As vaping continues to grow in popularity, vapers are demanding more and more in terms of innovation - a wider choice of e liquid flavours, better quality vaping kits and new ways to include nicotine.
Nic salts have been around for a few years, the little brother to freebase nicotine, but their surge in popularity recently has brought them out of the shadows and firmly into the spotlight.
But before we delve into nicotine salts, we must first turn our attention to freebase nicotine and what it is.
What is freebase nicotine?
Any product since the 1960s that contains nicotine, such as cigarettes, nicotine patches or nicotine gum, for example, have all contained freebase nicotine. This is a form of nicotine that is created by converting the natural form of nicotine - the ‘salt’ state, into a much purer form of nicotine - the freebase nicotine.
Essentially, freebase nicotine is a way of increasing the intensity of nicotine, without increasing the dosage. Freebase nicotine is created by stripping the protons from nic salts with ammonia, thereby increasing the pH level of the nicotine and purifying it by turning it into a deprotonated state ie its freebase form.
Which leads us onto nic salts. Because if freebase nicotine is nicotine in its purest form, why would anyone want to consume any other kind of nicotine?
Well, to answer that question, we need to take a look at the downsides of freebase nicotine.
The downsides of vaping freebase nicotine
One of the brilliant things about vaping is that it provides a safer alternative to smoking, whilst giving the vaper a smoking-like experience - only without all the nasty chemicals. However, in order for vaping to truly replicate the smoking experience, the method through which nicotine is delivered has to be spot on - ie fast.
And up until recently, the only way to deliver that much sought after nic hit, was through the inclusion of freebase nicotine in e liquid. But freebase nicotine is incredibly alkaline, so high doses of it can result in a very harsh throat hit.
For vapers who relish a strong throat hit, freebase nicotine is the way forward, but for those who prefer their nicotine delivered in a much gentler way, freebase nicotine can be too much to handle. Meaning that in order to have a nicer vaping experience with nicotine, vapers have had to lower the nicotine levels in their e liquids.
And the consequences of lowering the nicotine levels for people who are used to higher nicotine levels? Well, for one it can encourage them to head back over to smoking as they aren’t getting the same nic hit as they would like. Two, it means they vape more frequently in order to keep their nicotine levels topped up, thereby burning through their e liquid supplies much faster and not benefiting from the cost savings of switching from cigarettes to e cigarettes.
Hence the need to look for an alternative to freebase nicotine - to find a happy medium between delivering a high nic hit alongside a smooth vaping experience, and nic salts was the answer the boffins came up with.
What are nic salts?
Nicotine salts (or nic salts for short) are basically the rawest form of nicotine, the form found in traditional tobacco leaves, before the nicotine is stripped back to become freebase nicotine.
Let’s just clarify now - nic salts AREN’T a combination of nicotine and table salt. That would just be grim, not to mention really bad for your health…
No, nic salts are called a salt because the nicotine that is found in tobacco leaves has the same chemical composition as a salt, ie it has a positive charge and a negative charge.
The reason that nic salts haven’t been included in cigarettes from the word go is because nic salts in their raw form don’t travel particularly well through our body to the nicotine receptors, due to their chemical makeup, ie the inclusion of the protons.
So in order to use nic salts in e liquids, they have had their pH level lowered, rather than raised, as happens to the freebase nicotine. By making nic salts more acidic allows them to deliver a higher, quicker dose of nicotine, as they are more compatible with human physiology, but without the harsh throat hit.
Other benefits of nic salts include:
- They’re much more easily absorbed in our bodies, thereby delivering a faster nic hit.
- Nic salts can be vaped at much lower temperatures, meaning you don’t need incredibly sophisticated equipment to enjoy them.
- The lower pH levels equates to a much more enjoyable throat hit.
To put it another way, vaping nic salts delivers a hit of nicotine that is comparable to the hit delivered by a regular cigarette, without detriment to one’s health.
So there you have it, what nic salts and freebase nicotine are, and how they are both manufactured. But which is better?
Nicotine salts vs freebase nicotine
Downsides of nicotine salts
- They don’t handle complex flavours particularly well
- They don’t produce huge vape clouds
- They’re perfect for vapers who require high nicotine levels
Upsides of nicotine salts
- Longer shelf life due to slower oxidation
- Suitable for almost all e cigarette devices
- Very smooth vape experience
- Nicotine is absorbed rapidly into the body
Downsides of freebase nicotine
- Slower absorption rate into the body
- Much harsher vaping experience at high doses
- Shorter shelf life due to faster oxidation
Upsides of freebase nicotine
- Absolutely no additives
- Great for adding nicotine to complex flavoured e liquids
- Produces large vape clouds
There really isn’t a clear winner - to caveat, neither is better for you or worse for you, as neither is safer or less safe than the other. Whichever one you opt for will be purely down to personal preference. And luckily for you, Vapemate stocks them both. From a wide range of delicious tasting eliquids by Vapemate or our wonderful Guest manufacturers to The Salt Works nic salts, there's something for everyone! You’re welcome.