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If you're just entering the world of vaping you may have heard of these. They're all the rage at moment and with good reason. If you're not too bothered about all of the chemistry jargon, see the summary at the bottom of this paragraph (we don't want to bore you) to find out why they can be beneficial to both new and current vapers. Nicotine Salts are the naturally formed nicotine in the tobacco leaf. They are not a physical salt, they just have the chemical composition of one. This chemical composition consists of a weak base and negatively charged particles that seek to find protons to become stable (ionised). Ionised drugs have difficulty passing through cell membranes which means they are not bioavailable (easily absorbed into the body). Because of this, an acid (usually benzioc acid or citric acid) is added to the nic salt to reduce the pH level (nicotine salts are an alkaline to begin with) which means it can be vaporised efficiently at lower temperatures (even by basic starter e-cig kits). This is because acids become a ligand (bond) to our nicotine receptors which delivers the nicotine quicker. Don't worry, this doesn't mean you're vaping a burning acid; the end result is only just below natural water on the pH scale. In addition to this, higher pH levels (alkalines) give a stronger throat hit, so by adding the acid and reducing the alkalinity, the nic salts have an incredibly smooth throat hit so users can vape the higher nicotine strength they need to satisfy cravings without an excessive throat hit. This is why higher nicotine strengths in regular e-liquids have such a harsh throat hit, because the standard 'freebase' nicotine used in e-liquids is achieved in a way where the alkalinity remains very high. Because of the absence of a throat hit, the user can actually take a larger draw/vape without throat irritation, meaning more nicotine is delivered with every draw. After the acid is added, the now lower pH nic salt is diluted in your usual e-liquid ingredients, propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavourings to make it into a 'vapeable' nic salt e-liquid.
To summarise, the main benefits of nic salts are:
- Bonds to nicotine receptors immediately instead being slowly absorbed into the body (like normal freebase nicotine) which provides a quicker delivery of nicotine (or nicotine 'rush').
- It has a lower pH level than freebase so has a much smoother throat hit which means not only can you tolerate the stronger nicotine strengths, but you can take in more vapour with every draw which makes sure you get the nicotine hit you need.
Because of these two points, it's recommended that you don't use powerful sub ohm devices (realistically anything over 15W/20W) with nic salts because you might get too much nicotine in one go and become light headed.
Pod kits are great with nic salts because they are often low powered, small, compact and portable. This means you don't have to carry around a big device because you can stay topped up on nicotine throughout the day with quick nicotine delivery satisfying cravings more efficiently. This in turn leads to you not needing to use your device as much which means it does not matter that pod kits usually have smaller battery capacity.
Nic Salts are available in various flavours and are ideal for new starters or current vapers who crave more nicotine but usually wouldn't be able to handle the strong throat hit that comes with it. Obviously if you're a smoker wanting to switch to vaping but the throat hit is really important to you (as is the case for a lot of people), then nic salts probably aren't for you.
How does this compare to "standard" e-liquids containing freebase nicotine? Find out below:
Freebase nicotine is what's been used in e-liquids since the start of the e-cigarette industry. This takes the same naturally occurring nicotine salts from the tobacco leaf, however instead of adding an acid, ammonia is added. As mentioned at the top of this page, nicotine has the chemical composition of a salt which is ionised. The ammonia de-protonates the nicotine (removes its protons) which de-ionises it and 'frees' the base to allow it to pass through cell membranes. This means it becomes more bioavailable (absorbs into the body more efficiently) which offers a slower nicotine delivery but stays in the body for longer. The nicotine can then be diluted in the usual e-liquid ingredients listed above to become a bottle of freebase nicotine e-liquid.