Numerous vapers wonder about the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, and their curiosity is legitimate. The specific levels of this alkaloid necessary to combat the effects of withdrawal necessarily affect a vaper’s choice of e-liquid. However, answering questions about nicotine levels in cigarettes is complicated.
According to a study carried about by Penn State University’s behavioral endocrinology laboratory, a cigarette contains between 0.65 mg and 13.4 mg of nicotine for between 0.65 and 1g of tobacco. The median value of nicotine content is 10.2 mg per cigarette (the highest levels of nicotine are found in Newport cigarettes). A separate CDC study found 19.2 mg of nicotine for every gram of tobacco.
These studies suggest that a packet of 20 cigarettes contains at least 20.5 mg of nicotine, much lower than a 0.7ml Juul pod, which contains 41 mg of nicotine. The heart of the issue is not the specific nicotine content of each product, however, since it is more important is to understand how much nicotine is absorbed through smoke versus vapor.
The challenge of establishing reliable data on inhaled nicotine
An Austrian research team led by Professor Bernd Mayer found that a person who smokes one cigarette absorbs 2 mg of nicotine. Arthur Brody, professor at the University of California, estimates that on average, a single cigarette delivers in between 1.2 mg and 1.4 mg of nicotine, but these levels drop to 0.6 mg for lighter cigarettes. Indeed, a smoker’s body absorbs far less nicotine than the nicotine originally present in the cigarette.
Another factor must be taken into account, however: individual smokers have different frequencies and methods of inhaling, which is also dependent on how much they hope to inhale. This well-known phenomenon is called auto-titration. In addition, cigarette manufacturers have discovered that the addition of ammoniac increases nicotine’s effect on the brain.
For the time being, it is impossible to determine the amount of nicotine that a vaper must inhale in order to obtain the same sensation as a traditional cigarette. In 2017, Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, suggested manufacturing cigarettes with low levels of nicotine to combat all forms of dependence. For now, the project is on stand-by.