When to Use Nic Salts Vs Freebase

When to Use Nic Salts Vs Freebase

The variety of offerings with vaping can be a bit overwhelming. While it’s great to have a smorgasbord of options for anyone looking to get into make the switch from smoking to vaping, it can also be intimidating at first. Being spoiled for choice brings about a steep learning curve that many find too much of a hassle to deal with.

One of the things that make it more confusing is the difference between freebase nicotine and nicotine salts. The distinction is an important one as it can affect how you vape and what you vape with.

What is Freebase Nicotine?

Freebase Nicotine is what has been used in most vaping products up until 2015 - when Juul introduced their pod mod featuring nicotine salts. 

Nicotine in tobacco leaves take the form of a salt in its natural state. Ammonia is used to remove protons from the nicotine salts to increase its pH level, thus making it more basic and putting it in a deprotonated or freebase state. It's then dissolved in a liquid base to create freebase nicotine as we know it.

Until recently, freebase nicotine had been the only available type of nicotine that could be added to eliquids. While most vapers enjoy freebase nicotine, it does have its drawbacks. For instance, nicotine levels can't be too high (6 MG for most using a Sub Ohm tank) otherwise causing a harsh and intense of a throat hit.

For many heavy smokers who turned to vaping to quit tobacco, this makes freebase nicotine not enough to satisfy their cravings.

The other major difference is that freebase nicotine takes longer to enter the blood stream than using Nicotine Salts. 

What are Nicotine Salts?

In the quest to better replicate the feel of smoking a cigarette, people found that their aim was simply to deliver more nicotine while still having a smooth throat hit. They soon came up with nicotine salts, which is closer to nicotine in its natural state.

Instead of bringing up its pH level to make it freebase, scientists went with the other way around. Dropping the nicotine's pH level, thus making acidic, produced the effect of making it less harsh. Once they're able to determine a way to make this form of nicotine safe to consume, it became the nicotine salts we know today.

The answer they were looking for was the addition of benzoic acid to make the nicotine smoother. The resulting nicotine salts deliver a satisfying throat hit along with potentially higher nicotine intake, which makes it perfect for former smokers looking to kick their cigarette habit.

Which is Best?

For the most part, there’s nothing wrong with vaping freebase nicotine eliquids as it can still deliver the desired nicotine.   But if you do need a lot of it, you’ll have to vape more in each sitting. Perhaps that’s your preferred method anyway as you can enjoy your choice of flavor while sitting back and puffing away.

The good thing with freebase nicotine is that you can get devices with higher power output, which can vaporize more eliquid with one hit, so you can still get that relatively satisfying amount of nicotine in a relatively short period of time. Of course, you can only go so high with wattage and temperature before you get diminishing returns.

It does mean each hit from freebase nicotine doesn’t deliver as much nicotine as one hit of nicotine salt can. For a lot of vapers, especially former heavy smokers, this is important as their bodies want to be able to get that satisfaction of smoking within a relatively short period of time, somewhat analogous to the smoking experience. 

Due to typically higher nicotine levels involved, nicotine salts are not usually meant for the powerful (subohm) devices used to vape eliquids with freebase nicotine.  For nic salts, smaller less powerful devices are used, which are also more discreet, more compact, and easier to use.  Click the following links to read our previous articles on MTL Pod Mods  as well as closed system pod devices 

There’s nothing keeping you from vaping both.  Many people use their more powerful sub ohm devices at home and have a "pod mod" for nicotine salts when they are out and about.     

kurt sonderegger
kurt sonderegger


Founder/CEO of Cafe Racer Craft E-Liquid

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