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Nicotine salts (also known as nic salts) have been used in e-liquids for a few years. Yet, as a monumental vaping innovation, they have only recently exploded in popularity. 

Their popularity soared in the United States, thanks in part to the JUUL closed vaping pod system, which delivered a powerful punch of 50 percent nicotine salts-based e-liquid. Because of the stricter regulations imposed by the Tobacco Products Directive, which limits maximum nicotine levels to 20%, nic salts have only recently become available in the EU. But what is the difference between nicotine salts and freebase nicotine?

Freebase Nicotine Basics:

To fully explain the differences between nicotine salts and freebase, it’s best first to understand the most common alternative form of nicotine available. 

Freebase nicotine dates back to the 1960s when Phillip Morris International (the maker of the Marlboro brand) conducted research that found freebasing nicotine could result in a purer and more enjoyable product. As a result, freebase nicotine can be found in cigarettes, nicotine replacement products (such as gum and patches), and vape e-liquids. 

The freebasing process involves converting nicotine from its natural salt state to its most basic, ‘purest’ form. This method of increasing potency without increasing the dose is popular among vapers because it can be a more cost-effective alternative. The salt protons are stripped away using an alkaline called ammonia, raising the pH level and modifying it to a deprotonated ‘freebase’ state. 

However, this may not provide the best experience for all vapers, so why would some vapers prefer nicotine salts to freebase nicotine? 

Nicotine Salt Basics: 

Let’s get one thing straight: Nicotine Salt contains no salt and will not affect your sodium intake. 

Salt is consists of a chemical reaction containing both a positive (acid) and a negative (base) charge, as defined by chemistry. 

Nicotine, which is found in tobacco leaves, has a salt-like chemical composition. Perhaps more importantly, tobacco leaves only contain nicotine in their salt form. These nicotine salts are chemically modified to produce freebase nicotine. 

However, the chemical composition of nicotine salts has a weak base that seeks out positively charged particles (protons) to become stable (ionized). Because ions have a hard time passing through cell membranes, they have difficulty reaching our bodies’ nicotine receptors. 

To be effective, nicotine salts that are not modified must be vaped at extremely high temperatures. Even if that were possible, nicotine absorption would still be inferior to its freebase counterpart. As a result, nic salts require some chemical tinkering to make them most effective for vaping. 

Benzoic & Citric Acids

Benzoic and citric acids may be added to nicotine salts, depending on which is best for the nic salt flavor. Here are the benefits of these additives:

  • It alters the chemical structure of nicotine, allowing it to be absorbed much more quickly by our bodies. 
  • It significantly lowers the temperature at which nic salts vapourize. 
  • It lowers the pH level, making vaping a much more pleasant experience for the throat. 
  • We can deliver the same nicotine concentration to the bloodstream like a regular tobacco cigarette by optimizing the nicotine salt in this way, and we can do so in a similar time frame.

The Differences

Most vapers share the desire for the sensation they get from vaping to be as close to that of smoking a cigarette as possible. As a result, for the system to work correctly, nicotine delivery must be as close to a regular cigarette as possible. 

Previously, vapers only had the option of using freebase nicotine in their vape juice, which is more on the alkaline end of the spectrum and can be harsh in higher doses due to its higher pH value. 

A high amount of freebase nicotine can deliver a throat hit that is too severe to fully enjoy, depending on the user’s previous smoking and vaping experience. As a result, newer vapers will frequently reduce the nicotine content of their liquid to be gentler on their throat. 

However, reducing nicotine levels too quickly can put them at risk of relapsing back to cigarettes if they don’t satisfy their initial intense cravings. 

There is also the option of taking more drags from their vape to satisfy their cravings; however, this requires more e-liquid, which reduces the cost savings promised, which can be demotivating. 

Freebase Nicotine vs. Nicotine Salts

Freebase Nicotine

  • There are no added ingredients. 
  • In the bloodstream, it absorbs more slowly. 
  • At higher doses, it becomes more abrasive. 
  • Flavor complexity to the max 
  • Increasing cloud production 
  • It’s suitable for both direct-to-lung and mouth-to-lung vaping. 
  • By volume, they are frequently less expensive. 
  • The lowest nicotine strengths are available. 
  • Designed for vapers who don’t require a lot of nicotine. Works best with devices that have a higher power wattage. 
  • More e-liquid may be required for a cigarette-like nicotine hit. 
  • Due to faster oxidation, the shelf life of the product is reduced.

Nicotine Salts

  • For best results, Benzoic or Citric acid will be used. 
  • It absorbs quickly and remains smooth even at higher doses in the bloodstream. 
  • Flavor complexity is limited. 
  • Cloud production is limited. 
  • It’s ideal for mouth-to-lung vaping. 
  • By volume, it could be more expensive. 
  • The most vital nicotine strengths are available. 
  • It’s best for newbie vapers and mixed users, and it works best with devices with a lower power wattage. 
  • With less e-liquid, you can get cigarette-like nicotine hit. 
  • Because of the slower oxidation, it has the most extended shelf life. 

Questions? Concerns?

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