I am definitely not a chemist, but I’ve had the chance to try a few different nicotine salt e-liquids and was curious about the difference. Immediately after inhaling, I noticed the rapid effect of the nicotine (similar to the feeling of a traditional cigarette), yet without any added harshness. Based on my personal experience, I think that nicotine salt e-liquids are a great option for anyone who has already tried vaping and has not yet been successful at quitting smoking.
Up until now, the industry usually used what’s known as “freebase nicotine“. Essentially, nicotine itself as a base is not very strong; the protons of the molecule must be removed in order to prevent the nicotine from becoming ions. Ions don’t move through cell membranes very well, and therefore don’t really have an effect on the body. De-protonating the nicotine, or making it “freebase”, allows it to pass more freely through the body.
In order to create freebase nicotine, companies use a negatively charged ammonia, which strips away protons. After separating the nicotine from the salts it is able to be extracted with steam.
Nicotine salt is the natural state of nicotine in the tobacco leaf. It was discovered when experts explored the differences in the chemical compositions of tobacco and e-liquid; nicotine salts increased nicotine blood absorption, as compared to freebase nicotine. However, it was found that salt-style nicotine requires more heat in order to be inhaled and absorbed adequately.
Nicotine salt e-liquids are able to give a smoker satisfaction more similar to a cigarette. This is due, in part, to the nicotine itself being smoother; a user is able to inhale a significantly higher nicotine strength without feeling uncomfortable. Nicotine salts are typically used in high-resistance–low-wattage setups (most often closed or semi-closed system), in high PG e-liquid in order to achieve instant nicotine satisfaction.
E-liquids containing nicotine salt can range in concentration from 20mg to over 50mg of nicotine, which is comparable to 6mg to more than 18mg of regular freebase nicotine.
If you’re looking to try nicotine salt e-liquid for the first time, make sure you have a high-resistance–low-wattage device, and start off with a strength that’s lower than you think you’ll need, working your way up to a higher strength, if necessary (keep in mind that too much nicotine can make you feel dizzy and nauseous).
Overall, I think that nicotine salt e-liquid has been a fantastic addition to vaping, giving those who haven’t been able to quit smoking using freebase nicotine another chance with a most satisfying alternative.