Over the past few years, there is no question that nicotine salt e-liquid has been one of the hottest product categories in the vaping industry. When salt nic first hit the market, the only way to get it was by buying one of the few pre-filled pod-based e-cigarettes that used nicotine salt e-liquid.
It wasn’t long, though, before refillable pod systems hit the market – and that’s when the floodgates began to open for bottled nicotine salt vape juice. At first, it was just a few brands testing the waters. Within a few months, though, many of the world’s biggest e-liquid brands were selling their most popular flavors in salt nic form.
Today, all major vape shops like Vapekit have devoted prominent sections of their websites to nicotine salt e-liquid, which might lead you to wonder if you’re missing something by not switching over to salt nic yourself.
So, what is salt nic e-liquid, and should you be using it? In this guide, you’ll find the answers.
What Is Salt Nic E-Liquid?
We’ll begin with a basic explanation of what nicotine salt e-liquid is. Nicotine, in its original form within the tobacco leaf, is a salt. However, the nicotine extraction process – which uses ammonia as a solvent to increase yields – changes the molecular composition of nicotine and makes it a free base. Since almost all nicotine is extracted with ammonia, the vast majority of nicotine products – including most e-liquids and nicotine replacement products – use freebase nicotine.
Ordinarily, that would be a good thing. Freebase nicotine is more volatile than nicotine salt and is therefore easier for the body to uptake. Tobacco companies made that discovery decades ago when they began processing their tobacco with ammonia. Lower-nicotine cigarettes became as satisfying as higher-nicotine cigarettes because more of the nicotine was absorbed.
With e-liquid, though, freebase nicotine has a problem: Inhaling the vapor of a high-nicotine e-liquid can cause throat irritation. The alkalinity makes the vapor too harsh. So, if you’re using freebase nicotine e-liquid, you have two options.
- You can use a vaping device designed for mouth-to-lung inhaling and put up with the fact that your vaping setup doesn’t deliver nicotine as efficiently as a tobacco cigarette. This means you’ll have to adjust to a reduced nicotine intake to switch successfully to vaping.
- You can use a vaping device designed for direct-to-lung inhaling. A DTL vaping device produces such large vapor clouds that you don’t have to worry about adjusting to a reduction in nicotine intake. Since DTL inhaling requires a low-nicotine e-liquid, though, you won’t feel throat hit when vaping. Most new vapers really want to feel throat hit, however, so that’s a non-starter for them.
Nicotine salt e-liquid contains a mild acid that acts as a catalyst to change the nicotine from a free base back to a salt. With salt nic, you lose the higher bioavailability of freebase nicotine – but you gain something that can be far more important.
What Is the Benefit of Nicotine Salt E-Liquid?
The benefit of nicotine salt is that the addition of acid to the e-liquid makes the nicotine less alkaline. The fact that you feel harshness in your throat when using a high-strength freebase nicotine e-liquid comes from the fact that the nicotine has a high pH. Nicotine salt doesn’t cause the same unpleasant harshness, and that makes it possible to create salt nic e-liquids with much higher strengths than would be possible with freebase nicotine.
Before nicotine salt e-liquid appeared on the market, the highest nicotine strength that most people could stand was about 18 mg/ml. With nicotine salt e-liquid, it’s not uncommon to find nicotine strengths up to 50 mg/ml and occasionally even higher. It doesn’t matter that nicotine salt is less bioavailable than freebase nicotine if you’re inhaling more than twice as much of it with each puff; you’ll definitely absorb more nicotine if you switch from an 18 mg/ml freebase e-liquid to a 50 mg/ml nicotine salt juice.
In short, the benefit of nicotine salt e-liquid is that it enables a small vaping device to deliver nicotine about as efficiently as a tobacco cigarette. With nicotine salt e-liquid, users of small e-cigarettes may find it easier to stop smoking and switch fully to vaping.
What Type of Vaping Hardware Works Best With Nicotine Salt E-Liquid?
Nicotine salt e-liquid is generally available only in higher nicotine strengths. In regions that don’t have legal restrictions on nicotine strengths, salt nic e-liquids usually start at strengths of about 20 mg/ml and go up from there. For that reason, you should generally only use nicotine salt e-liquid in a small vaping device designed for mouth-to-lung inhaling. Nicotine salt e-liquids do exist at the popular sub-ohm nicotine strengths of 3 mg/ml and 6 mg/ml, but there is no compelling reason to buy those e-liquids. At those lower strengths, you don’t need the added smoothness because low-strength freebase nicotine e-liquid is already very smooth – and remember, freebase nicotine is more bioavailable.
Since most nicotine salt e-liquid is very high in nicotine and will only give you a good experience with a mouth-to-lung vaping device, it’s not going to appeal to all vapers. If you’re currently using a sub-ohm vaping device and are happy with the big clouds and bold flavors, there’s no reason for you to buy an entirely new vaping device and change your inhaling style just so you can try nicotine salt e-liquid. You’ll probably find the experience disappointing and will almost immediately switch back to your sub-ohm vaping setup.
For new vapers, though, it makes complete sense to use nicotine salt rather than freebase nicotine e-liquid. As a new vaper, you’re going to want to use a small mouth-to-lung vaping device because that’s how you get throat hit. Throat hit is what makes vaping feel like smoking, and the fact that nicotine salt e-liquid can make a small vaping device deliver nicotine more efficiently is almost certain to make the switch from smoking to vaping easier for you.