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What are Nicotine Salts? Everything You Need to Know

Key Takeaways

  • Nicotine salts are a combination of a natural nicotine extract and benzoic acid. They were developed by Pax Labs, the makers of JUUL vapes, as a way to make high-concentrate nicotine easier for the body to absorb.
  • Nic salts have several potential benefits for vapers. They deliver nicotine to the bloodstream more efficiently, provide a smoother throat hit, and can be used in low-power pod vapes without sacrificing the nicotine hit.
  • Current research suggests that using nicotine salts is no more harmful than vaping with freebase nicotine. There are some questions about the safety of heating benzoic acid, but further study will be needed to answer them.
  • Adding benzoic acid does not make the nicotine in nic salts any less addictive than in freebase. Nic salts could even be slightly more addictive due to how readily the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream.

If you go and browse the ejuices carried at your local vape shop, you’re sure to find a type of a ejuice that has had the vaping community buzzing with discussion — nicotine salts.

Nicotine salts are touted as being ‘better’ than the regular ‘freebase nicotine’ eliquids that you’re used to, but what does that really mean? While nicotine salts can be a great solution for those who want to quit smoking (especially those who have tried to quit with regular eliquids and failed), they aren’t for everyone.

Because of their high nicotine content, nicotine salts are best suited for heavy smokers looking to quit, or for those who aren’t getting the nicotine satisfaction they crave and thus struggling to stick with vaping over analogs.

While the chemistry behind nicotine salts are complex, understanding how they work isn’t. So, what are nicotine salts? How are they different from regular ‘freebase nicotine’ vape juices? And most importantly, are they safe? We’ve broken down everything you need to know about nicotine salts down below, so that you can find out if they’re right for you.

Traditional Freebase Nicotine

To better understand what nicotine salts are, it’s important to first understand what traditional ‘freebase’ nicotine is. This is the nicotine that is ordinarily found in eliquids and is the purest form of nicotine. This nicotine has long been preferred for vaping because it is more easily vaporized when paired with the PG/VG in your eliquid and thus delivers readily available nicotine to your bloodstream.

Freebase nicotine is the same type of nicotine that is found in nicotine replacement patches, nicotine gums, inhalers, and lozenges. No doubt that freebase nicotine is a great form of nicotine.

Back in the 1960’s, Phillip Morris of Marlboro discovered that ‘freebase nicotine’ paired with ammonia led to much more nicotine being more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. This meant a more satisfying and addictive cigarette which led to the success of Marlboro, and speaks wonders to the effectiveness of freebase nicotine.

What are Nicotine Salts?

Nicotine salt is the same type of nicotine that you would find naturally in tobacco leaves. While it isn’t possible to vape this form of nicotine by itself without extremely high temperatures, the researchers at Pax Labs (the creators of the JUUL) discovered a solution — benzoic acid.

By carefully considering the conditions in which the nicotine salt would be vaped such as temperature, the researchers at Pax Labs used benzoic acid to formulate a nicotine salt ejuice that delivers a high concentration of available nicotine that is more easily and readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

Benzoic acid also serves another important purpose in nicotine salts. While unpaired nicotine salts are naturally high in pH (acidic) and thus produce vapor that is harsh to inhale, benzoic acid reduces the pH of the nicotine salts while still providing a large amount of available nicotine.

The end result is a more satisfying vape, without the harsh throat hit that you would get with high freebase nicotine ejuices.

Benefits of Nicotine Salts

  • More nicotine that is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream: Compared to traditional freebase nicotine, nicotine salts deliver much more nicotine into your bloodstream much more quickly. This means that you’ll satisfy that nicotine craving a lot faster than you would using traditional freebase nicotine eliquids.
  • Smoother hit at higher nicotine concentrations: Unlike the harsh throat hit from a high nicotine ejuice, nicotine salts deliver all the nicotine you need but in a smooth hit that doesn’t hurt.
  • You’ll use less ejuice, and save more money: Because nicotine salts have a higher concentration of nicotine that is more quickly and more easily absorbed when compared to freebase nicotine ejuices, you’ll use less juice to get satisfied. In turn, you’ll be vaping less and going through less juice — it’s a win-win!  
  • You don’t need an expensive/powerful mod: Because nicotine salts are best vaped at lower wattages, you don’t need to have the most expensive or powerful mod in order to get the most out of them. A device like the Aspire Breeze is great for nicotine salts, and fires at 0.6ohms at a low wattage.

Are Nicotine Salts Safe?

From all of the information that we currently have available, nicotine salts appear to be as safe as traditional freebase nicotine. Because the nicotine will affect the body in the same way, there appears to be no difference in risks and effects.

However, there is one key difference from freebase nicotine eliquids, and that is benzoic acid. While benzoic acid is generally recognized as safe for ingestion and has a very low toxicity (benzoic acid occurs naturally in many foods such as: cranberries, prunes, plums, cinnamon, ripe cloves, and most berries), there isn’t much research concerning inhalation.

Despite this, nicotine salts are still going to be a much safer option than smoking cigarettes. If you’re currently struggling to stick with vaping traditional ejuice, you should still give nicotine salt ejuices a try.

One way that nicotine salts may possibly be safer than traditional freebase nicotine eliquids is that you inhale less vapor. Because you’re getting more nicotine with each draw, you won’t be vaping as much.

Are Nicotine Salts Addictive?

Just like in freebase nicotine eliquids, it is still the nicotine in nicotine salts that makes it addictive. Thus nicotine salts are just as addictive as freebase nicotine juices, and should be treated with the same care. Although, because the nicotine is more quickly and readily absorbed into the bloodstream when using nicotine salts, they may actually be more addictive than freebase nicotine eliquids.

Best Nicotine Salt Ejuices

We’ve rounded up a few of the best nicotine salt ejuices for you to try, so you don’t have to go searching! Enjoy!

Adam Alhiraki Author Picture 1

Adam Alhiraki

Adam is the founder and Editor-In-Chief of Versed Vaper. Originally a smoker, he started vaping in 2013 and has been completely smoke-free since 2015. With over a decade of personal experience and more than five years of professional experience in testing and reviewing vaping products, his oversight ensures that Versed Vaper provides genuine, honest, and accurate information that you can rely on. Adam loves trying as many different tanks, mods, and ejuices as he can get his hands on and he has tested and/or tried the vast majority of vaping products to hit the market since 2018. When he's not reviewing, researching, or writing, you can find him watching tennis, PC gaming, or playing with his three mischievous cats.

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