Nicotine cessation

Nicotine and E cigarette cessation : how to reduce nicotine levels?

In just a few years, e cigarettes have become the primary smoking cessation tool used by the French. According to official figures, more than 700,000 people in France have quit smoking thanks to vaping.

While successfully giving up smoking is a significant achievement for some vapers, it is only the first step before tackling nicotine withdrawal. So, the question arises: how can one achieve the goal of 0 mg/ml of nicotine?

To answer this question, Le Petit Vapoteur offers a complete guide with tips and tricks to help you achieve this goal.

Who is nicotine withdrawal for ?

It may seem obvious, but before starting nicotine withdrawal, you must have successfully quit smoking. To ensure this, ask yourself if you still crave a cigarette at certain times of the day or week?

If your answer is "yes," it means that smoking is not completely behind you. By changing your nicotine levels, you then risk experiencing withdrawal, which could inevitably lead you to smoke a cigarette again. Completely counterproductive, wouldn't you agree?

Yet, this is a mistake often made by vapers. They forget that nicotine is an ally that, when combined with an e-cigarette, should keep them away from tobacco in the long run. If vapers forget this fact, it is primarily because nicotine suffers from a disastrous image. 80% of French people wrongly consider it to be carcinogenic, and this is not the only misconception that this molecule suffers from, as demonstrated in this article published on our blog.

It is always good to remember a few facts: yes, nicotine causes addiction, and it is legitimate to want to break free from it; no, it is not the presence of nicotine in tobacco that makes it harmful to health.

From there, nicotine withdrawal should not be approached from a risk reduction perspective but, as its name suggests, from a withdrawal perspective. To achieve this, you must first be sure to stay away from tobacco in the long run, otherwise, you risk losing on both fronts.

A retenir :
  • Starting nicotine withdrawal while still tempted by a traditional cigarette can jeopardize your smoking cessation.
  • Reducing nicotine levels should be approached from a withdrawal perspective, not a risk reduction perspective.

How does nicotine addicition work?

La dépendance nicotinique

To reduce nicotine addiction, it is essential to understand the mechanisms that cause it. Nicotine has a direct action on the brain: it binds to certain receptors and stimulates the reward system, which then releases dopamine (more commonly known as the "pleasure hormone").

When a person starts smoking tobacco, the nicotine delivered to the body has the effect of gradually increasing these receptors. The more receptors there are, the more they will "demand" nicotine, and thus, addiction sets in. However, the increase in these receptors is not exponential. After a few months of smoking, an average level of nicotine need tends to be established, which explains why smokers' cigarette consumption remains rather stable over time.

The difference between tobacco and nicotine substitutes

It should be noted that the dependence caused by nicotine is amplified by tobacco consumption. When smoking a cigarette, nicotine reaches the brain in less than 20 seconds. This is a specificity that is not found with e-cigarettes or other nicotine substitutes that take much longer to deliver nicotine to the brain.

Nicotine, when smoked, causes intense "spikes" or "shoots" of nicotine. It is these spikes that are largely responsible for the increase in receptors in the brain and therefore the growing development of withdrawal symptoms.

Les pics nicotiniques

The aim of nicotine substitutes (such as gum, patches, and e-cigarettes) is to limit this effect. Instead of regular spikes, the goal is to have a sufficient concentration of nicotine in the blood to effectively alleviate withdrawal symptoms over time.

Courbe de la nicotinémie

When the level of nicotine need is reached and maintained, a phenomenon occurs: the receptors tend not to regenerate. Their number gradually decreases, as does the need to satisfy them. This sets off a virtuous circle.

It is therefore naturally easier to reduce dependence with an e-cigarette, as long as two main ideas are kept in mind: nicotine needs must always be met, and this process must be maintained over time.

The self-titration phenomenon

To fully understand one's dependence on nicotine, it is also important to understand what self-titration is. It is a natural, instinctive phenomenon that all smokers experience, even if they are not always aware of it.

