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Nicotine Salts vs. Freebase Nicotine: Understanding the Differences

Table of Contents

Freebase nicotine has been around since the advent of e-cigarettes in 2003, but salt nics only became available in 2016. The difference between salt nic and regular nic has been confusing new (and even experienced) vapers since they first hit the market. Both types of nicotine come from the same source but offer vastly different vape experiences. 

To find the best type of nicotine for your tastebuds, you need to think about absorption rates, vaping styles, and smoothness, among other things. We have created this guide for transitioning vapers who want to learn everything they need to know about salt nicotine vs nicotine.

Salt Nicotine vs. Nicotine: Chemical Composition & Absorption

Nicotine Salt vs Freebase Nicotine

You need to learn about the chemical composition of salt nic vs regular nic to understand why they are so different. 

What is Freebase Nicotine?

Freebase nicotine is the most popular form of nicotine. Before salt nics came along in 2016, freebase nicotine was the only option available to vapers. 

“Freebasing nicotine” is the act of converting the base form to the freebase form. To create the freebase liquid that everyone knows and loves, vape brands add ammonia. Ammonia removes the protons, which converts it to its freebase form. It also makes the nicotine more bioavailable, meaning the human body can absorb it more easily. This process increases the potency of the nicotine without increasing the dose. 

This type of nicotine sits at around 8 on the pH scale. It is more alkaline than the alternative, which is why it produces intense hits. 

We recommend freebase liquid for vapers who want to vape little and often. Regular vapers might find the throat hit a bit too harsh, especially when they use e-liquids with more than 12mg of nicotine. 

Pros

  • Intense throat hit 
  • Compatible with MTL and DTL vaping 
  • Creates dense clouds in high VG e-liquids

Cons

  • Lower absorption rate than salt nics
  • Lower nicotine strengths might not satisfy cravings, especially for transitioning vapers

What Are Nicotine Salts?

In 2016, JUUL changed the vape industry forever by introducing nicotine salts to the market. The team at JUUL wanted to make higher concentrations of nicotine more palatable, and it is safe to say that they succeeded. 

Even though the freebase version came first, nicotine salts are the base form of nicotine. Nicotine salts occur naturally in tobacco leaves and are extracted as is to preserve the innate smoothness. Then, manufacturers recharge the nicotine particles with benzoic acid. This lowers the pH, forcing the nicotine to enter its protonated (rather than freebase) form. 

Salts sit at around 5 on the pH scale, meaning they are more acidic and less alkaline. As a result, salts guarantee a far smoother, less harsh throat hit than the freebase alternative. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about nic salts is that they contain salt. Don’t worry, this form of nicotine will not increase your sodium intake. 

Pros 

  • Contains high amounts of nicotine
  • Smooth, mellow throat hit
  • Absorbed into the body 30-40% faster than freebase nicotine 

Cons 

  • Unpleasant side effects happen faster
  • Not compatible with DTL vaping

There are lots of differences between salt nic and regular nic, including the vaping style.

Learn More About Salt Nicotines from Our Ultimate Guide to Salt Nicotine

Salt Nic vs. Regular Nic: Vaping Style

The battle of salt nicotine vs. nicotine becomes much easier to referee when you know your vaping style.  

Mouth-to-Lung Vaping

If you are transitioning from smoking to vaping, the chances are you will be a Mouth-to-Lung (MTL) vaper, at least for the first few months. 

Mouth-to-Lung vaping is similar to the feeling of smoking a traditional cigarette, meaning it has an incredibly low learning curve. Beginner vapers can smoothly transition from cigarettes to e-cigarettes with very few (if any) bumps in the road. 

If you are struggling to get the hang of MTL vaping, just follow these steps. 

  • Inhale for a few seconds
  • Hold the vapor in your mouth for a few seconds
  • Inhale the vapor into your lungs 

Freebase nicotine is compatible with MTL and DTL vaping. Freebase nicotine is compatible with both MTL and DTL vaping, but if you want to try the latter you have to choose an e-liquid with a high amount of VG. For DTL vaping, we recommend 70VG+. 

