Nicotine Salts vs Freebase: What's the Difference

The vaping industry has witnessed large innovative changes within a relatively short period of time. Nicotine Salts or nic salts are highly popular options that are a large part of the industry.

While they have been used in e-liquids for some years, they are only just becoming very popular as a huge innovation in vaping. One thing to know before diving in is that contrary to what the name suggests, Nicotine Salt has no salt and will not affect your sodium intake.

They began to grow in popularity in the US as a result of the closed vaping pod system from JUUL, which used e-liquids with more than 50% nicotine salts. Only until recently has it become available in the EU as a result of stricter regulations set by the Tobacco Products Directive, which has seen max nicotine levels capped at 20%.

This guide has been crafted to help you fully understand nic salts, compared to freebase nicotine so that you can make the best decision in choosing the right vape pen for you.

two people Vaping salts in your vape pen with green background

What Does Freebase Nicotine Mean?

You need to fully understand the most common alternative of nicotine available, which is freebase before you can clearly see their difference to nicotine salts.

Freebase nicotine originated in the 1960s when the Philip Morris-owned Marlboro brand began a research that found that freebasing nicotine could make a product purer and more enjoyable, hence it became quite popular in cigarettes, alternative nicotine products such as gums and patches, and vape e-liquids.

The process of freebasing involves changing nicotine from its naturally occurring ‘salt’ state into its purest base form. This increases the potency, without having to increase the dose, which is why it has become popular among vapers as it is a very cost-effective solution. Just like the name suggest, ammonia is used to strip away the salt protons, which raises the PH level, modifying it to a freebase, deprotonated state.

However, not all vapers can get the best experience with freebase nicotine, turn to nicotine salts. Which begs the question, what are the differences between nicotine salts and freebase that vapers can benefit from?

Vape e-juice in a pile while a blue blob hits a vape green background

The Difference between Nicotine Salts and Freebase Salt

Most vapers are looking to enjoy vaping as much as they would get with smoking a cigarette. So, they want their nicotine delivery to mirror a regular cigarette delivery as much as possible.

In me past, vapers could use freebase nicotine in their vape juice, whtiich is more alkaline in nature meaning users found it harsh in higher doses.

A high freebase nicotine quantity is capable of delivering a throat hit that is so harsh it can lower your enjoyment, but this depends on the smoker’s previous experience with smoking and vaping. The consequence of this is that new vapers needed to reduce their e-liquid nicotine content to ensure it is gentler on their throat this is also a very common practice with dry herb vaporizer users.

However, in some cases, this can prove risky since if nicotine level is reduced too quickly, it’s highly likely that they may be tempted to relapse back and return to cigarettes when they can’t satisfy their early intense cravings.

There is another alternative of taking more drags from their vape to have their cravings satisfied, however, this leads to more e-liquid being used which reduces the cost savings promised.

What’s Nicotine Salt Exactly?

Like we stated earlier, nicotine salt is NOT based on common sodium chloride or table salt. So, it won’t give a salty taste to your vape juice or increase your sodium intake.

The nicotine occurring in tobacco has the chemical composition of a salt. More importantly, it is possible tobacco leaves contain nicotine in its salt state which are then chemically modified to produce freebase nicotine.

Yet increasingly, the chemical composition of nicotine salts contains a weak base that seeks out positively charged particles or protons so they can get more stable (ionized). Since ions find it difficult to move through cell membranes, they find it hard to reach the nicotine receptors in our bodies.

Nicotine salts that have not be modified can be added to the PG/VG used in making up e-liquid and should be vaped at very high temperatures for the nicotine to become effective. Even if that was a possibility, nicotine absorption would still be inferior compared to the freebase equivalent. Therefore, to ensure it is highly suitable for vaping, nic salts have to be chemically tweaked themselves.

Vaping in public e-juice

Nic Salt vs Freebase

To proceed further, we will now take a look at the main differences between freebase and nicotine salts to decide which is most suitable for you.

Nicotine Salts Core Facts

  • Contains Benzoic or Citric acid
  • Absorbs in the bloodstream quickly
  • Delivers a smooth feeling even in higher doses
  • Flavor is limited
  • Cloud production is constrained
  • Suitable for mouth to lung vaping
  • It is more expensive as the volume increases
  • It comes in the highest nicotine strengths
  • Best for beginner vapers and mixed users
  • Works best with wattage devices that have low power
  • Requires less e-liquid to achieve a nicotine hit similar to cigarettes
  • It has the longest shelf life since it oxidizes slowly

Freebase Nicotine Core Facts

  • Has zero additives
  • Absorbs in the bloodstream slower
  • The higher the dose, the harsher it becomes
  • Delivers high flavor
  • Large cloud production
  • Works well with vaping techniques like direct-to-lung and mouth-to-lung
  • The larger the volume, the less expensive
  • It comes in the lowest nicotine strengths
  • It is best for vapers that have low nicotine needs
  • Work best with devices with higher power wattage
  • Needs more e-liquid to achieve cigarette like nicotine hit
  • Has a shorter shelf life as a result of faster oxidation

Freebase salts being vaped by a girl in a park

Differences in Safety

The major difference between nic salt e-liquid and freebase nicotine vape juice is that nic salt e-liquid have Benzoic or Citric acid added to it. Since both of these are naturally occurring in our bodies, nicotine salts are safe compared to its freebase counterpart.

Which Should You Choose?

Before deciding whether nicotine salts are best for you, there are certain things you need to consider to make your choice. Are you looking to:

  1. Quit smoking
  2. Try vaping again after being unsuccessful before
  3. Get a vaping device that is not overly technical or too costly
  4. Enjoy a nicotine level higher than what freebase e-liquids can provide

Having said that, you would have discovered in this guide everything you need to know to make an informed decision about the best nicotine e-liquid variant there is for you. So, what are you waiting for? Make your best e-liquid choice and get started vaping today!

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