Vaping has become such an exciting industry to become involved in. Not only are there endless lists of flavors and accessories, but vaping helps mask a lot of the negativity around smoking in public.
And whether you’re smoking socially on weekends or trying to reduce your nicotine habit, vape pens, and pods are an ideal way to try something new.
But one thing you need to get right for the best vaping experience possible is the type of e-liquid you use. There are two types, nicotine salts, and freebase nicotine, to pick from. Despite their similar names, there are many key differences you need to know between these e-liquids. And we’re here to help.
This article will explore everything you need about nicotine salt and freebase nicotine. We’ll compare both across key features, offering our best advice on which type will serve you best.
What is nicotine salt?
Often shortened to nic salts, nicotine salts are a relatively new phenomenon for vapers to consider.
Nic salts are tobacco in its natural form, blended with additives to make it easier to vape from. Despite common misconceptions, these products have no sodium chloride (table salt), nor will they taste salty. The term ‘salt’ is used because nicotine undergoes a similar chemical reaction in tobacco leaves.
Because nic salts have a weak base, they require additional chemicals so your body can absorb them. This is because, naturally, tobacco particles find it difficult to pass through cell membranes and reach nicotine receptors in our bodies.
Chemicals like citric acid are added to allow tobacco to be absorbed easily and quickly, providing a near-instant hit. For this reason, nic salts are an ideal substitute for people wanting to reduce or stop smoking.
What is freebase nicotine?
On the other hand, freebase nicotine is perhaps the most potent and purest variation of nicotine. It has also been around since the 1960s when Philip Morris (of Marlboro fame) developed a way to make nicotine stronger without increasing the dosage.
Because nicotine cannot travel well inside the body, the ‘freebase’ added here makes it much more effective in reaching cell receptors. This is usually the chemical ammonia, which raises the pH of the nicotine, allowing your body to absorb it better.
Additionally, the freebase helps dilute the nicotine, which otherwise would be too potent for the body to handle. Freebase nicotine can be found in virtually all tobacco-related products like gums, patches, cigarettes, and e-liquids.
Nicotine salt vs. freebase
While both nic salts and freebase nicotine have the same primary goal, they execute it very differently in our bodies. And despite nic salts being a relatively new vaping method, it’s proving incredibly popular for many consumers worldwide.
So what exactly are the differences? And how will they affect your vaping experience? Below, we will highlight some of the major differences between nic salts and freebase nicotine across several categories:
Ordinarily, when we smoke tobacco, it can take only 10 to 20 seconds for nicotine to reach and be absorbed by our lungs and enter our bloodstream. Both nic salts and freebase nicotine differ in how they are absorbed and how fast.
Because of their pure form, nic salts only take about 6 seconds to be absorbed into your bloodstream. If you’re feeling the urge to smoke or are among the many ex-smokers who’ve turned to vape, taking a drag from a nic salt device can instantly soothe you.
On the other hand, because of the added ammonia, freebase nicotine takes much longer to be absorbed into the body. These extra seconds make them ideal for casual smokers or those who frequently smoke throughout the day and enjoy gradual relief.
Ultimately, whichever you prefer will be down to your vaping habits. You should pick nic salts if you’re thinking of reducing or quitting smoking, as your body will absorb the nicotine quickly and quell any withdrawals.
2. Nicotine strengths
Nicotine strengths are commonly measured in MG/ML when in e-liquid form and ultimately will depend on your vaping habits, level of cravings, and experience.
Because nic salts are more straightforward to vape and absorb, they often can handle stronger nicotine levels and provide a more substantial, smoother throat hit per pull. You can often buy them as high a strength as 18 or 20mg.
This is why they’re incredibly effective at combating smoking addiction because no matter how many cigarettes you’re on, you can mimic this dosage with your vape pen.
In contrast, freebase vaping is ideal for low-nicotine needs and can range as low as 3mg to 6mg. They’re sold in medium to lower strengths because people use them more consistently throughout the day for a lower nicotine hit. While you might be able to buy higher doses, the alkalinity found in the juice will make them taste and feel incredibly harsh.
The flavor is an essential and often overlooked part of any vape product. Not only do you want a hit of nicotine, but the flavors included can help enrich your entire experience.
But to understand the different flavor potentials between these two types of e-liquid, you must first learn their basic chemistry. E-liquid contains two principal ingredients, PG (propylene glycol), which carries the flavor, and VG (vegetable glycerine), which controls cloud production.
While both often strive for a balance of 50:50, there are some slight differences in taste to consider. Nic salts, for example, contain naturally occurring benzoic acid and citric acid, allowing the nicotine to activate and optimizing their flavors considerably more. You’ll be able to taste flavors quickly, and your device will hold the original flavor for longer.
On the other hand, freebase nicotine already has a higher ph level. Although many brands can help mask this bitterness with flavorings, the vape juice will have a “peppery” taste to factor in.
Vaping is not just simply putting your pen to your mouth and taking a drag. You can adopt different techniques to suit your specific needs and skill level.
While this is down to personal preference, freebase nicotine allows for more options in pulling. There are two that you should be aware of:
- MTL: Nic salts suit mouth-to-lung vaping (MTL). This is when vapor is inhaled into the mouth and the lungs. It is similar to how people traditionally smoke cigarettes and is ideal for beginners and experts alike.
- DLT: Freebase nicotine can be used with MTL and another vaping technique, direct-to-lung vaping (DLT), also known as sub-ohm. This is when you inhale, like a normal breath, for a denser hit that creates more clouds. Experienced vapers prefer this method.
5. Cost and longevity
Especially if you’re considering vaping for the long term and investing in long-term equipment, the price of either nic salt or freebase nicotine is essential.
While many factors contribute to the price of a vaping pen, such as the disposable or non-disposable, size of the cartridge, and power, generally, it is seen that freebase nicotine is cheaper than nicotine salt.
Because of their quick activation and shorter effects, consumers may use more nic salts over a period than freebase users.
Because of their slower oxidation, nic salts promise the longest shelf life. Your cartridges will last considerably longer, even when unused. Sadly, freebase nicotine has a faster oxidation process and a much shorter shelf life. You may need to buy refills more frequently, even if you take less of the product.
Whether using a pen or a pod system, vaping has become one of the most diverse industries worldwide. There’s just so much choice regarding style and flavor.
But what ingredients you vape can be pretty challenging to decide on. As our article has shown, nicotine salts and freebase nicotines offer a different vaping experience.
Nic salts have stronger strengths and can be absorbed almost immediately because of their chemistry. Though they have a harsher throat hit, they’re excellent support for people who want to quit smoking.
Freebase nicotine is equally popular because of its slower absorption, lower throat hit, and because you can vape using various methods. They’re often much cheaper, providing a more cost-effective option if you’re a regular vaper.
Ultimately, your choice will depend on your current tobacco usage, vaping technique, and personal preference. Both e-liquids are capable of delivering an effective tobacco hit.
If you have questions about their differences or still wondering which one is the right choice, please comment below.
When in doubt, remember:
- Nic salts are a relatively new development of nicotine, which the body quickly absorbs, delivering a quick hit in seconds.
- Freebase is a potent form of nicotine often taken in lower dosages for a slower hit.
- While both e-liquids have various strengths, nic salts usually have a stronger nicotine level than freebase.