There is a lot of talk about nicotine salts (or nic salts as they are commonly referred to) in the vaping industry currently, and with so much varying information around, I decided to find out more about nic salts and if they really are any good.
Let’s start from the top; nic salt e-liquid is essentially the same as regular e-liquid. The main difference comes from the nicotine itself, which is designed to mimic the nicotine ‘salts’ found within tobacco leaves, rather than freebase form.
This type of nicotine is supposed to provide a much smoother ‘hit’ from your e-cig. It means you can vape a higher nicotine strength that might otherwise be uncomfortably strong compared with standard e-liquid.
Another big difference between nic salt and freebase nicotine, is how your body absorbs it. With standard nicotine you would generally get an instant satisfaction. With just a few inhalations you can feel the nicotine begin to have an effect. However this is usually goes away in about 15 minutes, although with nic salts this is not the case.
Nic salt e-liquids tend to take a few minutes to really kick in, and maintain a level of nicotine satisfaction which can last a lot longer than regular freebase nicotine. It’s not for everyone, but for those vapers who swear by them, it’s hard to beat.
This type of e-juice is normally high in nicotine, but what makes nicotine salts intriguing is that they’re formulated for a smooth inhale instead of feeling harsh despite the high alkaloid quantity. But you’ll still feel the nic! You can consume less juice, making them more cost-efficient. Nic salts give you more bang for your buck.
Switching from a standard freebase nicotine mix, you’ll notice the difference immediately. Nicotine salts aren’t harsh on the throat like freebase nicotine.
Another difference between the two nicotine formulations is that salt nicotine appears to vaporize well at lower temperatures. That makes it ideal for small vape devices like pod vapes which have less power.
Many users report that nicotine salts give a sensation similar to smoking, more than regular e-liquid. That’s not magic! It’s because many of the products contain up to 60 mg/mL of nicotine. More nicotine-per-puff adds a more satisfying experience for smokers and ex-smokers.
In 2014, before JUUL had hit the market with the first salt nicotine retail product, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos studied the effectiveness of nicotine delivery in various vapor products and determined that “nicotine levels in EC [e-cigarette] liquids should be close to 50 mg/mL in order to approximate nicotine delivery from smoking.” But due to the harshness of standard nicotine, it would’ve been difficult to make a product that was enjoyable to use at those levels; nicotine salts made it possible. Dr. Farsalinos also noted that a high nicotine concentration would also reduce the amount of liquid vapers consumed, which would reduce any unknown risks from vaping.
Because the strengths are typically much higher in nicotine salt, this is a legitimate question. One of the reasons cigarette smoke is addictive is the speed with which it delivers nicotine to the brain. There are questions about whether nicotine salts deliver the drug more rapidly than freebase nicotine — but the issue hasn’t been studied yet.
Nicotine expert Jacques Le Houezec, a neuroscientist and pharmacologist, thinks the only difference between the freebase nicotine and nicotine salt is that the vaper can consume more nicotine in each puff because of the reduced harshness. Due to being able to consume more nicotine likely will increase its potential for dependence, but it’s due to the amount consumed, not because it’s specifically nicotine salt.
Since the only difference between nicotine salt juice and standard e-juice is the inclusion of benzoic acid, salt nic is probably no more or less safe than freebase nicotine e-liquid. The World Health Organization International Programme on Chemical Safety advises consuming no more than 5 mg per kilogram of body weight per day, which would equal about 345 mg for a 150-pound person — probably an impossible amount to vape, considering that 1 mL of salt e-liquid contains just a few milligrams of benzoic acid.
Most nicotine salt e-liquids come in 25-50 mg strengths. If you’re new to nicotine salts, we suggest starting with 20-35 mg first unless you’re a transitioning smoker.
If you’re a vaper that prefers low strength nicotine with greater vapor production, some manufacturers offer nicotine salts in levels as low as 3-5 mg/mL.
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