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No, one carto is N O T equivalent to a pack of cigarettes

Discussion in 'The ECF Library' started by rolygate, Jan 29, 2012.

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  1. rolygate

    rolygate Forum Manager Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Sep 24, 2009
    ECF Towers
    Latest update: 2014-03-16

    For many years (check old posts on this) we have been well aware that one carto = about 6 cigarettes. All expert users are in agreement about this. The exact figures are:

    A 510 cart (or similar):
    • This system employs an atty & cart (atomizer and cartridge)
    • It is the benchmark 3-piece e-cigarette model - others are very similar
    • The total content is about 12 drops or 0.6ml but some cannot be used
    • It contains about 10 usable drops of e-liquid
    • Experienced users put the cigarette equivalency at about 3 to 5 cigarettes
    • A 20-a-day smoker uses about 6 carts a day with this system
    A KR808 carto (or similar):
    • This system employs a cartomizer (combined atomizer and cartridge) of 35mm x 9mm
    • It is the benchmark 2-piece e-cigarette model - others are very similar
    • The total content is about 22 drops or 1ml but some cannot be used
    • It contains about 18 usable drops of e-liquid
    • Experienced users put the cigarette equivalency at about 5 to 7 cigarettes
    • A 20-a-day smoker uses about 4 cartos a day with this system

    Excessive marketing claims
    Statements that one carto equals 20 or 40 cigarettes are just marketing ploys, no more, and should not be taken seriously. This is because:
    • There just isn't enough e-liquid (i.e. operational time) in a carto (and even less in a cart) to validate this - there is only enough in there for ~6 cigarettes.
    • Most experienced users will tell you that 1 cigarette = about 3 or 4 drops of liquid.
    • It follows that if a container of any kind has 18 usable drops, it cannot be the equivalent of more than 6 cigarettes.
    • The amount of nicotine in the carto is not the same as that supplied in the vapor [1].
    • Current evidence suggests that about 50% of the nicotine in the liquid is transferred across into the vapor [3].
    • Note carefully that the amount of nicotine supplied in the vapor is not equivalent to the same amount if supplied in cigarette smoke - it is less 'usable' by the recipient than the nicotine in smoke due to PG lock-in, particle size, etc.
    • An e-cigarette is used differently from a tobacco cigarette. In particular, the inhalation is longer, and the time of a 'session' is longer. An ecig 'session' must be at least double the length of a cigarette session (the time it takes to finish one) as there is less nicotine in the vapor and it is less usable by the recipient.
    • E-cigarette vapor is usually drawn into the mouth first, not the lungs.
    • The puff length on a mini e-cig is between 3 and 6 seconds on average (in order to get sufficient vapor and/or nicotine). Some draw for 8 seconds when using a mini.
    • An e-cig's 'cigarette equivalent session' is at least double the time a cigarette is used for - about 12 minutes and 20 - 30 puffs for a mini e-cig, compared to 5 minutes and 10 - 15 puffs for a tobacco cigarette.
    • Therefore the number of puffs is at least double. And since the inhale length is 2x or 3x, the volume of vapor is far higher than the equivalent in smoke - perhaps 4x greater.
    The number of 'puffs' or 'mouthfuls' quoted by vendors is not relevant, if there is enough liquid and/or nicotine for 6 cigarettes then that is what the carto equals. It doesn't matter if you take 90 puffs, if you still 'need a smoke' then that is the final arbiter - the puffs did not contain enough [nicotine or whatever] to satisfy the same as a cigarette does.

    Also note that direct nicotine content comparisons are impossible since we have no reliable measurement for the nicotine content of vapor. Comparing the amount of nicotine in the smoke from a cigarette (about 1mg) with the amount in e-liquid is an irrelevant comparison containing a massive logic error and about as useful as comparing a rock with a cupcake. Cigarette smoke needs to be compared with ecig vapor, for any meaningful comparison, but we don't know how much nic there is in vapor. We now know beyond doubt that an average of 50% of the nicotine in e-liquid is transferred into the vapor but we don't know the actual amount per 'session equivalent' to a cigarette. In any case there are at least two more variables: the amount of nicotine that is bioavailable in vapour (some may be locked in), and the effect of vapour nicotine vs smoke nicotine on the individual (there is good reason to believe that a 40% lower plasma nic level during vaping is effective).

    ECF policy
    Our policy is to ignore these marketing claims because everyone knows they are false, and no members will be taken in by them.

    The problem is that very many vendors make such claims. If we stopped ECF Registered Suppliers from doing it, they would be at a market disadvantage compared to Suppliers we have rejected or who have not applied for registration.

    Since these claims are so ridiculous as far as expert users are concerned, and because there is plenty of information on ECF that debunks such claims, we decided to ignore it. But please be aware that claims by mini e-cigarette vendors that their cartos are equal to a pack of cigarettes (or more) are unsubstantiated by blood plasma nicotine level tests in multiple experienced users - the only thing we would accept as evidence.

    A pack of cigarettes is about 3ml of refill liquid because that is what experienced users say it is. Such an amount of e-liquid would be contained in around 4 cartos. Ignore any other claims.

    20 cigarettes can only be equalled, in one unit, by a tank system such as a 4ml tank (these can only be part-filled in practice, and can take a max. of around 3ml).

    These claims might be true if you just take 2-second puffs on your mini e-cigarette, and only use it for 5 minutes, and previously smoked ultra-lights with hardly any nicotine in them, and smoked miniature-sized economy cigarettes, and discarded the cigarette after consuming half of it, and if your blood plasma nicotine level never exceeded 5ng to 10ng/ml while smoking [2].

