There was once a time when cigarette companies and cigarette smokers looked at vaping as just a new passing fad. Yet, it has taken off and, for many, it is seen as not only a fun hobby, but also a way to quit smoking. After all, what is not to like about being able to get that same heady feeling of nicotine without all the horrible other chemicals that come with a cigarette? As vaping has become so popular, it is only natural that it has its making innovations over time. New products pop up all the time, including E-liquid recipes and flavors, new mod kits, better tanks, safer batteries. There is always something new to explore in the vape world. Most recently, the next big thing in vaping has become the use of nicotine salts in e-liquid. These nicotine salts allow vapers to get higher nicotine levels in their e-liquids without the harsh throat hit that typically comes using other nicotine inclusion methods.
The funny thing about this new innovation is that it actually rolls back a very important innovation from the cigarette market that helped make cigarettes so addictive. Yet, it could be the key to helping smokers who want to quit or transition to vaping fully kick their smoking habit.
Freebase Nicotine Versus Nicotine Salt
Currently, the standard nicotine form in both cigarettes and the majority of e-liquids is freebase nicotine. In order to fully understand nicotine salts and what makes them so special, one must first understand what freebase nicotine is. We are about to give you a history and chemistry lesson rolled into one, but it definitely won't put you to sleep.
The term "freebase" is seen as somewhat of a dirty word due to its use in talking about certain harder drugs. However, freebase nicotine is actually just talking about nicotine being in its purest form. Nicotine when it is in tobacco leaves actually has the same chemical composition of a salt, which is made from a chemical reaction between a negatively charged base when it meets a positively charge acid. In nicotine's chemical nature, the weak base looks for positively charged particles, protons, to become ionized.
This used to be what happened when you smoked cigarettes made before the 1960's when the Phillip Morris Company made a discovery that made them dominate their competition. They found that by raising the pH via ammonia, they could release the nicotine into its "freebase" form. It was discovered that freebase nicotine was much easier to absorb into your body than unaltered nicotine. The discovery meant the Marlboro cigarettes made by Phillip Morris gave people more nicotine in the same tidy smoke as their competitors. This was crucial at the time since the innovation came after the public desire for a lower tar cigarette. Cigarette producers created the now standard filtered cigarettes to reduce tar, but it reduced the amount of nicotine you got as well. As you'd expect, the higher nicotine content of Marlboro cigarettes made Phillip Morris millions.
Today, e-liquid creators still use freebase nicotine because it remains the most effective way to get nicotine into your body. The real issue arises from nicotine at higher levels in e-liquids because the higher acidity gives you that distinct harsh vape. This can discourage smokers trying to quit because they often vape less because of that harshness and end up running back to smoother cigarettes when they cannot satisfy a craving. It seemed you had to stick with it until your body adjusted to lower nicotine levels, vape more and deal with that harsh throat hit, or just go back to smoking. At least, those were the options until recently.
This is where nicotine salts come in. The creators of nicotine salt found a way to make higher nicotine levels much smoother as a great alternative to smokers-gone-vapers or people who just want more nicotine so they can vape less. They wanted to closely mimic the effect of a cigarette but couldn't achieve that with freebase nicotine. Instead, they took a step backward and investigated nicotine in its natural salt state. Since freebase was discovered in the 1960's, it is only natural to think you could achieve an effect similar to freebase using some other compound at this point. Science has come a long way, after all. Well, they made a breakthrough, and nicotine salt was the result. Now nicotine salt might just be the new replacement for freebase nicotine in e-liquids. But, the question remains: how is it made?
The magic of nicotine salt lies all in the use of benzoic acid. By using benzoic acid, a non-toxic, plant-based chemical, it allows nicotine salts to be absorbed into the body like freebase nicotine. However, it vaporizes at lower temperatures and results in a lower pH level. Due to this lower pH level, it also gives you a much smoother hit even at higher nicotine levels.
Freebase or Nicotine Salt - Which is Safer?
There has always been a debate about the safety of vaporizers compared to traditional cigarettes, and while vaporizers have always won out, some may still want the safest e-liquid available. So is it the ones that use freebase nicotine or the ones that use nicotine salt?
Unfortunately, the answer remains unclear, but as of right now freebase seems to be the safest option. Of course, this is likely because we know much more about it.
Unlike traditional cigarettes that use ammonia to alter nicotine so it is better absorbed into the body, e-liquid has the benefit of being able to naturally extract nicotine from tobacco in a lab. After all, e-liquid just needs the nicotine, not the leaves that make up a cigarette. Some companies may even use synthesized freebase nicotine, but that is still fairly rare because of its price tag. This means the freebase nicotine in e-liquids doesn't use the same ammonia or other additives in cigarettes. Right now, there are no studies linking this pure form of nicotine to cancer caused by cigarette smoke, and thus it is considered safe to inhale.
