If you've shopped around for a new vape over the last five years, chances are you've come across nicotine salts. That said, you may still not fully understand what nicotine salts are or what they have to do with vaping. In short, nicotine salts help deliver a comparatively higher nicotine content while providing a smoother throat hit as compared to freebase nicotine.
However, there are some technicalities we need to cover so you can fully understand how these compounds work and why they're preferred in the vape industry.
Continue reading below to learn everything you need to know about nicotine salts.
What are Nicotine Salts?
The term nicotine salts can be a bit misleading. The compound is a soluble liquid, not a solid like table salt. Manufacturers extract the salts from tobacco leaves and then freebase them for the desired compound for their e-liquids (more about freebasing below).
In essence, nicotine salts contain the same compounds as regular nicotine extracted from tobacco leaves. However, it would require an extremely high temperature to vaporise without a few chemicals. Benzoic acid is the primary ingredient that allows the salts to produce a smooth effect.
While there's a lot of chemistry involved with how nicotine salts work, the only things you need to understand are pH levels and alkalinity. Benzoic acid lowers the pH levels of the nicotine, which creates a smoother throat hit than freebase nicotine. Meanwhile, it allows the e-liquid to vaporise at a much lower temperature.
As a result, you can get a higher nicotine level without extreme heat or a harsh vaping experience.
The Differences between Nicotine Salts and Freebase Nicotine
Although nicotine salts have become a craze in the vaping industry, freebase nicotine was (and still) a popular choice for some vape users. Knowing the difference between freebase nicotine and nicotine salts will help you choose the best vape products for your personal preference.
Strength and Concentration
Nicotine salts are relatively mellow compared to freebase nicotine, allowing them to be enjoyed at a much higher concentration. You'll often find vape pods that use salts since they don't have a high power wattage.
Freebase nicotine is the purest chemical form, so it needs to be consumed at a much lower concentration. Otherwise, the throat hit would be extremely harsh and unpleasant. That's why you usually only find freebase nicotine inside those massive vape mods since they have the power wattage to vaporise the liquid.
Smoothness and Absorption Rate
Nicotine salts are the organic form of the chemical and are absorbed at a balanced rate when mixed with other compounds in e-liquids. As a result, they tend to deliver a smooth vaping experience that's easy on the throat.
Freebase nicotine is quite the opposite. It's the purest form of the chemical and tends to have a more harsh feeling when vaped. While some people prefer the harshness of freebase nicotine, most people prefer the smoothness of the salts. That said, the freebase chemical delivers a thicker cloud and a bolder taste.
When you work out the cost per millilitre, freebase nicotine e-liquids are cheaper — possibly because manufacturers don't have to use as many ingredients as those who make nicotine salt vapes.
Moreover, nicotine salts must be processed and undergo a chemical reaction to work correctly.
What are Hybrid Nicotine Salts?
Since freebase nicotine and salts are extremely popular, what happens if you mix them? That's where hybrid nicotine salts come into the picture. Some vape enthusiasts think that nicotine salts are too smooth but can't handle the harshness of freebase e-liquids. Combining the two creates the best of both worlds in smoothness and flavour.
These e-liquids closely resemble the feeling of smoking a cigarette, so they are also a popular choice for those that have recently switched to vaping.
Furthermore, these e-liquids can be absorbed relatively quickly and at relatively low temperatures compared to freebase juice. You don't need extreme heat to vaporise your e-juice.
What are the Benefits of Nicotine Salts?
There are many benefits to using e-juices that contain nicotine salts. Some of the primary reasons vape users prefer them over freebase e-liquids are because they:
Deliver Nicotine More Efficiently
One of the most apparent benefits of using nicotine salts is they are highly efficient. You can feel the effects of the salts almost instantly.
As a result, you should consume less e-juice over time, which can bring down the cost of vaping.
More Discreet and Easier To Carry
Although some vape users prefer to blow thicker clouds, not everyone wants to be noticed while vaping. That's where nicotine salts come in handy. You can still get a smooth draw — and a satisfactory throat hit — without being seen. Moreover, you can find compact pod vape pens that easily fit into your pocket or bag. This way, you don't need to lug around a massive vape that's bigger than a power bank.
If you're currently using a sizable sub-ohm mod and feel like it gets in the way, then perhaps you should consider checking out a smaller device that uses nicotine salts.
Are Less Harsh on Your Throat
No doubt, nicotine salts are incredibly popular due to their smoother feel. Many vape users claim that they can easily distinguish between nicotine salt e-liquids and regular vape juices just by the feeling. It's strange considering that these e-liquids have a much higher nicotine content than freebase juices, but they feel a lot easier on the throat.
The reason is that the ammonia used to extract the nicotine from tobacco has a high pH level, which is what makes the vapour feel harsh when you inhale it. As a result, people can enjoy high nicotine levels without hurting their throats when using a juice containing nicotine salt.
What Are the Drawbacks of Nicotine Salts?
While nicotine salts can be extremely enjoyable, there are a few drawbacks to using them:
They Have Lighter Flavours
Although various e-liquids contain salts that taste amazing, they don't deliver the same boldness as freebase e-juices. Nicotine itself has its own flavour. Some say that it tastes sort of peppery. Since e-juices made from nicotine salts generally have a higher nicotine content, you're more likely to taste the nicotine over the other ingredients.
Other e-juices with lower nicotine levels will have much bolder flavours, as you're inhaling more of the compounds inside the juice. As a result, some people prefer freebase or other e-liquids due to their stronger flavours.
They Are Strong
While this can be both a benefit and a drawback, it's crucial to note that nicotine salts are more potent than other e-liquids.
This shouldn’t be an issue if you don't mind the high nicotine levels. However, people who have just switched to vaping or those with a low nicotine tolerance may feel unpleasant with this kind of e-juice.
They Don’t Work With All Vapes
If you're thinking of trying out nicotine salts by now, you should check your device before buying a new e-liquid. For example, you can't use e-juice with nicotine salts in a sub-ohm vape. The reason being is that these devices aren't designed to vaporise liquids with that much nicotine inside.
Although there are some low-nicotine salt e-juices on the market, you'll probably need to buy a smaller vape pen if you want to enjoy most nicotine salt juices.
Are Nicotine Salts Right for You?
Since they deliver a smoother throat hit, are cost-effective, and are far more discreet, it goes without saying that nicotine salt e-liquids are extremely popular on the market. However, are they the right choice for you? It depends on your personal preference and style of vaping.
Nicotine salt e-liquids might be suitable for you if you don't like the harsh feeling in your throat you get from other e-liquids. They could also be a good fit if you use a more compact device, like a vape pen.
That said, nicotine salt e-juices might not work if you're using a sub-ohm device or vaping solely for the flavours. In that case, you're probably better off with freebase nicotine e-liquids.
Due to their popularity and innovative nature, it doesn't seem like nicotine salt e-liquids are going anywhere anytime soon.
Vape companies are always looking for ways to make their products more enjoyable, so they're spending a lot of time and money researching the benefits of nicotine salts. We should expect to see newer e-liquids released soon.
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