What are Nicotine Salts?

Nicotine salts are essentially e-liquids but with a more easily absorbed form of nicotine, when compared to the freebase nicotine in most e-juice. When nicotine is taken from the tobacco plant, it occurs naturally in salt form, but with freebase nicotine, it’s treated and ends up as a pure liquid, which then becomes an ingredient in standard e-liquids.[1]

What’s the Difference Between Nicotine Salts and E-juice?

The nicotine found in most e-juice is freebase nicotine, which is taken from the tobacco plant, chemically treated and then mixed with PG, VG, and flavourings. This is the sort of nicotine that’s also found in other alternatives to smoking like patches and gums. Freebasing nicotine converts it from a salt, as it occurs naturally, to its ‘pure’ form, which also increases the pH of the nicotine and makes it more alkaline. This is what can make vaping feel harsh.

In contrast, nicotine salts are essentially what you’ll get from the tobacco plant, not as refined as freebase nicotine. Hence, nicotine salts are more easily absorbed, less harsh, and smoother. Nic salts have a more neutral pH than freebase nicotine, and for some people who’ve switched from smoking, vaping nic salt e-juice can provide a nicotine delivery more similar to that you’d get from smoking a cigarette.[2]

Why Choose Nicotine Salts?

There are a number of different reasons why people might prefer nicotine salts to freebase nicotine, and we’ll go through them here.

Nicotine salts provide a larger hit of nicotine. This might mean that a bottle of nic salt e-liquid would last longer than an equivalent bottle of freebase nicotine e-liquid.

Freebase nicotine can evaporate easily, meaning that you might find a lot of the nicotine ends up in your mouth or throat – in comparison, with nic salts the nicotine is bound into a compound and travels to the lungs where it is absorbed more easily. As a result, the effect of the nicotine is felt faster.

As mentioned, nicotine salts can provide a smoother hit too, which some vapers will prefer. For those vapers who prefer MTL vaping, too, nic salts can be a good option. With MTL vaping, the vapour is briefly collected in the mouth before it’s inhaled into the lungs – as nic salts don’t produce large clouds of aerosol, they can be preferred by MTL vapers.

Of course, some vapers prefer the hit that’s delivered when using a standard e-liquid, or might simply just be satisfied with their current device and e-liquids, so it all comes down to personal preference. For vapers who are happy with their large, high-output device, for example, nic salts might not be the best choice.

How to Use Nicotine Salts

That’s what nicotine salts are, but what do we do with them? Here’s how to use nic salts.

Using nicotine salts isn’t too different to using standard e-liquids. You can use them with lots of different vaping equipment – which we’ll look at in closer detail below – but it might be best not to use them with a tank that’s designed for thicker e-juice, as a lot of nic salt e-juice can be more ‘thin’.

Getting started with nic salts isn’t too difficult. You’ll ideally have a device with a low wattage – pod systems work well – and all you need to do is introduce the nic salt e-liquid. Vaping may feel daunting, with the wide range of different systems and devices on offer, but as pod systems tend to be comparatively simple, using nic salts may be a less complicated option for some.

While there might not be as many nic salt e-liquids on the market as standard e-liquids with freebase nicotine, there’s still plenty of choice, with a variety of flavourings used in making them.

If you’re wondering whether you can use nic salts to make DIY e-liquid, it might be advisable to tread carefully, as it’s easy for things to go wrong.

What Devices Can You Use Nic Salts With?

With nic salts, you can get nicotine that’s more absorbable at lower temperatures, so you don’t need a sub-ohm coil. A low-output device will work well with nicotine salts, so if you want to try nic salts you may want to stay away from the larger, more powerful systems.

Often, the best devices for nicotine salts will be smaller devices designed for MTL vaping, as nic salt e-juice tends to come in higher strengths than standard e-juice. Whereas standard e-liquids with freebase nicotine often work well with larger devices for DTL vaping, nic salt e-juice isn’t ideal – you’ll likely end up absorbing more nicotine than you might want to.

For nic salt vaping, you might want to look for pod systems – many pre-filled pod systems in particular work well with nic salt e-liquids.

Another alternative to both standard e-liquids and nic salts is the use of heated tobacco devices like IQOS. Of course, the best thing to do is to stop altogether – alternatives to smoking like vaping and using heated tobacco aren’t risk-free – but IQOS provides another option for those who cannot or will not quit. IQOS emits 95% less harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes* and does not impact indoor air quality**, so there is less impact on you and those around you.

Hopefully, you should now have a better understanding of what nic salts are, and how they’re used. If you’re considering using nic salts or are otherwise looking at a range of different e-liquids, you can check out our guide here. Or why not take a look at the differences between IQOS and cigarettes?

*”95% less” represents the average reductions in levels of a range of harmful chemicals (excluding nicotine) compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette. See Important Information on IQOS.com

**Source: PMI study conducted under ISO standards simulating real-world scenarios and based on threshold limits established by existing air quality guidelines.

[1] https://www.stem.org.uk/resources/community/collection/500669/it-safe-use-nicotine-salts-any-vape#  

[2] https://www.stem.org.uk/resources/community/collection/500669/it-safe-use-nicotine-salts-any-vape# 

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