Understanding Nicotine Strengths and Percentages

Nicotine percentages can be confusing to a new vaper, in this article we help make sense of it all.

4 min read

Understanding Nicotine Strengths and Percentages

If you are new to vaping, then it can be confusing looking for your usual mg/ML nicotine level. Instead, e-juices come in percentages, and you are going to need to know the difference between nicotine strengths as mg/mL and those as percentages and how to convert from one to the other.

Nicotine Strengths Explained

Nicotine strengths shown as percentages aren’t that different, but a lot easier to understand. Rather than combining a mass (mg) and a volume (mL), percentages use the volumes of both to tell you how much nicotine is in the liquid of the bottle.

E-Liquid does not come with nicotine in it by default, it is an added ingredient. If you don’t currently use nicotine, you should not vape eLiquid that contains nicotine. If you are trying to quit nicotine by vaping then start with a low strength of nicotine and then decrease the nicotine level over time, eventually getting down to 0mg. Although you may find a lower strength eLiquid insufficient to stem cravings for your habit.

Converting Nicotine Strengths

Converting from a nicotine strength in mg/mL to a percentage is easy. Just divide the amount in mg/mL by 10. To convert back from percentages to mg/mL, just multiply it by 10. You may see eLiquid strengths written as mg, mg/mL, or in percentage form. Here is how they are displayed in each:

  • 0mg = 0mg/mL = 0%
  • 3mg = 3mg/mL = 0.3%
  • 6mg = 6mg/mL = 0.6%
  • 12mg = 12mg/mL = 1.2%

If you have some e-liquid containing 1.2% nicotine, any amount you measure out will be 1.2% nicotine and 98.8% PG, VG and flavorings.

In the same way that alcohol is measured on a bottle as “alcohol by volume” or ABV for short. Nicotine is measured in the same way and referred to as “Nicotine by volume” which is sometimes shortened to NBV.

Different Nicotine Strengths

Nicotine Level Chart

Nicotine has a lot to do with how an electronic cigarette performs. This is commonly referred to as the “throat hit.” Because of this, don’t jump too far up or down the scale, try one level up or down compared to the nicotine strength you are currently on.

Combining Weights and Volumes

If you can confidently convert between percentages and mg/mL values then there isn’t much else you need to know. If you are interested in the reasons you have to do the conversion here is a little history as to why this is the case.

The Why

Cigarette nicotine content is measured in milligrams, or mg and this is how you measure the mass of solid objects. The measurement of a fluid volume is in milliliters, or ml. Because e-liquids are fluids, their measurements should be given in ml, and nicotine content should be listed as a percentage by volume.

If we think about alcoholic beverages, they are marketed as ABV or alcohol by volume, which is the ratio of alcohol to other ingredients in the beverage. If a bottle of beer is sold as 4 percent ABV, this means 4 percent of the total bottle’s content is alcohol, then each sip you take will contain 4 percent alcohol.

The How

If we are going to work it out, the first thing we need to know is how much volume each mg of nicotine occupies in liquid form. Nicotine has a density of 1.01 grams per cubic centimeter, which means that 1,010 mg of pure nicotine takes up one milliliter. We can use this to convert mg of nicotine to mL of nicotine.

Let’s say we have a 10ml bottle of e-liquid and we need to find out the amount of nicotine in mg. If the strength of the nicotine is 8mg/mL then 10 x 8 = 80mg of nicotine. if we convert this to grams (80/1000=0.08) and divide by the density of nicotine (1.01) we get 0.08/1.01 which is 0.079 mL of pure nicotine.

Now that we have the two volumes, nicotine (0.079mL) and the volume of the full e-liquid bottle (10mL) we can calculate the percentage of nicotine in the bottle (0.079/10) x 100 which is 0.79% which is a very accurate small number, so a manufacturer will round up to 0.8% listed in the bottle.

The Cheat

The above explains how to do the math, but as long as you understand the why and the how then we can use a simple calculation that gives the same result without the exercise. We know that the density of nicotine is 1.01g which is 1,010mg or 1.01mg/ML – so all you need know to go from mg/mL to a percentage is divide by 10.

ConcentrationDosage EquivalentPercentConversion
1:1,0001mg/mL0.1%divide by 10