If you live in a nation that has any restrictions on e-liquid flavors for pre-filled vaping devices, the only way to experience the full range of flavors that the world of vaping has to offer is by buying a device you can fill yourself. The only problem with buying bottled e-liquid when you’re new to vaping, though, is that you could end up selecting the wrong nicotine strength – and that’s a terrible way for your journey as a vaper to begin.

If the nicotine strength that you’re using isn’t right for your vaping equipment or for your personal needs, it may not be obvious. You could even think about giving up on vaping because you don’t enjoy the experience. We don’t want that to happen. When you buy nicotine vape juice, you’re only going to have a good experience if the nicotine strength is right.

How to Know if You’re Using the Wrong Nicotine Strength

Let’s suppose that you’re just starting out with vaping, and you haven’t really enjoyed your experience so far. Could the problem be that you’re using the wrong nicotine strength? Here are a few signs that the strength of your e-liquid is too high or too low.

  • If the nicotine strength that you’re using is far too high for the equipment you’re using, you’ll probably find that you can’t vape at all. This would be the case, for instance, if you’re using a high-strength nicotine salt e-liquid with a powerful sub-ohm vape mod. Nicotine salt e-liquid is intended for use in low-power vaping devices. In a more powerful device, you’ll find nicotine salt vape juice unbelievably irritating and unpleasant. The extremely high concentration of nicotine could even make you feel ill.
  • If the nicotine strength that you’re using is appropriate for your vaping device but too high for your personal needs, you probably won’t find that vaping makes you feel ill – but you won’t enjoy it either. You may experience an unpleasant level of throat hit or find that the vapor tastes or feels harsh. 
  • If the nicotine strength that you’re using is too low, you’ll find that vaping doesn’t satisfy you regardless of how often you use your device. When you inhale the vapor, you’ll feel almost as if you’re inhaling nothing at all. You can use your device constantly, and your cigarette cravings won’t go away. 

How to Understand Freebase Nicotine vs. Nicotine Salt E-Liquid

The most important aspect of buying e-liquid for your vaping device is understanding the difference between freebase nicotine and nicotine salt e-liquid. Although exceptions do exist, the two types of e-liquid are generally sold in very different ranges of nicotine strengths.

  • Freebase nicotine e-liquid usually comes in larger bottles and is most often sold in nicotine strengths of 3 mg/ml and 6 mg/ml. It’s intended for use in powerful vaping devices that generate large clouds.
  • Nicotine salt e-liquid usually comes in smaller bottles and is most often sold in nicotine strengths of 25 mg/ml and 50 mg/ml. It’s intended for use in lower-power vaping devices designed for the mouth-to-lung inhaling pattern.

Note that in the United Kingdom and Europe, the Tobacco Products Directive limits the nicotine content of e-liquid to a maximum of 20 mg/ml. In those regions, the most common strengths for nicotine salt e-liquid are 10 mg/ml and 20 mg/ml.

How to Choose the Right Nicotine Strength for Your Vaping Device

It’s time to put everything that you’ve learned together and select the e-liquid that’s right for your needs. It’s going to be a two-step process. First, you’ll need to choose the right type of e-liquid – freebase or nicotine salt – for your vaping hardware. After that, you may need to adjust the nicotine strength to suit your personal requirements. Once you’ve done those two things, you should find that your vaping experience is completely pleasurable and satisfying. Let’s dive in!

Start by identifying whether your vaping device is designed for mouth-to-lung or direct-to-lung inhaling. If you have a vape mod with a large glass tank, you almost definitely have a direct-to-lung vaping setup. A small vape pen or pod system, on the other hand, is probably designed for mouth-to-lung inhaling. If you’re not sure, simply draw air through the device. Is there a good amount of air resistance, or are you able to inhale easily? If you feel air resistance – and the device’s mouthpiece is narrow, like a cigarette filter – you probably have a mouth-to-lung device.

  • If your vaping device is designed for direct-to-lung inhaling, you should generally buy low-strength freebase nicotine e-liquid. It’s usually best to start with the 3 mg/ml nicotine strength. Because today’s high-end vape mods produce such enormous clouds, you’ll probably find that nicotine strength more than sufficient.
  • If your vaping device is designed for mouth-to-lung inhaling, you should generally buy high-strength nicotine salt e-liquid. If you’re in the initial stages of switching from smoking to vaping, you should start with the higher 50 mg/ml strength because it’ll deliver nicotine to your body with about the same efficiency as a cigarette. If you’re an extremely infrequent smoker, consider the 25 mg/ml strength instead because your nicotine needs may not be as high as those of a daily smoker.
  • If you have a mouth-to-lung vaping device and live in the United Kingdom or Europe, start with the 20 mg/ml nicotine strength because it’s the strength that will get you closest to the nicotine delivery of a cigarette. 

Once you’ve purchased e-liquid with the correct nicotine strength for your vaping hardware, the next step is to adjust the strength for your personal needs if necessary. To do that, you can use the first section of this article as a guide. Do you find it difficult to vape because inhaling the vapor feels irritating or unpleasant? In that case, you should step down to a lower nicotine strength because the strength you’re using is probably too high. 

If you don’t find vaping satisfying and are continuing to battle cigarette cravings, on the other hand, you should consider stepping up to a higher nicotine strength. That, however, can be a problem if you live in the United Kingdom or Europe and are already using the highest available nicotine strength of 20 mg/ml. In that case, it might be wise to consider upgrading to a more powerful vaping device.