Alternatively, the benzoic acid used during creation presents the major concern of nicotine salt. Although an organic compound extracted from plants, benzoic acid is primarily used as a preservative in food and in cosmetics. Some might be more familiar with its use in acne medications as well. In acne creams, there is a concern that benzoic acid causes skin irritation. However, that is typically only an issue because it is used in higher amounts. In nicotine salts, the amount of benzoic acid is very small compared to its levels as a food preservative or a face cream.
As nicotine salts are still so new to the industry, there haven't really been many studies on it and its potential affect. In fact, the main worry is not any side effects from the benzoic acid, but rather the increased likelihood of a nicotine overdose occurring since the nicotine in e-liquids that use nicotine salts is often much higher. Nicotine overdose is a worry for freebase e-liquids as well, since nicotine can be absorbed through the skin as well. What a higher nicotine value means is that it takes less absorbed through the skin or ingested to cause an overdose. For those with kids, that can be a huge worry if they find your vape liquid storage.
What Devices to Use With Nicotine Salts
The truly important thing to consider with nicotine salt is that they allow e-liquid products to put in almost three times the amount of nicotine you get from a single cigarette. Furthermore, the higher the temperature the nicotine salt e-liquid burns, the more nicotine you will get in each puff. So, carefully consider the device you are using.
Currently, it is highly recommended that you use lower wattage devices like pen, pod, or general single-battery vaporizers. Box style vaporizers or those that use multiple batteries for higher temperatures can make using nicotine salt e-liquid dangerous. As the higher temperature will release more nicotine and allow it to be more likely to absorb in the body, there is a chance that you get that unpleasant feeling of too much nicotine from just one hit.
Of course, not all nicotine salt e-liquids need to go for the max nicotine value. If you use a much lower nicotine level with a nicotine salt e-liquid, then using your sub-ohm set up will still be fine. Yet, there isn't much of a point in using lower nicotine salt e-liquids right now since the whole benefit is that you can get a higher nicotine content.
Pros of Nicotine Salt
There are quite a few benefits to using e-liquid made with nicotine salt, so much so that it can seem too good to be true. Yet, if you want to reap all or some of these benefits, nicotine salt could be something to look into.
- Higher Nicotine Content - For many, the big selling point of e-liquid made with nicotine salt is that they come in higher nicotine levels than your standard freebase nicotine e-liquid. Does the standard maximum 36mg not seem like enough? E-liquids using nicotine salt can go up to 50mg. If you are chasing that heady feeling brought on by nicotine, this can be a very tempting offer.
- Smoother Throat Hit - Typically higher nicotine content e-liquids that use freebase nicotine top out at 36mg of nicotine because any more would be incredibly harsh on the throat and make the flavor of the liquid taste off. Often heavy smokers trying to use vaping to cut their smoking habit find themselves in a difficult spot. They have a big craving, but vaping these harsh freebase liquids is not satisfying because the harshness becomes too much to keep vaping. In the end, they might go back to just smoking. Yet, nicotine salt and its smoother throat hit can help prevent that.
- Less E-Liquid Use - As nicotine salt has more nicotine and it allows for the same absorption rate as freebase nicotine, this means you don't need to use as much e-liquid. If you vape to solve a nicotine craving and not for the pure pleasure of blowing clouds, this can help you spend less on e-liquid because you use less.
- Longer Lasting E-Liquid Products - This is a benefit many don't actually know about. However, because nicotine salt is in its natural state, it oxidizes slower. This makes e-liquid that uses nicotine salt have a longer shelf life. Furthermore, while not yet solidly linked, benzoic acid's role as a preservative in food and cosmetics may play a role in its better shelf life as well. Although, nicotine salt e-liquid needs that longer shelf life. Considering you'll probably use less e-liquid if it has a higher nicotine value, you obviously don't want that e-liquid to go bad as fast either.
- Better Vaping Satisfaction - This ties into using less e-liquid. Not every vaper vapes because for the pleasure of huge billowing puffs. Some people use it to just to satisfy a nicotine craving. As nicotine salt e-liquid comes with higher nicotine values, that satisfaction can happen faster, meaning they spend less time vaping to get the same feeling they were chasing.
Cons of Nicotine Salt
There aren't a lot of known cons for nicotine salts right now. Yet, there are still some pretty glaring ones that can help you decide if this is something you might want to try.
