How Many Puffs of Vape Equal One Cigarette?
If you're comparing cigarettes to vape, there's a lot of issues to unpack here and it requires a little more background on how your body absorbs nicotine. This article simplifies some of the science and looks at why so many people are switching from vapes to cigarettes, as well as what the myths are surrounding disposable vapes.
Disposable Vapes vs Cigarettes
In a 2018 review, Public Health England (PHE) found that vaping is around 95% less harmful than smoking conventional cigarettes and was helping 20,000 people quit a year. However, the agency was concerned that more than half of smokers “falsely believed that vaping is as harmful as smoking.”
“There is still much public misunderstanding about nicotine,” PHE said, with “less than 10% of adults apprehending that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine.”
Research from Smoking in England found that e-cigarette use has hovered at just under 6% of the adult population in Britain over the past few years. And the most common grounds for e-cigarette use continue to be helpful in providing help with quitting, and they remain the most popular quitting tool in England.
Is vaping a gateway into smoking?
The PHE report also suggested that concern about e-cigarette use as a gateway to smoking among young people is not supported by evidence in the UK, where regular vaping among young people who’ve never smoked is less than 1%.
“Similar choice of flavours exist in both the US and UK, yet we do not have the same levels of youth vaping here. Our lower rates are due to our much stricter advertising regulations and possibly our lower nicotine cap [in vape juice],” suggested a spokesperson for Public Health England.
What’s the difference between vaping and smoking?
Traditional cigarettes and disposable vapes share a common purpose: to provide the hit of nicotine to a person's bloodstream.
What is nicotine? In essence, nicotine is a compound extracted from the tobacco plant. The chemicals in nicotine often create feelings of focus or relaxation.
While disposable vapes and cigarettes both contain nicotine, they differ in how they deliver the compound to the user. With e-cigarettes, a metal coil heats the e-liquid in the vaping device, releasing nicotine as a vapour that people inhale. With cigarettes, the act of burning the tobacco releases nicotine particles, which are inhaled into the lungs, delivering nicotine to the bloodstream.
What are some of the health issues caused by smoking cigarettes?Smoking has been known to cause:
- Cancer (As chemicals from cigarettes damage your DNA)
- Heart disease (because smoking increases the formation of plaque in blood vessels)
- Stroke (due to heightened blood pressure and reduced blood flow)
- Lung diseases (as smoking damages your airwaves).
- Diabetes (as cigarettes harm cells in your body and cause inflammation, which also makes cells stop responding to insulin),
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (as smoking weakens the lungs' ability to fight infections)
Smoking also increases the risk for:
- Certain eye diseases (due to the lack of oxygen reaching the eyes)
- Problems of the immune system (because your body is fighting off inflammation)
- Tuberculosis (due to the lowered immune system)
- Arthritis (due to more inflammatory proteins called cytokines being present in the body)
What chemicals are in a cigarette?Combustible cigarettes are made from over 7,000 different chemicals, including known poisons such as acetone (used in nail polish remover) and arsenic (found in rat poison) and formaldehyde (the main ingredient for preserving dead bodies). Gross. These chemicals do damage to your lungs and your bodies in several ways:
- The smoke irritates your lung tissue and causes inflammation.
- Your lungs produce excess mucus to try and protect themselves from infection (which explains the 'smokers cough.'
- The micro-hairs lining your lungs which keep your lungs clean (called cilia), are destroyed.
- The toxic chemicals you inhale are passed into your blood and then circulated in your body.
What is nicotine absorption?When you smoke a cigarette, not all the nicotine content is inhaled. This is because some of the nicotine is lost in the smoke, and your body can only absorb so much at once. When you take a puff on a cigarette, you're probably inhaling about 1/10 of the total milligrams of nicotine (1-2 mg per cigarette). Other factors that affect bioavailability and absorption rates are:
- The pH level (acidity or alkalinity) of the product
- Your body's metabolism
- How often you're smoking or vaping
- Your body's natural resistance to nicotine
How much nicotine is absorbed by smoking a cigarette?
A standard cigarette contains between 7 and 20 milligrams of nicotine. However, only about 1mg is absorbed into the body. This is because the nicotine content in a smoker's bloodstream is dependent on how frequently they smoke, not to mention the size of the filter! The additional chemicals and additives in cigarettes deliver nicotine as fast as possible to the bloodstream, but they don't significantly increase absorption rates.
How many vaping puffs equal one cigarette?
It's difficult to calculate exactly how many inhalations on a disposable vape equate to one cigarette as it depends on the concentration of e-liquid and the type of atomiser - not to mention your lung size and ability to inhale! The question requires a little more understanding of nicotine content and the bodies absorption of the compound.
How much nicotine is in a disposable vape?
Now we've looked at the nicotine content of a cigarette; let's look at disposable vape juice.
When you buy a disposable vape, you’ll find the nicotine strength in milligrams printed on the bottle’s label. So, with the example of our disposable vape: if you have a 20 ml bottle of vape juice e-liquid with a nicotine strength of 20 mg. The nicotine strength refers to the amount of nicotine per millilitre of e-liquid.
What's more, for a disposable vape to be legal in the UK, it cannot contain more than 20mg/ml. This is worth remembering to ensure you're buying a disposable vape bar from a reputable source!
What is nicotine salt in disposable vapes?
Many e-juices still use freebase nicotine. We use nic salt. First off, nicotine salt-based e-Liquids don't contain any sodium chloride (or table salt); they won't make your vape taste like fries or taste like the sea! Nic salts are essentially complex compounds that are typically less harsh to vape, which provides better tolerance for higher nicotine e-liquids.
As a quick explanation, nic salts contain a non-toxic benzoic acid that lowers the pH level and reduces alkalinity, allowing for a smoother vaping experience at higher nicotine strengths. This is also optimised for lower-power devices such as disposable vape pens.
Bear in mind that no matter what e-liquid you use, no matter what strength it is, your body will always take the amount of nicotine it is comfortable with (or used to). Regardless of the liquid strength or vape style, typically, you'll only vape the amount your body wants.
How to work out the total nicotine content in a vape
If you're looking for the total nicotine content of the disposable vape, you need to multiply the volume of e-liquid with the nicotine strength. So the e-liquid in this example would have 200 mg of nicotine in all. But remember: bioavailability also plays a vital role in how much nicotine your body actually absorbs.