The nicotine found in the classic e-juices, which have been vaped for about a decade, is called freebase nicotine. In the last couple of years, a new type of e-juice nicotine has emerged: nicotine salts. Salt nic eliquid packs quite the punch when compared to its freebase brethren. This greater potency reduces the amount of e-liquid and vapor you need to get a proper nic hit. Best of all, it requires smaller, less bulky devices while requiring minimal puffs to get the job done. Clic for example uses prefilled salt nic pods, creating a new avenue for ejuice manufacturers such as BLVK Unicorn to get their salt nic flavors in pods. Generally sold in 30ml bottles, they are usually offered with a nicotine strength of 35mg or 50mg. In terms of appearance, salt nic ejuices look identical to the classic freebase ejuices. The viscosity is completely dependent on the same blend of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin used in the formulation of freebase nicotine e-liquids.
Less powerful devices with high resistance coils are perfect for salt nic e-juice.
The Nic Salt market is flooded with excellent refillable pod systems that are customized for nic salts, but also have the flexibility to use regular ejuice as well. With a higher concentration of nicotine, high wattage devices will deliver to much nicotine at once which may cause the user to feel nauseous or sick. To make nic salts easy, many device manufacturers have created devices specifically made to handle Nic Salt. Best of all, a lot of these companies, like Clic, have created pods to avoid the mess of refilling pods yourself.
The name "nicotine salt" is derived from the molecular structure of nicotine. The word salt may make you think table salt, but in this case “salt” refers to a compound formed when an acid reacts with a base.
In tobacco leaves, nicotine is present in the form of naturally occurring nicotine salts. This means that the nicotine molecule has bonded with amino acids to create a more stable molecule.
The nicotine salts used in salt nic e-juice are not the same as the nicotine salts which occur in nature. The nicotine salts used in ejuice are manufactured when freebase nicotine, more on that below, has benzoic acid added to it in during the manufacturing process.
The naturally occurring nicotine salts in the tobacco leaf are not particularly bioavailable. This is a fancy way of saying easily absorbed. In the 1960s, Phillip Morris pioneered a chemical process that converted the naturally occurring nicotine salts in tobacco leaves into freebase nicotine. Phillip Morris used ammonia to deprotonate, i.e. remove the natural nicotine salts from the tobacco leaf. The result was freebase nicotine. This simply means a nicotine that is no longer bound to another molecule in the form of a salt.
Freebase, which is a scary word in its own right, describes nicotine in its purest form. Freebase nicotine absorbs more readily, but industry documents from the 1970s reveal that the process of removing the nicotine salts from the tobacco leaf actually increases the pH level of freebase nicotine. This resulted in, “A greater physiological (throat and chest) impact and toxicity.” This high pH level is what limits the amount of nicotine you can put in a freebase nicotine e-liquid. You won’t find a freebase e-juice that has much more than 2 percent or 2mg/ml of nicotine, and most have far less. Despite this limitation, freebase nicotine is still found in cigarettes and until recently was the source of nicotine in all of the ejuices on the market. Compared to the naturally occurring nicotine salts, the lower vaporization point and ease at which freebase crosses the blood brain barrier outweighed the drawbacks.
Which is best for you?
While most of us enjoy a nice throat hit, it is not for everyone. Most smokers converting to vaping find it easier to do so with salt nic due to most of the devices emulating the feel of an actual cigarette but what about the vapers that started before salt nic was much more popular? When it comes to Nic Salt, it truly comes down to preference.