    In this case, you are the smoker these claims might apply to. You are in luck, because you will save a phenomenal amount of money. Realistically, you are part of a tiny minority.


    [1] A tobacco cigarette contains between 13mg and 23mg of nicotine (US gov figures).
    The smoke from a tobacco cigarette contains about 1mg of nicotine (commonly 0.8mg to 1.1mg).
    These figures are falling though, as cigarettes gradually become 'lighter'.

    An e-cigarette carto contains from 6mg to 45mg of nicotine (if a carto holds ~1ml of liquid, and the liquid strength is 36mg/ml, then it will contain about 36mg of nicotine).
    Some cartos, though, are 0 nicotine - although for various reasons it seems likely that there may be some nicotine even in '0 nicotine' cartos: 'real' tobacco flavour may contain a small amount of nicotine.
    The amount of nicotine in the vapor from 1 carto (or more relevant: from 12 minutes of use) has never been measured (or at least this has never been published) [3].

    [2] Most smokers are now measuring at around 13ng - 20ng/ml, some exceeded 40ng/ml in historic tests although the level is noticeably falling (even 50ng/ml was measured in the past). There are also smokers who can be classified as 'super-light users' whose blood plasma nic level is very low, around 5ng to 10ng/ml. They are not the majority.

    Note that everyone tests positive for nicotine as it is part of the diet (it is an ingredient in many vegetables and foodstuffs, from tomatoes to tea). In large-scale tests to investigate this such as the CDC test of 800 persons, all subjects test positive for nicotine. This can be referred to as the 'background' level in nicotine tests, and is commonly about 2ng/ml as measured in the blood (referred to as the blood plasma nicotine level).

    [3] Update Nov 18th 2013
    There are now 3 published tests of the nicotine content in ecig vapor:
    a. The Ruyan V8, tested by Dr Laugesen in NZ.
    b. 'Goniewicz 1'.
    c. 'Goniewicz 2'.

    a. The Ruyan V8 is an unusual model not widely available and from several years ago. His test showed 10% nic content in vapor as compared to cigarette smoke (but not how much of the nicotine in the refill was transferred into the vapor, or how much nicotine in weight was delivered by a 'session').

    b. Nicotine content of e-cigarette vapour ('Goniewicz 1')
    This study reported that about 55% of the nicotine in the refill liquid is transferred into the vapor.

    c. Nicotine content of electronic cigarettes, its release in vapour, and its consistency across batches: Regulatory implications ('Goniewicz 2')
    This study reports that about 45% of the nicotine in the refill liquid is transferred into the vapor (our plain arithmetical average of the various results, which spanned from 10% to 81% - the true mean may be different).

    Thus, the two published results, 55% and 45%, appear to average 50%. In addition, there are several ad hoc tests by professional chemists on ECF, and others. None can be said to agree substantially, although there is a grouping at around 50%. It seems possible then to suggest that about half of the nicotine in the liquid is delivered, although this appears to vary according to the ecig hardware.

    These results are beginning to show an average nicotine delivery percentage that calculations can be based on. A variety of methods have been employed, for example GC-MS but with a variety of sampling methods; cryogenic condensation followed by liquid analysis; 5kV electrostatic deposit followed by solvent flush and liquid analysis; in-chamber deposition plus solvent wash; and so on. As there is no agreed and repeatable protocol, it is not possible to state the nicotine content of e-cigarette vapor with any reliability. We use 50% of the nicotine in the liquid being transferred to the vapor as a working current hypothesis; this does not take account of (most importantly) the hardware used, or puff types or session length, just the consumption of the liquid in total.

    In other words, about half the nicotine in the liquid is thought to transfer to the vapor; if the individual consumes all the liquid, therefore they will receive delivery of about half the nicotine content of the liquid; but no accurate evaluation can be made at this time of how much is in each puff; or in each 'session' if a finite time period is used as per tobacco cigarette consumption (e.g. 20 puffs, or 12 minutes, etc.).

    More research is needed; and perhaps more importantly, protocols that produce repeatable results and can be used as the agreed method for nicotine content measurement of vapor.

    Update 2104-03-16
    All recent research has confirmed the above, and 'Goniewicz 2' has emerged as the benchmark: 50% of the nicotine in e-liquid is transferred into the vapour on average, with a range of 10% to 80% depending on hardware efficiency.

    Farsalinos' work in addition tells us that it takes a vaper about 35 minutes of vaping, with average equipment, to reach a peak plasma nicotine level equivalent to that reached by smoking in 5 minutes; and that a nicotine strength of around 50mg is needed to provide a direct cigarette equivalent.

    However there are multiple caveats with such information:
    a. Only the individual's experience is valid: people use a wide variety of hardware and refills, and a have a wide variation in tolerance to nicotine (at least a factor of 10), and the only thing of any importance - in the end - is what works for the individual.
    b. It is obvious that vapers achieve the same level of satisfaction with a much lower plasma nic level than they used to achieve when smoking. No medics have yet either (i) pointed out this obvious fact, or (ii) attempted to explain it.
    c. In fact it looks as if there is a considerable difference: a smoker who measures at 20ng plasma nic level when smoking will get the same effect with a 12ng plasma level when vaping. This is a 40% reduction, and has not been explained.
    d. It follows that if a vaper achieves an equal plasma nic level with both vaping and smoking then they will be experiencing symptoms of overconsumption when vaping. Again, this has not been explained.
    e. It may therefore be that some compounds in tobacco smoke moderate the effects of nicotine.
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