A tobacco consumer can adapt their smoking behavior according to their nicotine needs, such as by taking longer or shorter puffs or holding smoke in their lungs for varying lengths of time.

Therefore, when a smoker tries to reduce their tobacco consumption, their dependence on nicotine tends to remain the same. Even if they smoke less, they will make sure to inhale more deeply to effectively compensate for their lack.

The same phenomenon is observed in vapers who reduce their nicotine levels too quickly. To compensate, they tend to increase their e-liquid consumption or change their vaping style (from indirect to direct inhalation, increase in power, etc.).

In the context of nicotine withdrawal, it is therefore crucial to remember that if the body does not receive the amount of nicotine it deems necessary, it will find indirect and often unconscious ways to achieve its goals. Therefore, it is important to be attentive to one's signals and not hesitate to take one's time when they are detected.

The different types of addicition

Finally, to effectively treat nicotine addiction, it is essential to understand that it can take several forms. Traditionally, it is believed that there are three types of addiction: physical, psychological, and behavioral.

In the context of nicotine withdrawal, behavioral addiction is not really a problem since one continues to vape in the same way as usual during the process.

Regarding physical addiction, we have already explained its mechanisms above. The goal will be to effectively compensate for the lack until it gradually decreases.

However, it is important to pause and consider psychological addiction. As we have seen, nicotine stimulates the reward system. Smoking, like vaping, therefore has a calming and antidepressant effect. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that even if our nicotine needs remain generally stable, certain moments or periods may significantly increase them.

An evening with friends, stress, or a drop in mood are all examples that illustrate this phenomenon. Strategies must then be found to ensure that this does not jeopardize your nicotine withdrawal.

A retenir :
  • Unlike tobacco, vaping does not create "nicotine hits." Therefore, your dependence on nicotine is likely to gradually decrease.
  • If your body does not receive the amount of nicotine it needs, it will push you to consume more. Do not fight against this phenomenon and take your time.
  • Certain moments or periods may influence your nicotine needs. It is important to identify them in order to better approach them.

What methods can be used to reduce nicotine levels with an electronic cigarette?

Successfully quitting nicotine addiction first requires a gradual reduction in nicotine levels. In the following guide, you will find recommendations for preparing for this process, as well as effective methods for achieving it.

Step 1 : Determine your reference consumption

Surveillance de la consommation

To start, it is essential to define two points of comparison that will allow you to measure your progress. The first is obviously the nicotine level. The second, often less taken into account, is the consumption of e liquid.

As we have seen, due to the phenomenon of self-titration, it is possible that your vaping behavior may evolve during the withdrawal phase. The most common direct consequence is an increase in the amount of e-liquid vaped to compensate for the lack of nicotine. However, the more e-liquid you consume, the more nicotine you consume.

Lowering your nicotine level while increasing your consumption is therefore generally the same thing. For example, someone who vapes 2 ml per day at 12 mg/ml absorbs the same amount of nicotine as someone who vapes 8 ml at 3 mg/ml.

Therefore, it is understood that the only indicator of the dosage of your e-liquid can be misleading. For its evolution to make sense, it must necessarily be correlated with your consumption.

These two points of comparison must be established before the start of your nicotine withdrawal. You will then need to ask yourself, "what is my nicotine level?" and "how much e-liquid do I vape per day?" If the answer to the first question is easy, it is not necessarily the case for the second. To help you, here are some tips:

    • Count the number of times you fill your tank each day and multiply this number by the tank's capacity (example: 2 fillings per day of Zenith clearomizer is equivalent to 8 ml);
    • Estimate the number of e-liquid bottles consumed per week or per month, then multiply by the volume of the bottle before dividing by the number of days (example: 6 bottles of 10 ml consumed per month is equivalent to 2 ml per day).

Once your consumption has been determined, all you have to do is multiply this number by your nicotine level to estimate your reference nicotine consumption. For example, if you vape 2 ml daily at 12 mg/ml, your reference consumption is 24 mg per day (2x12). You can also use the calculator below to achieve this:

Reference nicotine consumption

Your reference nicotine consumption is:
24 MG / DAY

The entire goal of your nicotine withdrawal will then be to reduce this number, by lowering your nicotine level and/or by reducing your consumption, until you reach the famous 0 mg.

