Most vapers (and smokers, for that matter) never heard of nicotine salts before the recent buzz started. However, this doesn’t mean that they haven’t been around for a pretty long time. In fact, an argument can be made that nicotine salts are the only naturally-occurring nicotine out there, and it would definitely hold water.
You see, not only do we not know a lot about nicotine salts (as consumers), but we’re also woefully uneducated about nicotine itself. It might come as a surprise to you, but tobacco leaves contain only nicotine salts, and no pure, freebase nicotine.
In tobacco leaves, nicotine is present in two distinct forms: diprotonated and monoprotonated. What this means is that the nicotine bonds with certain acids in the plant to create a much more stable molecule. When that bonding happens, the result is a nicotine salt. There are different types of nicotine salts, depending on the acid involved in the whole process (citric, malic, lactic, and so on).
However, none of these salts are present in traditional cigarettes or regular vape juice, which begs the question: how do we get regular nicotine?
Freebase vs Salt Nicotine
Regular, or freebase nicotine, was invented by the tobacco companies back in the 1960s, and it’s completely unprotonated. In fact, it was Phillip Morris that spearheaded the research in this area in order to make cigarettes stronger and more addictive. By adding ammonia to the mix, PM ensured an increased potency of their tobacco blends If you’ve ever asked yourself where does the nicotine in an e-liquid come from, there’s your answer – effectively, the whole vaping industry is capitalizing on the discoveries made decades ago by Big Tobacco.
But, why go through all that trouble?
Nicotine salts, while stable and available organically, are not extremely bioavailable. What this means is that they are not absorbed by the human body as readily, and their addictive properties can’t compare with those of freebase nicotine. Today, the nicotine that’s found is cigarette smoke is 100% freebase, stripped of all its protons, and that increases its bioavailability dramatically. This type of nicotine is also more lipid soluble, which means that it crosses the blood-brain barrier quite easily, triggering a dopamine release more effectively than nicotine salts normally would.
So, in a nutshell, while nic salts are organic and readily available, they just weren’t addictive enough, so the tobacco industry spent millions of dollars ‘improving’ the formula in order to hook more unsuspecting smokers.
If that’s the case, how come nicotine salts are coming back? Do vape juice manufacturers know something that slipped by Phillip Morris’ vast research team? The study that was сonducted on the difference between nic salts and protonated nicotine in aerosol and how it can affect somebody definitely suggests that more studies are needed.
Are Nicotine Salts bad for you?
The persistent mainstream hysteria around vaping has taken its toll even on us, so it’s only natural that we’re all wondering are nic salts safe at this point. The truth is, they are as safe as freebase nicotine (which is relatively safe, if we don’t account for its addictive properties), so, from a pure health and well-being oriented standpoint, there’s no extra reason for concern.
Benefits of Using Nicotine Salts
- They deliver more nicotine in a single puff, which means that most smokers who are using e-cigs to quit can now save a substantial amount on vape juice.
- Smokers are always searching for that something that’s like smoking, but not exactly it. Using nic salts provides a sensation similar to smoking, even with small pocket-size devices.
- In regular vape juice, as nicotine level goes up, so does the subjective feeling of throat hit. With nic salts, that sensation is curbed, which means that you can now vape on higher concentrations without feeling like your throat is on fire.
- In the last couple of years, vape devices have been growing in size. Vapers who wanted top performance would often opt for larger and bulkier e-cigs. There’s no need to do that anymore – nicotine salts work great in smaller devices, such as pod systems or small vape pens.
Who should use Nicotine Salts?
Consider using nicotine salts if you are:
- A transitioning smoker looking for strongest e-liquids, and if regular vape juice is just not cutting it for you.
- A seasoned vaper who’s looking for a smoother experience on your sub-ohm tank (just remember to use lower concentration nic salts, up to 18 mg).
- A price-conscious DIYer and you want to get more bang for your buck.
- A stealth vaper who uses a small device and wants discreet hits that won’t envelop the whole room in clouds.
Which Devices do I need to use for Nicotine Salts?
Nic salts were created for a specific purpose – a strong nicotine hit from small, portable devices. Pod systems, such as the JUUL, work great for them. That said, you definitely don’t have to be a JUUL owner to use them. Any lower-power device and tank setup will do the trick, so if you own a vape pen and an old M2L tank, you can now put them to good use.