The nicotine content in cigarettes varies significantly from brand to brand, but on average, a person absorbs 1–1.5 milligrams (mg) of nicotine from a cigarette stick.

The above information comes from 2019 research.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable diseases and death in the United States. About 28.3 million U.S. adults currently smoke cigarettes, and nearly half a million die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.

Nicotine is the highly habit-forming stimulant present in all tobacco products. It changes the brain, leading to dependance and withdrawal symptoms once a person quits. Regularly using cigarettes also leads to tolerance or the need for more nicotine to get the same effect.

This article explores the nicotine content in a single cigarette and the dangers of smoking tobacco products such as cigarettes and vapes.

The safety and long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or other vaping products still aren’t well known. In September 2019, federal and state health authorities began investigating an outbreak of a severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes and other vaping products. We’re closely monitoring the situation and will update our content as soon as more information is available.

Was this helpful?

The amount of nicotine in a cigarette varies considerably from brand to brand, but a typical cigarette contains 11.9–14.5 mg of nicotine.

Smokers do not absorb all the nicotine content of the cigarette. On average, a person only absorbs 1–1.5 mg of nicotine from a single stick.

Other factors also affect how much nicotine gets into the body, including:

  • the nicotine content of the cigarette
  • the design of the product
  • user patterns such as frequency and depth of puffs

E-cigarette nicotine content

People may switch to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) because they believe they are a healthier alternative to regular, combustible cigarettes.

While some e-cigarettes do not contain nicotine, most users use them with a liquid that contains nicotine. In 2015, 99% of e-cigarette products sold had nicotine.

Like combustible cigarettes, user and device characteristics also affect nicotine content in e-cigarettes.

An older review found that nicotine levels in e-cigarettes varied widely, ranging from 0–87.2 mg per milliliter (mg/ml).

However, other research found much higher nicotine levels in some products. In one review, PureNicotineLiquid — a product intended for do-it-yourself use — contained 134.7 mg/ml nicotine. Another study measured 150.3 mg/ml from the same product.

Pod-based devices also have higher nicotine concentrations than other liquid nicotine solutions.

A 2019 study of 30 different e-cigarettes found that it requires 30 e-cigarette puffs to deliver the same amount of nicotine as a combustible cigarette.

A 2016 study that examined 16 long-time e-cigarette users found that 10 puffs at 36 mg/dl were enough to yield nicotine delivery that exceeded the nicotine yield of combustible cigarettes.

One report comparing aerosol nicotine levels across different products found that e-cigarette devices can yield 1.01–10.61 mg of nicotine in 20 puffs. This is comparable to — and can sometimes exceed — nicotine yield from a stick of tobacco cigarette, which has 1.76–2.20 mg.

Smoking can lead to a range of health conditions and diseases, including:

E-cigarettes and vapes contain fewer toxic chemicals than regular cigarettes but also contain nicotine and other harmful substances, such as lead and cancer-causing agents.

Some reported complications associated with e-cigarettes include:

Quitting smoking offers numerous health benefits regardless of how long or how much a person has smoked.

Some tips that may help a person quit smoking include:

  • Identifying reasons for quitting and remembering them in times of temptation to smoke again.
  • Setting a definite quit date within the next month to have enough time to prepare but not too long to avoid changing one’s mind about the decision to quit.
  • Developing a personalized plan, ideally with a healthcare professional. This may include using prescription drugs and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as nicotine sprays, patches, and gums.
  • Identifying support, such as in-person quit programs, telephone quit lines, in-person support group meetings, books, apps, and counseling sessions.
  • Changing the environment, such as removing all cigarette products at home.
  • Identifying things or situations that trigger cravings and avoiding these or developing a plan to reduce cravings when these situations occur.
  • Asking for support from friends, colleagues, and family.

People who want to quit smoking may find speaking with a health professional helpful. Health professionals can assist people who wish to quit smoking by:

  • offering counseling
  • prescribing cessation medications and NRTs
  • referring them to additional resources, such as quitlines and support groups
  • following up to prevent relapse and provide continued support

Talking with a doctor is essential if a person wants to try NRTs or over-the-counter medications but has medical conditions or medications that may interact with smoking cessation drugs and aids.

The nicotine content of combustible cigarettes ranges from 11.9–14.5 mg, and smokers typically absorb approximately 1–1.5 mg. However, nicotine absorption depends on personal smoking habits, such as the frequency and depth of puffing and cigarette characteristics.

E-cigarettes or vapes also contain nicotine and have a comparable or higher nicotine yield than combustible cigarettes. Despite having fewer toxic chemicals, e-cigarettes and vapes still contain harmful substances that may lead to various health conditions and diseases, as with regular cigarettes.