Step 2 : Establishing your nicotine withdrawal strategy

Votre stratégie de sevrage nicotinique

Now that you know your reference consumption, it's time to establish the withdrawal strategy that best suits your profile. Here are some tips for establishing it.

Defining your means of action

The starting point for nicotine withdrawal can vary greatly from one vaper to another. Your e-liquid consumption can be high or low, as can your base nicotine level.

If you consume little (less than 5 ml per day), but your level is high (above 6 mg/ml), the best solution for you will logically be to gradually lower the nicotine dosage of your e-liquids.

On the other hand, if your consumption is high, but your level is already relatively low, it may be necessary to first take action on the amount of e-liquid vaped.

Let's take an example to convince you. Let's say you vape 10 ml of e-liquid per day at 6 mg/ml. Your daily nicotine consumption is then 60 mg. By lowering your level to 3 mg/ml, 30 mg will no longer be delivered to your body suddenly, which could cause powerful withdrawal symptoms. Conversely, let's take the example of someone who vapes 3 ml at 6 mg/ml. In this case, when switching to 3 mg/ml, the difference corresponds to 9 mg per day and becomes more "easily" manageable.

Even though it may seem confusing, if you consume a lot of e-liquid, you are better off first increasing your nicotine level. This will reduce the amounts of e-liquid vaped, which will make your nicotine withdrawal easier later on. Taking the above example, someone who vapes 10 ml at 6 mg/ml would do better to start their withdrawal by switching to 5 ml at 12 mg/ml.

This process will necessarily involve changes in the way you vape (less power, less direct inhalation) and in your habits (reducing the frequency of vaping). It may not suit your preferences, but keep in mind that by not following this advice, the decrease in nicotine levels will have to be even more gradual.

Planning your withdrawal while remaining flexible 

As we have seen, nicotine withdrawal is never as effective as when it is over a longer period of time. It can therefore be useful to plan it. On this point, it is essential to choose the right time for all the steps that will lead you to a life without nicotine. We recommend that you prioritize periods that will feed your psychological addiction the least, in other words, those that are least likely to have a negative impact on your mood. Instead, take advantage of the relaxation offered by a week of vacation or a long weekend to make progress in your withdrawal.

However, you must always maintain a certain flexibility. No one can tell you how your body will react to withdrawal. Some thresholds may be very easy to overcome while others will be much more difficult. You must therefore be aware of your sensations and not hesitate to reconsider if you feel that your needs are not sufficiently met. Once again, you must weigh the benefit-risk ratio and ask yourself if this goal is worth jeopardizing your smoking cessation. Sometimes it is better to wait a few more weeks rather than end up in a situation that will push you back to tobacco.

Finally, it can be useful to anticipate moments that could influence your nicotine consumption in order to better handle them. A night out with friends or a stressful day at work can, for example, have a direct impact on your needs. In this case, don't hesitate to find a solution that allows you to face them as best as possible. It can take the form of a very temporary increase in your nicotine level depending on the progress of your withdrawal (example: Go back to 16 mg/ml for a few hours when you have just switched to 12 mg/ml.

Step 3 : Gradually reducing the nicotine intake

Les objectifs de votre sevrage

You know your reference consumption and have established your quitting strategy? Then, all you have to do is start reducing your nicotine intake!

Take your time

As demonstrated in a previous chapter, physical dependence on nicotine gradually decreases when vapers' needs are fulfilled over time. The challenge will be to match the decrease in your intake with the reduction in your dependence, rather than anticipating it.

The first key to successful quitting thus becomes time. We are not talking about a few days here, but rather several weeks between each level. On this point, as on others, remember that your dependence is unique, and you alone can determine the time that suits you.

