How Much Nicotine Is In A Cigarette

Vaping Guru
Sep. 5, 2017
by Vaping Guru

A cigarette, from light to full strength, can contain anywhere from 4 mg to 20 mg of nicotine. The average cigarette contains 12 mg of nicotine. There. That was easy! Now you know how much nicotine is in a cigarette.

Person holding a lit cigarette

If that’s all you wanted to know, great. But perhaps a better question is how much of that nicotine do you absorb when smoking? We are going to cover that and provide some nuance and detail. Hang out with us for a bit and let’s shed some more light on this.

Over the years and through a variety of studies, scientists have measured the amount of nicotine in the bloodstream to see just how much nicotine a smoker actually absorbs. Regardless of the type of cigarette, they found that the average smoker will absorb one mg of nicotine per cigarette.

How do we know this? Are wondering why smoking a cigarette with 6 mg of nicotine or a cigarette with 15 mg of nicotine, you still absorb the same amount? The CDC has studied this and found that smokers compensate with lower yield cigarettes and draw in more. The so called low yield or light cigarettes are not only not safer, but subconsciously smokers often find themselves taking larger drags longer drags ultimately inhaling even more tar and toxins.

Nicotine Absorption Smoking

The relatively consistent finding that a smoker’s nicotine absorption is about 1 mg per cigarette may seem odd given the range of nicotine in cigarettes. But as we mentioned the smoker’s method and habits adapt to get a satisfying amount of nicotine. So it is not so much a case of how much nicotine but how people access it. How many puffs someone takes during the course of smoking a cigarette, the length of the puff etc. All of these contribute to the absorption of nicotine.

What many experts have determined is that it is the consistent level of nicotine in a smoker’s bloodstream that governs the individual’s smoking habit. The brain gets used to a certain consistent level and when that level declines it sends the signal that it wants more.

To figure out how much nicotine a smoker needs to satisfy a craving it is more a calculation of how many cigarettes are smoked vs how much nicotine is in a cigarette. There are other factors we will get to later relating to how combustion and tobacco additives impact nicotine absorption. But for now, we are focussed on how the individual habits will compensate to absorb roughly the same amount of nicotine regardless of the nicotine level in any particular cigarette type. The subconscious control of how a smoker uses a cigarette to get that nicotine also applies to vaping.

Nicotine Absorption In Vaping

There were early electronic cigarette studies that purportedly showed that vapers did not absorb as much nicotine as a smoker. In those studies, early and less efficient e-cigarettes were used. In addition to that, the smokers were given those e-cigarettes without clear direction in how to use them.

In a massive study Dr. Konstatin Farasolinos, K.E. et al. compared the nicotine absorbed when smoking vs the nicotine absorbed while vaping. The conclusion of the study established that vaping is an effective means of accessing nicotine. More than that, the study showed that individual habits impact directly on how much nicotine is absorbed. Blood plasma nicotine levels measured over time indicate that puff duration and frequency determine nicotine absorption.

Dr. Farasolinos showed that experienced vapers learn how to use their device to draw more nicotine. Once an experienced vaper adapts, they are able to absorb as much nicotine as a smoker. In fact, experienced vapers in Dr. Farasolinos’ study typically registered higher nicotine plasma levels than smokers. Of course without the tar, combustion etc.

With both vaping and smoking we see data that indicates that how an individual smokes or vapes has an influence on actual nicotine absorption into the bloodstream.

More To Smoking Addiction Than Nicotine In A Cigarette

Tobacco companies have become more advanced and cunning in their ability to increase nicotine. For example, adding ammonia to treated tobacco accelerates nicotine absorption. The accelerated absorption process makes it seem stronger and more satisfying. Tobacco additives are designed to make cigarettes burn faster and deliver more nicotine more quickly. The list of tobacco additives is frankly terrifying. In fact, we are finding out that there may be more addictive chemicals in cigarettes that we have yet to even discover.

There are a number of factors that contribute to nicotine addiction. The additives and a recent discovery that there appears to be an additional addictive element in tobacco. We have always assumed that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances we know of. Independent studies carried out and published on Drug found that there is an as of yet unidentified compound in tobacco smoke that adds to the addictive nature of smoking.

Something in tobacco smoke depresses an enzyme that is responsible for breaking down dopamine. That means more dopamine in the system of a smoker. So the stark reality seems to be that there is still a lot we don’t know what smoking does to the human body but we do know that there is more to the smoking addiction than nicotine.

Is The Nicotine In Cigarettes Addictive?

Believe it or not, there is some dispute whether or not the nicotine in cigarettes is addictive. Dr. Paul Newhouse, the director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Cognitive Medicine has stated that nicotine itself is not that addictive and requires other compounds to be present in order to become addictive. Dr. Newhouse conclusion is certainly not mainstream at this point, but what is mainstream is the understanding that there are indeed additional addictive compounds in smoke.

What else is in cigarette smoke? That is a good question and we are still learning. In the last 10 years as technology has improved, we have gone from knowing there are 4000 compounds in tobacco smoke to detecting 5000 compounds. At the latest report scientists are now detecting 7,000 compounds in tobacco smoke! Science is evolving and as advanced as we have become we are still learning more. And the more we learn about smoking the more frightening the information becomes.

Burning Chemically Treated Tobacco

Burning chemically treated tobacco unleashes a horror show of chemical byproducts. With combustion, the rapid chemical reactions break down the particulates to a microscopic size. The particulates involved with combustion are so small and invasive they find their way deep into human tissues. This is a particularly nasty effect of smoking cigarettes. Almost like minute granules of broken glass invading the tiniest, delicate tissues and causing damage.

A byproduct of burning tobacco is acetaldehyde. We now know that acetaldehyde, along with ammonia, is yet another dangerous additive that accentuates nicotine addiction. While we are finding out how the tobacco additives strengthen nicotine addiction, we still have yet to identify what other addictive compounds are in tobacco smoke. Perhaps the additional addictive compounds are another byproduct of combustion. Maybe someday we will have the answer.

Nicotine In A Cigar

The amount of nicotine in a cigar is much higher than in a cigarette. The MRC Clinical Pharmacology Research Group has found that a cigar smoker will absorb more nicotine than a cigarette smoker. The amount varies by person and by habit but the average cigar smoker absorbs 2.1 mg of nicotine but as much as 4 depending on the cigar and how many puffs.

While cigar smoke is not typically inhaled, the nicotine is absorbed in the mouth through the buccal mucosa. The lungs are more prone to absorption but the sheer amount of nicotine from a cigar means that you absorb more overall.

Choosing A Nicotine Level

So does knowing how many mg of nicotine is in a cigarette help a vaper choose the right nicotine level? Not really! With Dr. Farasolinos recent research we do know that an adult tobacco consumer can get a similar level of nicotine in his or her system using a vapor product. The same research showed that the type and quality of the device are crucial as is how it is used.

You need to find a suitable nicotine level that is going to satisfy. For standard vaping e-liquid nicotine levels range from 0 mg to 24 mg. You should be able to determine from that range the ballpark of the nicotine strength that will work. For sub ohm vaping with a VG e-liquid, the nicotine range is generally from 0 mg to 6 mg. Frankly, because the vapor output is so much the nicotine level does not need to be that high to fulfill any cravings.


Ultimately the goal is an enjoyable vaping experience for adult tobacco consumers. A big part of what makes vaping enjoyable is vape flavors. Mig Vapor is an independent American brand that offers you the ability to create your own flavor. There are over a million possible flavor combinations! The bottom line is that yes you need a baseline to pick a nicotine level. It may take some trial and error. But focus on flavors and an enjoyable experience with an excellent quality device.





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