Nicotine Salt vs Freebase Nicotine

Direct-to-Lung Vaping

Direct-to-Lung (DTL) vaping is not comparable to smoking a conventional cigarette. This vaping style is unique, and it is usually reserved for sub-ohm vapers. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on DTL vaping: 

  • Inhale for around eight seconds
  • Draw the vapor straight into your lungs

If you want to master this vaping style, you need to bypass your mouth completely. The vapor goes straight from the e-cigarette into your lungs, so you need to avoid harsh throat hits. 

Salt nics are compatible with MTL vaping. We warn new vapers away from DTL vaping and nicotine salts. Salts are not compatible with DTL vaping because the vape hit would be far too intense, even with the lowest amount of nicotine.

Salt Nic vs. Regular Nic: Vaping Experience

Nicotine Salt vs Freebase Nicotine

Now we’re getting into the real differences between salt nic and regular nic. You should never choose one or the other just based on your preferred vaping style. Throat hit, smoothness, and flavor intensity should factor into your decision.  

Throat Hit & Smoothness

Freebase nicotine delivers a much harsher throat hit than salt nics. Freebase has a pH of around 9, whereas salts have a pH of around 5. Freebase is more alkaline and salts are more acidic. 

It is not uncommon for new vapers to ignore the warnings about freebase liquid. The truth is that you need to be careful when you choose a freebase liquid, especially if you are just transitioning from smoking to vaping. 

Let’s compare our freebase 50VG/50PG Virginia Tobacco e-liquid to our 50VG/50PG Virginia Tobacco nicotine salt.

  • If you smoke Ultra Light (Silver label) cigarettes, you should choose 3mg or 6mg freebase nicotine and 20mg nic salts
  • If you smoke Light (Gold/White label) cigarettes, you should choose 12mg freebase nicotine or 30mg nic salts 
  • If you smoke Full Flavors (Red/Black label) cigarettes, you should choose 18mg freebase nicotine or 50mg nic salts

This comparison illustrates just how intense freebase nicotine can be, so new vapers should always approach it with caution.  If you want to avoid harsh hits and instead opt for smooth inhales, you should try nic salts. 

Read our Nicotine Strength Guide to discover more comparisons.  

Flavor Intensity and Satisfaction

Salt nicotine vs. nicotine, which is more flavorful? 

Nicotine salts contain more benzoic acid and citric acid, two components that greatly increase the intensity of the flavor profile. Salts are the protonated form of nicotine, so smoothness is guaranteed. On top of that, salts are absorbed into the body far faster than freebase nicotine, leaving vapers with an instantly gratifying nicotine hit. 

According to one study, nicotine salts are absorbed into the body approximately 30-40% faster than freebase nicotine. In the first five minutes of the study, participants had a 20% higher nicotine concentration when using nic salts. On top of that, those who consumed nic salts experienced a nicotine spike within 10 minutes, leading to an overall more satisfying experience. 

That doesn’t mean that freebase nicotine isn’t flavorful. However, the harshness of the throat hit is the most noticeable element, which can overwhelm the flavor profile. If you want to increase the flavor in your freebase nicotine e-liquid, choose one that has a higher PG ratio. 

Propylene Glycol is one of the two base ingredients in e-liquid, with the other being Vegetable Glycerin (VG). Whereas VG encourages the production of vapor, PG expresses flavor profiles. 

In terms of satisfaction, there is no final answer. It all depends on your personal preferences. If you want a noticeable throat hit with a decent amount of flavor, go for freebase nicotine. On the other hand, if you prefer intense flavor profiles and smooth hits, choose nic salts. 

Difference Between Salt Nic and Regular Nic

Nicotine Salt vs Freebase Nicotine

Our Thoughts

Salt nic vs. regular nic, which will you choose? 

Don’t let salt nics, freebase nicotine, VG/PG ratios, and all the other essential vape information discourage you. Your ideal e-cigarette is out there, and it is guaranteed to be a healthier alternative to cigarettes

To make the transition easier, you should invest in tobacco-flavored e-liquids. They replicate the feeling of smoking a traditional cigarette, bridging the gap between cigarettes and vapes. 

Our 50VG/50PG and 70VG/30PG freebase nicotine e-liquid and 50VG/50PG salt nics are full of natural tobacco flavorings. The great taste of tobacco will support your seamless transition to vaping. Even better, these naturally extracted tobacco (N.E.T.) e-liquids are free from artificial flavors and sweeteners, making them the healthiest option for new vapers. 