- Too Much Nicotine - Higher nicotine levels, especially burned on higher temperature kits can produce results you definitely don't want to experience. Too much nicotine in your system is like drinking way too much coffee and then some. Headaches, rapid breathing and heart rate, convulsions, cramps, excitement, agitation, and fainting can all be symptoms of nicotine overdose. While you don't need to get the highest value of nicotine salts there is, most people want to try nicotine salts because they give that higher amount of nicotine. If you were a light smoker or are a frequent vaper, you want to be careful because it's easy to overindulge without the deterrence that the harsh throat hit that comes from freebase nicotine provides.
- Fewer E-Liquid Options - Nicotine salts are still new and not a lot of e-liquid creators are using them just yet. This means that you are limited to using the select few that do use nicotine salts or having the unknown (and occasionally catastrophic) adventure of making your own liquid. It is also worth noting that you will have less base options in e-liquids as well. Most e-liquids that use nicotine salts also use a PG base, which some vapers can be allergic to. If you want a VG-heavy or VG-pure base e-liquid for allergy reasons or because it produces denser clouds, your options will be even more limited. If you love your variety or a specific e-liquid brand, it is best to just wait it out and see what becomes of nicotine salt in the industry.
- Less Vaping - Do you love vaping just for the experience? Do you love those huge, thick clouds that just obscure a whole room? Nicotine salts might not be for you. They don't make much of a difference in the quality or quantity of the vapor, they simply allow for more nicotine with a smoother delivery. However, if you love to vape, a higher nicotine value means you might experience the nauseous, headachey feeling of too much nicotine too often. It's better to just go with a high VG liquid and a lower nicotine value. More vaping. Better clouds. No nicotine wooziness.
Are Nicotine Salts A Good Option For You?
If you are curious about nicotine salts for whatever reason, then you are probably going to try them at some point. However, it is definitely clear that they are not the right choice for everyone. The nicotine level can be too much for some frequent vapers, and nicotine salt really doesn't affect anything other than the level of nicotine you can get in each puff. However, when deciding if it is something you want to try, it might be beneficial to see how you answer the following questions. If one or more is a pretty solid yes, then nicotine salt e-liquid might be an option to try in the future.
- Do you smoke heavily, as in, more than one pack of cigarettes per day?
- Do you earnestly want to kick the smoking habit, but e-liquids have failed in the past?
- Do you want a stronger nicotine buzz, but can live with vaping less often?
- Do you want a smoother, higher nicotine vape experience more akin to a cigarette?
- Can you restrain yourself from overindulging in higher nicotine e-liquids?
In its current use, nicotine salts are the better option for those that genuinely want to quit smoking cigarettes forever because it gives an experience more akin to smoking. With a pen-style device that feels like a cigarette in the hand and a high nicotine liquid that gives a satisfying, but smooth hit, nicotine salt e-liquid best mimics the experience of smoking a cigarette. Although, the flavor of your favorite cigarette brand will still be missing. But, that's because you probably aren't tasting all the chemicals and carcinogens that go into them.
How Nicotine Salt Can Affect The Future of E-Liquids
Currently, most e-liquid providers only offer up "extra strong" nicotine liquids that clock in at 36mg of nicotine. However, by using nicotine salt in production, they could easily raise this to 50mg, which is quite a dose. Yet, is it really necessary?
The typical cigarette contains about 8 to 20mg of nicotine, and not all of that is absorbed into your body. Every system is different and the rate of absorption differs on a person-to-person basis. It is much the same for vapers and nicotine as well. The rate of absorption of nicotine in e-liquid can also vary depending on what device you use. The devices that run at a higher temperature often allow the freebase to be absorbed more easily, while lower wattage devices such as pen or pod typically deliver less nicotine with a lower temperature.
As nicotine salt is actually recommended to be used at lower temperatures, since using a higher temperature device would deliver a pretty big hit, it makes it an interesting development for ex-smokers.
Say you want to use a pen-style device because it feels much like holding a cigarette. However, you keep having to hit it to solve your cravings, and it likely won't completely work because the lower wattage isn't giving you the same amount of nicotine as your body wants. With nicotine salts, it could make using these lower wattage devices for smoking cessation even more viable.
So why isn't every e-liquid developer on the bandwagon? Well, the issue is that nicotine salt is rather new. They haven't been fully investigated and many e-liquid producers are understandably wary because they don't want to endanger their customers. No one wants to put a product on their shelf only to discover later that it wasn't very good for their customers. That's where e-liquid makers differ from soulless cigarette companies. Furthermore, offering higher nicotine levels can be dangerous for those who vape very frequently. Nicotine salt is currently a good choice only for those that want to vape less, but to get the same effect.
Nicotine salt may very well be the future of the e-liquid industry for a smoother and more fulfilling vape, but for now the freebase form is the better way of controlling how much nicotine people are ingesting without the large prospect of an accidental nicotine overdose.
Check out Velvet Cloud High VG E-Liquids today and learn more about product and flavor options.