What are Nic-Sats?
First thing that marketers will tell you about nicotine salt based e-liquid is that nicotine is naturally a salt when it’s still in the tobacco leaf. It’s the extraction process which uses ammonia as a solvent that changes the nicotine from a salt to a freebase.
Since nicotine salt gives the user something closer to whats in natural tobacco leaves, they say, it must be better than standard freebase e-liquid which sounds all fine and dandy but it’s actually just marketing rhetoric. Nicotine salt does not come from a more natural extraction process; it comes from triggering a chemical reaction in the nicotine after the extraction has already taken place. Nic-salt based e-liquids does have potential benefits but it being natural certainly is not one of them.
An Introduction to using Nicotine Salts
Nicotine Salts or Salt Nicotine; you’ve probably heard about these new products in recent months if you’ve been paying attention to the vape industries new development. Like many aspects of vaping, the name doesn’t always reveal too much about the substance itself, so here at Vap3 we would like to take some time to answer some of the most frequent questions regarding nicotine salts and whether they’re a good choice for you.
Nicotine salts are an alternative to the default nicotine solution added to e-liquids which are often referred to as “freebase”. Theres a rather complex science involved but we will do our best to keep things simple, Nic-Salt based e-liquid is like your regular e-liquid but with an additive acid – which is usually benzoic acid – that then changes the chemical structure of the nicotine within the vape e-liquid, before the addition of the acid, the nicotine then is a salt.
Ordinary freebase nicotine has a much higher pH level, which if you recall your science homework means it is very high in alkaline. High alkalinity e-liquid, when vaped, can be quite harsh on the throat as its generally what gives 50VG/50PG or high-PG e-liquids the characteristic throat and lung ‘hit’ upon each inhalation.
Is Nicotine-Salts more satisfying?
Marketing of the Juul e-cigarette was the source of this claim when the company debuted in 2015 with a patent showing that when volunteers used the Juuls nicotine salt e-liquid, their blood-nicotine concentrations were similar to that of smokers. People using standard e-liquids, on the other hand, didnt absorb anywhere near the nicotine that they would get from smoking cigarettes.
The implication, of course, is that Juul’s nicotine formulation is more satisfying than standard e-liquid. Marketers then took that idea and ran with it and as a result many other companies continue to make that claim about nicotine salts to this day. The fact though, is that the Juul is “more satisfying” is because it has a nicotine strength greater than 50mg which you wont find any freebase nicotine e-liquids that come close to that strength so you’re obviously going to absorb more nicotine if you’re a Juul user, there’s nothing about nicotine salt itself that makes it inherently more satisfying than an e-juice that is freebase nicotine.
Freebase nicotine is actually the more satisfying and readily absorbed type of nicotine which Philip Morris proved when they added ammonia to the Marlboro cigarette in the 1960’s.
So whats the conclusion? If freebase is actually is actually more satisfying, why aren’t people using freebase with a strength of 50mg rather than nicotine salt e-liquid?
A lower pH is the secret of Nicotine Salt E-liquids Success
As we mentioned before, ammonia is used as a solvent in the extraction of nicotine and when it’s added to the nicotine, you get free base nicotine. Heres the thing about ammonia, although it has a pH level of 11.6 that’s caustic. Direct contact with pure liquid ammonia will result in harsh burns to the skin, when nicotine is extracted with ammonia it obviously does not have a pH level that high, but it’s still more basic than nicotine in its natural state.
If you havent tried salt nicotine e-liquids yet, whats the highest strength that you’ve ever vaped – perhaps 14mg or even 18mg? With anything higher than that, the throat hit becomes unbearably irritating for most people. That irritation stems from the alkalinity of the nicotine, if you lower the pH level the irritation lessons.
Nicotine salt is what makes it possible to use an e-liquid with a nicotine strength of 50mg without experiencing an overwhelming harshness that ruins your experience. So, that’s the direct benefit of nicotine salt; it makes high-nicotine e-liquids easier to inhale.
What devices best suited for nicotine salt E-liquids?
Because of the high strength in most salt e-liquids its advised to use low powered devices that operate at low temperatures that don’t produce large amounts of vapor. If you use a high strength nicotine salt e-liquids with a device optimized for direct lung inhaling, you will absorb a lot more nicotine than you should.
Is Nicotine Salt more addictive?
The strengths are typically higher in nicotine salt, this is a legitimate question to ask. One of the reasons cigarette smoke is addictive is the speed at which it delivers nicotine to the brain. There are questions about whether nicotine salts deliver the drug more rapidly than freebase nicotine – but the issue has not yet been studied.
Nicotine expert Jaques LeHouezec, a neuroscientist, thinks the only difference between the freebase and nic-salts is that the vaper can consume more in each puff because of the reduced harshness, due to it being able to consume more nicotine will likely increase its potential for dependency, but its all due to the amount that is consumed.
Nicotine Salt Pros
-Less vapor means less e-liquid consumed
-Can be used at lower power levels
-Quicker nicotine hit
-Efficient e-liquid use
-Longer shelf life of e-liquid
-Smoother throat hit than the equivalent nicotine strength E-liquid
Nicotine Salt Cons
-More costly for non-refillable pods
-Cartridges/Pods arent universal
-Limited flavors on closed pod systems
-Not for cloud chasers
-Not intended for high wattage devices
-Flavors may not be as pronounced compared to higher wattage devices
-Throat hit could still be harsh at high nicotine strengths
-Battery life may not be as great as that of a high-powered device