FAQ’s

Can You Use Salt Nic Juice in a Regular Vape?

The term ‘regular vape’ covers lots of different kits.

Nic salts are compatible with any low-powered starter kits. Pod kits and vape pens can be considered starter kits, depending on the simplicity of the device. Once that is ticked off the list, you need to make sure your coil is at least 1.0Ω in resistance. 

As long as your device meets all these requirements, you can fill your tank with nic salts and start vaping.

Is Freebase Nicotine Better Than Salt Nic?

Salt nicotine vs. nicotine is a contentious subject, especially for new vapers. 

At the end of the day, it all depends on your preferences. We recommend salt nics for people who want smooth throat hits and almost instant absorption of large amounts of nicotine. But, if you prefer more intense throat hits and less nicotine, we encourage you to try freebase nicotine.

Do Nic Salts Last Longer than Freebase Nicotine?

Unlike freebase nicotine, nic salts are not chemically altered. Salts are more chemically stable, are absorbed into the bloodstream faster, and contain higher concentrations of nicotine. They act as an effective delivery system that leaves vapers feeling satisfied. 

However, nic salts do not last longer in the bloodstream. Salts act fast, and they also leave the bloodstream fast. In contrast, the freebase alternative is absorbed slowly and leaves slowly.

Do Nic Salts Burn Coils Faster?

It all depends on your nic salt, device, and coil. 
Both freebase nicotine and salt nics can burn your coil. This usually happens when users are unaware of vaping styles, types of devices, and resistance levels. For example, if you take a long DTL drag on a nicotine salt in a low-powered, high-resistance device, the likelihood is that you will burn your coils.

Can I Mix Salt Nic With Freebase?

We don’t recommend mixing salt nics with freebase nicotine. The differences between salt nic and regular nicotine make them uniquely able to handle different coils, tanks, and devices. For example, most freebase liquid is compatible with low-resistance coils, whereas salt nics need high-resistance coils. If you mix them, how will you find a compatible coil? 

This is just one of the problems you will come up against. You could also create an e-liquid that is incompatible with your favorite vape device or completely change the VG/PG ratio in the mixture.  

Conclusion

Now that you’ve perused our guide to choosing the best menthol e liquid, you have a solid foundation for moving forward. You have an understanding of menthol e-liquid basics, along with knowledge of menthol’s unique appeal and health considerations.

You’ve gotten a rundown on the different nicotine and menthol strengths available in menthol vape juices, along with a crash course on different formulations. You’ve also learned that mint flavour e liquid and tobacco menthol vape juice are distinctly different things. 

You now know tobacco menthol vape juice is the best vape for menthol smokers who want to retain the sensory experience that comes with the menthol territory. That sensory experience is retained, even when nicotine strength is reduced, potentially making it easier to gradually decrease the brain’s dependence on nicotine.

The bottom line is you’ve learned a lot about choosing the best menthol vaping liquid for your specific tastes and preferences – and the variety of options available right here at Black Note. Ranking as the Best Menthol E-Liquid by Vaping 360, our tobacco menthol vape juice delivers a pure vape with an experience reminiscent of menthol cigarettes.

Feel free to explore what we offer, or continue your research elsewhere. The main aim is to find the menthol e liquid that best aligns with the experience you desire, and you’re now armed with the know-how to achieve exactly that.

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Nicotine Salt vs Freebase Nicotine
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Nicotine Salts vs. Freebase Nicotine: Understanding the Differences

About The Author

Lexi Burgess, Follow me on LinkedIn

I keep my ear to the ground to report on Big Vape, emerging health research, and new vape legislation. When the ever-changing landscape of the vape industry isn’t on my mind, I play badminton and read old horror novels.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. This information is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company, including Black Note and its affiliates. The author, who is not a medical professional, writes this blog post without intending to offer medical advice or replace advice or treatment from a personal physician.

This blog post discusses tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and related substances, intended solely for adult use and potentially harmful to health. We advise all readers/users of this content to quit smoking and/or vaping, or to consult a doctor before starting or continuing to smoke and/or vape.

The author, the blog, Black Note, and its affiliates assume no responsibility for any actions or inaction a reader takes based on the information presented in this blog. We do not intend this content to promote smoking or vaping, and readers should interpret it accordingly.

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