the biggest benefit is that you get to choose your own eliquid. This means you have more flavor options and also nic strengths. A Smok Novo X user may start with 50mg/ml nic salts but can use the very same device in a month later to vape 3mg/ml high-VG eliquid. You simply aren’t going to get this sort of high and low nic performance with a disposable.

And the best part is, the refillable vape pod market is very competitive. The cutting edge of technology keeps improving. And using the same device the entire time allows you to track your nic intake more effectively.


Box Mods

It is a false economy to think that switching from a potent nic salt to lower-nic ejuice has reduced your intake if the amount of total vapor you are inhaling is vastly increased because you are using a powerful box mod. This is the danger of using a box mod. While they provide great performance that is satisfying with lower nicotine ejuices, the amount of total ejuice they burn can warp that equation.

If you are burning through 5ml of 6mg/ml eliquid a day, that works out to 30mg of nicotine. This would be the equivalent of 1ml of a lower nicotine nic salt, or half of a Smok Novo pod. Box mods are a great way to enjoy flavor and vapor but keep this in mind.


Final Thoughts

With more nicotine options available for disposable vapes and prefilled pods, it is certainly possible to reduce your nicotine intake using these closed systems. But in the case of prefilled vape pods, the elevator down stops at a still high 18mg/ml and most disposables don’t go any lower than 30mg/ml.

Compare this to the flexibility afforded by a refillable vape pod kit. A vaper could start with 50mg/ml nic salts and realistically use the same device, just with a different resistance pod or coil in most cases, with a 3 or 6mg/ml eliquid. You can even vape nic free eliquid with a vape pod kit and get a high level of performance.

Box mods are even better for vaping the lowest nicotine eliquids, with many vapers choosing to go totally nic free when using these devices. But they are not suitable for higher nicotine levels and nic salts, are fairly loud, a bit larger and use more ejuice. The greater consumption is partially offset by fact regular eliquids are less expensive and sold in larger bottles (120ml vs 30ml).

A final option is the classic ecig and a high PG eliquid. The combination of the Vapor Zeus and Wow and Premium eliquids delivers an authentic experience and seven nicotine levels, ranging from nic free to a 36mg/ml nic strength that is approaching nic salts in potency. We have found that heavy smokers really enjoy the higher-PG ejuices and Vapor Zeus combination.