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Vaping Nicotine The Vapers Essential Guide

13th Jul 2016

E Juice, E Liquids and Nicotine

Statistically, most vapers switch to vaping as an alternative to smoking tobacco. For many vapers nicotine is an essential ingredient in the e-juice formula. Unlike nicotine, the other e-juice ingredients, Propylene Glycol (PG), Vegetable Glycerine (VG) and flavouring, have no physiological effects. In this blog post we take a close look at some of the facts and fiction relating to vaping nicotine.

How nicotine affects the body

Nicotine is one of the chemicals produced naturally by the tobacco plant, Nicotiana Tabacum. This family of plants also includes tomatoes and potatoes. Surprisingly, nicotine can be found in tiny quantities in these everyday foods.

Nicotine is classed as a stimulant, though it can also help with relaxation. After inhaling nicotine, the brain begins to release stimulating chemical messengers like serotonin and dopamine. The liver releases glucose into the bloodstream, and the adrenal glands boost production of adrenalin.

The overall effect is an increase in awareness, alertness and focus. This is often followed by a feeling of comfort and relaxation.

Over time, the effects of nicotine on the brain and body can lead to addiction. Like other forms of nicotine replacement, vaping e-juice has helped large numbers of traditional cigarette smokers to switch from harmful tobacco to relatively harmless vaping. The great thing about commercial e-juice is the range of nicotine strengths available. A gradual move to lower nicotine e-liquid can help to lower nicotine dependence.

Common commercial e-liquid nicotine strengths:

• 36mg/ml (Banned in Eurozone in 2016)
• 24mg/ml (Reduced to 20mg/ml in Eurozone in 2016)
• 18mg/ml
• 12mg/ml
• 6mg/ml
• 3mg/ml
• 0mg/ml

Occasionally you may see the nicotine strength of an e-liquid displayed as a percentage of volume, e.g. 2% is equivalent to 20mg per ml (from May 2016, the maximum allowable strength in the EU).

The best nicotine strength for new vapers

It’s not easy to recommend a single nicotine strength for all new vapers – it’s really down to personal choice. The main factors involved are nicotine’s taste, throat-hit, and how often you vape.

Some vapers find that e-liquids with high nicotine levels have a bitter, chemical taste. Others say that it’s more of a peppery flavour. The taste of nicotine is much less noticeable in low-strength liquids. If vaping leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth, you may prefer to drop down to an e-liquid with low to medium nicotine content.

One of the big attractions for ex-smokers taking up vaping is the throat hit. This stimulating sensation comes from a combination of the Propylene Glycol and nicotine content of the e-juice. E-juices with a higher ratio of PG to VG, and those with higher nicotine levels, will give a sharper throat hit.

The final factor that we need to look at is vaping frequency. If you’re an ex-smoker used to fast, frequent smoking through the day, you may find that vaping is a very different experience. Continually puffing e-liquid vapour like you would smoke a cigarette can overload your body with nicotine. The typical symptoms are dizziness and an upset stomach.

Comfortable, satisfying vaping begins with a slower, longer draw. If you’re using a sub-Ohm device a more casual approach is even more important, as you’ll generally be inhaling a bigger volume of vapour. This type of vaping really calls for e-liquid with a low nicotine content.

For new vapers we recommend an e-liquid with a low to medium nicotine strength. Even if you’ve been a heavy smoker, a low nicotine e-juice will help you to adapt to a more relaxed style of vaping. You can always take the strength up a notch if you’re not getting a satisfying throat hit.

How to lower your nicotine intake when vaping

Even if you start vaping with a medium or high nicotine content e-juice, you may find it comfortable and easy to lower your nicotine intake if you do it gradually.

To progressively reduce your nicotine intake, just drop down to a lower strength e-liquid every one or two months. If you find that the lower level of nicotine isn’t quite hitting the spot, just take a few extra draws. If you overdo it, you may feel a little dizzy and unwell for a while. Stick with the reduction plan until you reach the lowest e-juice strength that still gives a satisfying vape. Some vapers even make it down to a zero nicotine e-juice when they fully adapt to vaping.