Nevertheless, traditionally, it is advisable to wait at least a month before changing your nicotine intake. This gives your body time to adapt, but also to prepare for the next level. Once again, the goal is to follow the evolution of your dependence and not to rush it.

Reduce your overall nicotine consumption

As we have seen, reducing your nicotine intake without taking into account the evolution of your e-liquid consumption can be misleading. It is therefore essential that your reference criterion is your daily nicotine consumption.

As a reminder, it is calculated as follows: amount of e-liquid vaped daily multiplied by the nicotine level. It is only by decreasing the result of this multiplication that you can estimate that you are making progress in your quitting.

To facilitate this process, it is important not to create too large a gap between each nicotine level decrease. However, this is a problem that you may encounter with the levels that are most commonly found on the market, especially if you vape a lot. Let's take some examples to convince ourselves:

Equivalence taux de nicotine

Thus, the higher your e-liquid consumption, the more "traditional" nicotine levels are likely to be problematic for you. Therefore, it becomes necessary to find intermediate levels.

Determine intermediate levels

These intermediate levels will allow you to add a step between two nicotine levels. For example, 9 mg/ml to avoid going directly from 12 mg/ml to 6 mg/ml. To obtain them, several solutions are available to you.

The first, and simplest, is to find a range of e-liquids with a wide choice of dosages. This is particularly the case with the Le Petit Vapoteur range, which offers no less than 7 different nicotine levels, including 9 mg/ml and 1.5 mg/ml.

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The second consists of mixing two e-liquids with different levels. For example, a 10 ml vial at 16 mg/ml mixed with a 10 ml vial at 12 mg/ml will result in 20 ml at 14 mg/ml. To calculate this intermediate level, simply add the two nicotine levels and divide by two. To take the above example: 16+12=28/2=14.

We recommend that you obtain empty bottles in large sizes to facilitate mixing. This way, you can simply combine the two e-liquids, or make larger quantity mixes (2 vials at 16 mg/ml + 2 vials at 12 mg/ml = 40 ml at 14 mg/ml).

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The third solution involves Do It Yourself (DIY). Vaping allows you to create your own e-liquids and thus have greater freedom in the ingredients that make it up. You can choose the PG/VG ratio, the flavors, but above all, the nicotine level of your preparation.

How does it work in practice? Three elements come into play in the manufacturing of e-liquid, a neutral base, nicotine boosters (at 20 mg/ml), and one or more flavors are used. Vapers can then combine these different elements in the proportions they desire to achieve the desired result. Thus, all nicotine dosages between 0 and 20 mg/ml become accessible, from the most traditional to the most unusual. To help you establish intermediate levels with DIY, a calculator is available. Choose a flavor, a volume for your preparation, a PG/VG ratio, and a nicotine level. It will automatically tell you the quantities of base, flavor, and boosters to mix to meet these criteria.


Measure your progress

First, your e-liquid consumption should remain stable over time and only increase very slightly/temporarily with each step down.

If you observe a sudden/durable increase, then it is a sign that the step is too low for you. In this case, there are two solutions: go back to the previous nicotine level for a few weeks or find an intermediate level.

Secondly, it is extremely important that you never feel like you are in a state of withdrawal. If this happens, you need to ask yourself if it is a temporary situation (related to stress, for example) or more long-lasting. In the first case, it will be sufficient to increase your nicotine level episodically, while in the second case, it is recommended to choose one of the solutions mentioned above.

Remember that you will not necessarily experience each step down in the same way. So always pay attention to your sensations and your consumption. Ultimately, you will achieve a nicotine level that is increasingly close to 0 mg/ml. It will then be time to move on to the ultimate stage of your withdrawal: vaping without nicotine.

A retenir :
  • Nicotine withdrawal takes time and requires flexibility. There is no need to rush, only the final result matters.
  • If your e-liquid consumption is high, start by reducing it before tackling your nicotine level.
  • Reduce your nicotine level gradually according to your needs and feelings.
  • Reducing your nicotine level is effective only if your e-liquid consumption remains stable or decreases as well.

