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Where has all the nicotine gone?

Most vapers are probably sick of hearing about nicotine by now. If you believe the media it’s carcinogenic, immoral and as addictive as chocolate-coated heroin, and Big Vaping loves to add it to liquids to trap a future generation of addicts. It’s a constant complaint from people who don’t like vaping – “You haven’t really quit; you’re still addicted to nicotine.” Large parts of society have decided that Vaping Is Bad because there’s still too much nicotine involved.

Some vapers, however, are starting to worry that there’s not enough nicotine around. And this time the problem doesn’t lie with misguided public health advocates; the blame falls squarely on a big part of the vape industry itself.

As recently as two years ago almost every e-liquid on the market was available in a wide range of nicotine strengths, from zero up to 18 or 24mg/ml. Now, that’s changing fast. More and more juice makers are only producing lower strength liquids – often the strongest they make is 6mg/ml, and sometimes only 3mg/ml. This is especially common with premium US brands. Larger, less prestigious manufacturers are more likely to offer the full range than high-end ones are.

More vapor, less nicotine

It isn’t health worries that have caused this change in the market; it’s the evolving vape culture. Two years ago dripping, and sub-ohm vaping in general, were niche activities. Most vapers were using eGo-style batteries with a CE4 on the end, and most of those who’d advanced to mods were still using tanks in the one to two-ohm range. Now, sub-ohm tanks are a fairly mainstream item, and with the growth in cloud-chasing drippers are more common too.

The thing about drippers and sub-ohm tanks is that they produce a lot more vapor than a CE4. Users tend to get through much more liquid with this sort of gear. A 10ml bottle might last four or five days with second-generation device, but that falls to two days or less once you start running a mod at 40 watts or more – and plenty newer mods can pump out far more power than that. So, all other things being equal, sub-ohm vaping means you can get the same amount of nicotine with a much lower strength of liquid.

Unfortunately for this theory, all other things are not equal. Low-nicotine liquids also tend to be high-VG blends, and if throat hit is important to you that’s not a good combination.

The problem is that PG is a much thinner liquid that doesn’t work so well in sub-ohm gear. This means that if you’re looking for throat hit your only option is a higher nicotine level – and increasingly, if you like premium liquids, that isn’t something you’re going to find.

Remember the majority

It’s also a good idea to remember that while lots of vapers are using high-power mods and low resistance atomizers, we’re still outnumbered by eGo users. If you smoked until recently, and now use a compact battery and CE4, there’s no way you’re going to get enough nicotine from a 3mg/ml liquid. Most new vapers prefer a higher strength, with 18 and 24mg being the top choices. By focusing on high-VG, low nicotine blends, a lot of juice makers are missing out on several million potential customers.

Not everyone who prefers high strengths is a new vaper, either. An informal poll of Twitter vapers, almost all of them using sub-ohm gear, found that over half prefer liquids stronger than 6mg/ml – and 14% are vaping 18mg or higher. Some people like to vape big clouds frequently; others prefer stronger puffs less often.

 If the strongest vape juice you make is 6mg more than 55% of vapers aren’t going to buy your product.

There’s no “right” level of nicotine. Although many vapers want to cut down or eliminate their nicotine intake there are also plenty who have no intention of doing that. When you put them together with the millions of eGo users and recent switchers that’s a lot of people. Does it make sense to ignore them, especially when the FDA Deeming Regs are going to seriously threaten profitability? To survive, liquid makers are going to have to attract every customer they can; ignoring the huge demand for higher strength liquid isn’t the way to do that. Black Note can offer premium liquids in every strength up to 18mg/ml, so why are so many brands walking away from the top end of the nicotine market? This is one vaping trend I hope doesn’t last.



A former soldier in the British Army, Fergus Mason is now a freelance writer with a special interest in e-cigarettes and travel. When he’s not writing Fergus enjoys sailing, archery and fishing. He’s been vaping since early 2013 and doesn’t ever plan to stop.
  • cigarbabe

    You are right on point again. As a 24mg user I find it disheartening to hear so much misinformation coming from vapers about the need to only use 3mg because the “equipment is better” or everyone should get off nicotine because it’s harmful. smh

  • Same here in Germany.

    At a recent vape fair hardly any vendor had stronger liquid than 12. Many only 3 or 6.
    One vendor was discontinuing his 18s. I grabbed about 4 liters of liquid for 100€.

    I now usually vape at .5 (TC) to 1.2 Ohms with 15 to 30 Watts. I still like 18. Getting harder to get. Not much of a problem for me as I usually mix my own. But it could be hard on anybody new to vaping.

  • dansus

    When all but 0.1% of products in the US are off the market and all that remains is closed pod systems, then 25-45mg will become very popular.

    Not a bad thing according to some pro vape academics, as they are recommending raising your nic level and reducing your vapour intake.

  • Nacht Noir

    I have an opinion that will no doubt ably be very unpopular with the majority of my friends in the eliquid business.

    The current business model of manufacturing low nic subohm specialty products is a boon to their wallets and bank accounts.

    They don’t care about twitter polls or providing a product for everyone. Your poll says 55% of those polled prefer higher nic levels. They don’t care about that percentage. The truth of the matter is, they are targeting the subohm vapers simply because many of them vape 20 to 30ml of eliquid a day. They sell massive amounts of product because the subohmer burns through so much eliquid.

    Those of us in the 12 to 18mg or higher levels just don’t put a dent into the amount that they do since we may only consume 3-5ml a day.

    Subohming or volume vaping if you prefer that term is a cash cow to that segment of the industry.

    Many have left the smoker, who should be our focus, in the dust and only market products to vapers. They forget that smokers are the future of vaping.

  • At first glance I was thinking it takes some ” guts ” to post on this topic and I admire you for doing so. But as I read on I also realized you are in the vape business and marketing E-liquid too. For that I admire you and support your honesty in that you are also remembering your a consumer….just like me. Thanks for that an please keep sharing the truth about vaping….. and those in the vaping industry causing harm. There is lot to learn, but if we fail the enemy is going to continue to kill us off with their own END GAME .

    Regards- Ray aka Anecdotal Evidence



WARNING: Black Note products are not smoking cessation products and have not been tested as such. Black Note products are intended for use by adults of legal smoking age (21 or older in California), and not by children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Black Note products contain nicotine, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Ingestion of the non-vaporized concentrated ingredients can be poisonous. Keep out of reach of children and pets. For immediate advice, contact poison control center: (800) 222-1222