Smoking versus vaping: two very different types of nicotine

As soon as we start talking about vaping, we always ask ourselves the same question: how much nicotine should I consume in relation to my previous smoking habits?

It’s a totally legitimate question, but the answer isn’t so simple. Most of the time, you’ll hear the following analogy: X amount of milligrams of nicotine in an e-liquid corresponds to Y amount of nicotine in traditional cigarettes.

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Exactly how much nicotine does a cigarette contain?

A traditional cigarette contains approximately 1 gram of tobacco, which contains 8.4 mg of nicotine. However, what’s important is the amount of nicotine that ends up in the smoker’s body. This is where the debate becomes more complicated: certain toxicologists cite 2 mg per cigarette, whereas others say the amount of nicotine is between 0.6 and 1.4 mg. The difference stated on cigarette packs, or even in certain e-liquids, can seem substantial. In reality, however, these numbers are not what’s most important.


The importance of additives in cigarettes

Cigarette manufacturers have been including additives in their products for a very long time. Among the long list of additives are two very important ones that make nicotine more addictive. The first is called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. This additive serves as an anti-depressant that reinforces the frequency for the desire to smoke.  The second additive, which is even more pernicious, is ammoniac. Its role in the cigarette is to transform nicotine into a freebase form; by changing the nicotine molecule, ammonic renders it more addictive.

Regular nicotine (in e-liquid)

To illustrate how this works, crack, an extremely addictive and dangerous drug, is the free-base form of cocaine.

Free base nicotine (in tobacco)

In the same light, we could say that the nicotine in cigarettes is equivalent to fast sugars, whereas the nicotine in e-cigarettes is more like slow sugars.

In any case, when discussing nicotine levels, it is very hard to compare vaping and smoking cigarettes. Firstly, the body absorbs nicotine much more slowly and progressively while vaping. More importantly, e-liquids do not contain addictive additives.

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