October 31, 2019 4 min read
Nicotine salts are the natural state of nicotine in the tobacco leaf. They are compounds consisting of free base nicotine bound to one or more organic constituents. Naturally, nicotine does not exist on its own in the tobacco leaf. Rather, it is linked by hydrogen bonding or other inter-molecular forces to organic molecules on the tobacco leaves. Combinations of different organic constituents can be selected to harness the differing properties of nicotine inhalation character, such as making nicotine either pack a punch, or reduce irritation and bite.
Standard free base nicotine is a single molecule, while nicotine salts are complexes. Nicotine salt is much more suitable to vaporization due to its preferential inhalation characteristics. Nicotine salts also offer a way of stabilizing the nicotine molecule. This extends the shelf life of nicotine, by means of making it is less prone to oxidation.
Nicotine salts possess a different pH than that of free base nicotine. Some nicotine salts may be closer to the biological pH of certain membrane locations in the esophagus and lungs. Therefore, nicotine salts exhibit differing inhalation and absorption properties. For instance, by delivering nicotine into the bloodstream both faster and more efficiently, the user will have an experience bearing more semblance to combustible cigarettes.
Nicotine salts are extracted from the tobacco leaves and then both fractionally distilled and chromatographed differently than standard nicotine. They are natural products isolated from tobacco leaves, or can be linked synthetically/chemically.A Quick Chemistry Lesson
We won't try to overwhelm you with too much jargon, so let's stick with the basics: 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.
Furthermore, this allows the mixture to be vaped at lower temperatures in cheap vape pens and cig-a-likes with higher concentrations of nicotine. For instance: vape juices mixed with nicotine salts – while less potent – can reach nicotine levels as high as 50mg. Try vaping something like that in your traditional sub-ohm tank/PG-mixture and let us know when your lungs stop burning.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Nicotine salts have pros and cons. However, what could be seen as a disadvantage to some will, in fact, be an advantage to others. Let's explain what we mean.
Satisfaction: Many vapers who try conventional liquids for the first time often find that they don't get the same satisfaction or "punch" from their nicotine. What's more, it may not be enough to satisfy their cravings.
Smoother nicotine hit: A huge turn-off for many "would-be" vapers is that conventional e-liquids are too harsh, and nicotine is to blame. Cigarette companies use anesthetics like menthol or eugenol to cover-up and mask the harshness. Vape juices don't, so the smoother feeling of nicotine salt liquids makes a huge difference.
Less flavor impact: Those of us who kicked the habit and 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. Nic salt juice has next-to-no effect in this area, leading to a richer, flavorful, and more enjoyable vaping experience.
Cheaper: Let's face it—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 are for you.
Too much for some: While heavy smokers need a heavy dose of nicotine, lighter smokers can make do in the 3-12mg nicotine range. This also happens to be the ultimate sweet spot for sub-ohm devices. As a result, people can use smooth, high-VG e-juices in their sub-ohm tank and feel completely content with the experience they get.
Fewer options: Nicotine salts are limiting because you'll generally have to stick to vape pens and pods The more traditional mods and sub-ohm tanks allow for nearly endless tank/mod combinations—each pair allowing for their own unique cloud production and flavor experiences. Not to mention the coil combinations and styles of the more advanced rebuildable atomizers – you get the idea.
Lower fun factor: A great way to describe freebase juices compared to nicotine salts is "fashion over function" (again, think Ferrari vs. smart car). Nicotine salts are the perfect choice if you need a strong dose of nicotine and prefer a more cigarette-like experience.
This is where things get tricky, and only you will know the answer. So when you're deciding what to do, ask yourself the following questions:
These are just guidelines. Starting off with a small device and using 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.
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