What are the health risks of vaping nicotine?

If you experimented with cigarettes as a youngster, you may have experienced the effects of a mild nicotine overdose already. The classic symptoms are a queasy feeling in the stomach and dizziness. The symptoms pass after about ten or twenty minutes, leaving no long-lasting effects.

Even so, nicotine is a poisonous substance that needs to be stored with care. The jury is still out on the actual lethal dosage. Current thinking is that swallowing 30 to 60mg of nicotine would be fatal for an adult.

Common sense tells us that any child could easily mistake a strawberry scented e-juice for something nice to drink. It’s a real risk that all vapers should be aware of. Keep your vaping kit and e-juices well away from kids and pets.

Nicotine can also be absorbed through the skin, so you need to take care when handling e-juice. Don’t panic if you spill a little when you’re filling your tank. Just clean-up the drips, and give your hands a good wash when you’re finished.

If you’re interested in blending your own home-grown e-juice it’s a whole different ball-game. This is a potentially risky activity that needs a lot of special equipment, preparation and research.

Comparing nicotine intake from smoking and vaping

With all of the different vaping styles, devices and e-juices on the market it’s virtually impossible to directly compare nicotine intake from smoking with the intake from vaping. It’s actually the wide variability of power and airflow settings on modern vaping devices that make them so attractive.

The one thing that we can say is that cigarette smoke typically contains around 4000 chemical compounds. A significant number of these compounds cause cancers and physically damage smokers’ lungs and other organs.

So far, no similar harmful effects have been associated with modern vaping equipment. The latest e-juices are also free from potentially harmful additives, though many e-juice flavourings still need to be tested to confirm that they are 100% safe to inhale.

Other nicotine facts and figures

If you are into sub-Ohm vaping you’ll already be aware how much extra e-juice sub-ohming requires. Those big clouds also carry a larger dose of nicotine. To keep your nicotine intake at a comfortable level, it makes sense to vape with a low nicotine e-juice. Juices with a nicotine content of 6mg, 3mg, or even 0mg are preferred by a lot of sub-Ohm vapers and serious cloud chasers.

If you keep an old bottle of e-juice on the shelf for too long it will eventually discolour and start to smell a little stale. PG and VG will also deteriorate over time, but it’s usually the nicotine that changes colour from pale yellow to brown. A lot of experienced vapers have used discoloured e-juice without noticing much change in the taste. As a general rule, if the smell or colour puts you off, just (responsibly) dispose of the old juice.

Nicotine is widely accepted as being physiologically and psychologically addictive. The physiological effects on your body are increases in pulse rate and blood pressure. The positive effects of nicotine include increased focus, better recall and improved dexterity. The physiological changes are temporary and soon pass. In some ways, nicotine’s effects on the body are similar to the caffeine that you’d find in a strong coffee. Nicotine consumption, either from cigarettes or vaping, isn’t recommended for pregnant women.

Compared to cigarette smoking, research suggests that it may take nicotine inhaled through vaping around 3 times longer to reach the brain. Smoking is often described as a hard, fast nicotine hit, compared to the slower more relaxed sensation of vaping nicotine. This is one of the many aspects of vaping that needs more scientific investigation. Whichever way you inhale nicotine, it can be detected with a Cotinine test kit up to 72 hours after your last cigarette or vape.

The bottom line

Due to its strong association with tobacco, nicotine is often given negative coverage in the media. We need to remember that it’s not nicotine that causes cancers and other serious illness. These life-threatening conditions are caused by the tars and other toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke.

We’re not claiming that nicotine is harmless. E-liquid containing nicotine is particularly dangerous for children and pets. It needs to be kept well out of the reach of inquisitive kids.

For informed adults, vaping an e-juice containing nicotine is a fun, satisfying experience. Just like alcohol, it’s fine if you’re aware of the risks and you stick to your own limits.

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