When and how to switch to a nicotine free e liquid?

Switching to a nicotine-free e-liquid should only be considered when you have reached a level equal to or less than 3 mg/ml and feel completely comfortable with it. The goal of 0 mg/ml is then very close, but to approach it well, you need to be aware of the changes it implies.

Beyond the absence of nicotine, a 0 mg/ml e-liquid will differ from others in that it no longer causes a "hit". This throat contraction when inhaling vapor is a sensation sought after by most e-cigarette users. Without it, you can quickly feel like you're vaping flavored air. Nicotine is also a taste enhancer. When absent from an e-liquid, flavors may seem more muted, and this is particularly noticeable when you are accustomed to the recipe.

In both cases, there are ways to counter these drawbacks, as we will see later.

Reduce nicotine consumption to the lowest possible level

To maximize your chances of successfully transitioning to 0 mg/ml, you must be sure that your daily nicotine consumption cannot be reduced further. If you have reached a minimum level, another option is always available: reducing your e-liquid consumption.

Even if you stay at the same dosage, you are still influencing the amount of nicotine delivered to your body daily. Examples:

Of course, this only applies if your e-liquid consumption remains high. Otherwise, you just have to take the plunge!

Zero nicotine goals

Objectif Zero Nicotine

Based on everything we have seen previously, here are some tips to help you successfully transition to 0 mg/ml.

Prepare for the transition to 0 mg/ml like any other

Switching to a nicotine-free e-liquid can be intimidating, or even scary. However, even though this final step has its specificities, it should be approached like any other. So don't put too much pressure on yourself and choose the best time to try the experience. A prolonged calm period, like a vacation, seems to be the most suitable for this. You will thus protect yourself from anything that could trigger your psychological dependence, which will give you a real insight into how your body will react to the absence of nicotine over time.

Don't hesitate to force yourself to hold on a little bit during the first few days, as long as withdrawal symptoms are bearable, even if you need to vape a little more than usual. Don't be afraid to shorten the experience if it is not really conclusive. You should not see it as a failure, but as a failed first attempt that will allow you to better prepare for the second.

Counterating the absence of nicotine 

As we have seen, nicotine has an influence on the "throat hit" and flavors. As for the "throat hit," just because you are vaping at 0 mg/ml doesn't mean you can't artificially recreate it. In this case, the best solution is to vape menthol or very fresh e-liquids that will have a similar effect on the throat. You can also significantly increase the power at which you vape. This will offset the lack of "throat hit" with a greater amount of inhaled vapor.

Regarding flavors, there is no secret if your favorite e-liquid seems less flavorful. Try switching to a more strongly flavored recipe that you are less familiar with.

Using the placebo effect

If you really fear this transition to 0 mg/ml, your apprehension could negatively influence your attempt. In this case, we recommend using the placebo effect.

To do this, simply obtain two similar e-liquids, one without nicotine and the other with your usual dosage. Ideally, you should choose a recipe that you are less familiar with, that is menthol or fresh. The goal is to anonymize them so that you cannot know which one is at 0 mg/ml. Then, at the beginning of each day, you can vape either one or the other.

Not consciously knowing what you have in your tank, you can easily sort out your sensations. If you feel exactly the same from one day to the next, you will know that vaping without nicotine does not really have an influence on you. In the opposite situation, you will have the certainty that the felt lack is not just an illusion and that you will necessarily have to face it.

Success in your withdrawal

La réussite de votre sevrage

As you may have understood, succeeding in vaping without nicotine in the long term can take time and require a lot of willpower. Remember that your addiction is unique and only you have the key to free yourself from it. So, test things out, apply the tips in this guide, create your own method... Whether it takes you a month or a year, only the end result matters!

A retenir :
  • Before switching to 0 mg/ml, reduce your e-liquid consumption as much as possible.
  • When switching to 0 mg/ml, opt for menthol or cool e-liquids to counter the absence of a hit.
  • If the withdrawal symptoms are too intense, don't persist. It's better to try multiple times than to risk a major relapse.