When Less is More: Vaping Low-Nicotine vs. High-Nicotine E-Liquid is Compensated by Increased Wattage and Higher Liquid Consumption

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Feb 28;16(5):723. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16050723.


(1) Background: Previous research (Van Gucht, Adriaens, and Baeyens, 2017) showed that almost all (99%) of the 203 surveyed customers of a Dutch online vape shop had a history of smoking before they had started using an e-cigarette. Almost all were daily vapers who used on average 20 mL e-liquid per week, with an average nicotine concentration of 10 mg/mL. In the current study, we wanted to investigate certain evolutions with regard to technical aspects of vaping behaviour, such as wattage, the volume of e-liquid used and nicotine concentration. In recent years, much more powerful devices have become widely available, e-liquids with very low nicotine concentrations have become the rule rather than the exception in the market supply, and the legislation has been adjusted, including a restriction on maximum nicotine concentrations to 20 mg/mL. (2) Methods: Customers (n = 150) from the same Dutch online vape shop were contacted (to allow a historical comparison), as well as 274 visitors from the Facebook group "Belgian Vape Bond" to compare between groups from two different geographies and/or vaping cultures. (3) Results: Most results were in line with earlier findings: Almost all surveyed vapers were (ex-)smokers, had started (80%) vaping to quit smoking and reported similar positive effects of having switched from smoking to vaping (e.g., improved health). A striking observation, however, was that whereas customers of the Dutch online vape shop used e-liquids with a similar nicotine concentration as that observed previously, the Belgian vapers used e-liquids with a significantly lower nicotine concentration but consumed much more of it. The resulting intake of the total quantity of nicotine did not differ between groups. (4) Conclusions: Among vapers, different vaping typologies may exist, depending on subcultural and/or geographic parameters. As a consequence of choosing low nicotine concentrations and consuming more e-liquid, the Belgian vapers may have a greater potential to expose themselves to larger quantities of harmful or potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) released during vaping.

Keywords: electronic cigarette; nicotine; trends in vaping.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis*
  • Inhalation Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Smokers / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Smoking / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Smoking / trends
  • Vaping / epidemiology
  • Vaping / trends*


  • Nicotine