Nic Salts; What's the difference between Freebase and Salt Nicotine?
Nic Salts are the latest rage in vaping, so what’s the difference?
Firstly, let’s clear up a few things. Nic Salts aren’t actually salt and they aren’t crystalised nicotine, so there won't be any little rocks sitting in the bottle of your e-liquid bottle. Nic Salts are still a liquid, and have this name based on their chemical compound.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what has been used up till now to nic your favourite e-liquid. Freebase nicotine is the purest form of nicotine and is the industry standard. This nicotine solution is simply added to a mixture of vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG) which "carry" the nicotine with them when vaped. It's also what is used in nicotine replacement therapies—like gums, patches, sprays, and lozenges. Freebase has also been the norm in cigarettes for decades, thanks to Phillip Morris of Marlboro back in the 1960s. He found that "freebasing" nicotine-paired with ammonia delivered a significantly larger amount of nicotine (which did wonders for keeping customers hooked).
Nicotine salts are comprised of the same exact nicotine that's found in its natural state within the tobacco leaf. However in this form you’d need to vape it at an extremely high temperature for it to be effective and even then it still wouldn’t be absorbed like freebase nicotine. So the Nicotine Salts need some modification too, which comes in the form of benzoic acid.
Let’s do a quick chemistry lesson. It comes down to pH and alkalinity. Freebase nicotine has a higher pH, which leads to increased alkalinity. This dramatic increase in alkaline causes a harsher throat-hit, thus causing people to vape at smaller amounts than they may need. Benzoic acid has the opposite effect. It lowers the pH levels of nicotine, reducing alkalinity in the process. The end result is a much smoother vaping experience, and higher nic levels in your e-liquid.
As with all things there are pros and cons though, so what are the benefits and downfalls of nic salts?
Improved Satisfaction: Many vapers who try standard e-liquids for the first time often find that they don't get the same “hit” from their nicotine, and without that “hit” they’re not as satisfied.
Smoother nicotine hit: A huge turn-off for many new vapers is that conventional e-liquids are too harsh, and freebase nicotine is to blame. Cigarette companies cover this up by using anesthetics such menthol or eugenol. Vape juices don't, so the smoother feeling of nicotine salt liquids makes a huge difference.
Richer Flavour Experience: Those of us who prefer nicotine-free e-liquids may notice a marked difference in flavor, despite smoking the same product. This is because freebase nicotine affects the liquid's overall flavor. Salts have next-to-no effect in this area, leading to a richer, flavorful, and more enjoyable vaping experience.
Cheaper Mods: An efficient sub-ohm tank or box mod is significantly more expensive than a tiny little vape pen, as well as the many premium e-liquids that go into the vape pen. If all you need is an inexpensive and discreet vaping experience that helps you get just the right amount of nicotine, then salts might be the thing for you.
Too much for some: The ultimate sweet spot for sub-ohm devices is the 3-12mg nicotine range, which is great for light smokers. As a result, people can use smooth, high-VG e-liquids in their sub-ohm tank and be completely happy with the experience they get.
Fewer options: Nicotine salts are limiting because you'll generally have to stick to vape pens, or pod devices. The more traditional mods and sub-ohm tanks allow for nearly endless tank/mod combinations, with each pairing giving unique cloud production and flavor experiences.
Lower fun factor: Nicotine salts are the perfect choice if you need a strong dose of nicotine and prefer a more cigarette-like experience. A great way to describe freebase juices compared to nicotine salts is "fashion over function" (again, think Ferrari vs. smart car).
To find out if Nic Salts will work for you, ask yourself these questions.
- Am I a heavy smoker (one or more packs a day)?
- Do I want a more genuine smoking experience, or am I looking for something new?
- Will I want smooth vapor and high nicotine?
- Do I need a stronger or more subtle nicotine "hit" (buzz)?
- Is discretion important, or are massive clouds my thing?
- How much money do I initially want to spend?
These are just guidelines, and we do recommend calling into your local Hawke’s Bay Vapour to talk with our team of experts. If you’re just starting your journey, a small device with nicotine salts is a good approach, and you can always switch to high-VG/lower-nicotine sub-ohm setups as you wean yourself off and start to branch out. In fact – salt or no salt – it's better to grasp the basics with a simple vaporizer before navigating through the different types of coils, tanks, and settings.
The safest bet is to ask our knowledgeable team, they’ve all been where you are and remember what it’s like. If you’d like to try Nic Salts for yourself, call into the nearest store and head to our tasting station.