What Is Nicotine Salt? Defining the Latest Vaping Buzz Term

Vaping and smoking differ from one another in some very significant ways, but one of the differences that most people never think about is the fact that the vaping industry is fundamentally a tech industry. For evidence of that, look no further than the motley collection of colloquialisms and buzz terms that have popped up within the vaping community.

Case in point: Nicotine salt. What in the world is that? Well, it’s a term that you’re likely to see constantly when browsing the selection at a vape shop like Premium Vape New Zealand that specializes in small and highly portable vaping devices. You can infer that nicotine salt must have an important connection to those small vaping devices, but aside from that, the term is hardly self-explanatory.

Never fear. This article is going to define nicotine salt using simple language that absolutely anyone can understand. Let’s begin!

Nicotine Salt Is a Type of E-Liquid Used in E-Cigarettes

An e-cigarette is an electronic device that uses a heating element to turn liquid to vapor. The liquid in an e-cigarette is called e-liquid. It’s generally flavored, and it usually contains nicotine. When you inhale the vapor from an e-cigarette, you absorb the nicotine in the e-liquid through your lungs. When you exhale, you see a cloud that looks like smoke. Vaping is an alternative to smoking that provides nicotine and mimics the appearance of smoking but contains no tar or other products of combustion.

When people talk about nicotine salt, they’re talking about a specific type of nicotine used in e-liquid.

Philip Morris Discovered How to Modify the Nicotine Molecule

If you’re unfamiliar with the science of nicotine and the process of extracting it from tobacco, it would be natural to assume that all nicotine is the same. The truth, though, is that a bit of chemical manipulation can change nicotine in some interesting ways. Several decades ago, for instance, the tobacco company Philip Morris discovered that exposing tobacco to ammonia converts the nicotine molecule from a salt to a free base, making it more volatile and bioavailable in the process.

Philip Morris began using ammonia throughout the cigarette production process, lacing brands like Marlboro with freebase nicotine. Since freebase nicotine entered the bloodstream more readily than the salt form of nicotine, it allowed Philip Morris to create cigarettes that were more satisfying than other cigarettes with the same amount of nicotine.

Freebase Nicotine Is the Most Common Type of Nicotine in E-Liquid

Ammonia isn’t just one of the most important chemicals used in the processing of tobacco; it’s also a powerful solvent that causes tobacco leaves to release their nicotine for easy extraction. Ammonia makes it possible to obtain very high yields when extracting nicotine from tobacco. Using ammonia in the nicotine extraction process also creates freebase nicotine, which means that virtually all nicotine replacement products – and most e-liquids – use freebase nicotine.

Now that you understand what freebase nicotine is, it’s time to come full circle and return to the original topic. What is nicotine salt e-liquid – and if freebase nicotine is the type of nicotine that’s more bioavailable and more satisfying, then why is nicotine salt e-liquid something that anyone would want to buy?

Freebase Nicotine E-Liquid Has One Major Problem

Freebase nicotine might be the type of nicotine that’s most bioavailable, but it has one major problem when it’s used in e-liquid. Large vaping devices are popular among hobbyists, but the smallest e-cigarettes are the ones that appeal most to smokers.

Until the invention of nicotine salt e-liquid, though, most of the smokers who bought small e-cigarettes and attempted to switch to vaping discovered that the smaller vaping products weren’t very satisfying. With a small vaping device that generates small vapor clouds, you need an e-liquid with a nicotine concentration of around 50 mg/ml in order to achieve the same level of nicotine delivery that a cigarette can provide.

The problem is that ammonia is very alkaline, and nicotine extracted with ammonia is alkaline as well. That alkalinity manifests itself in e-liquid that’s made from freebase nicotine. A freebase nicotine e-liquid with the 50 mg/ml concentration required to derive cigarette-like satisfaction with a small vaping device would be incredibly harsh, and no one would want to use it.

The harshness of freebase nicotine e-liquid at high nicotine strengths is the reason why larger vaping devices exist. A larger vaping device produces bigger clouds, thus making it possible to get satisfaction like a cigarette with an e-liquid that has a lower nicotine concentration.

Nicotine Salt E-Liquid Brings Cigarette-Like Satisfaction to Small Vaping Devices for the First Time

So, before nicotine salt e-liquid came around, the greatest shortcoming in vaping was the fact that the smallest vaping devices – the ones that people who wanted to quit smoking generally preferred to use – weren’t satisfying enough to help many smokers quit. Nicotine salt e-liquid solves that problem by enabling the creation of higher-strength e-liquids that don’t cause throat irritation.

At this point, you might be thinking that nicotine salt e-liquid is a fairly complex product to create, considering the fact that all of the nicotine used for e-liquid production is freebase nicotine. Actually, though, nicotine salt e-liquid is surprisingly simple. To create it, e-liquid manufacturers simply add mild acids to existing e-liquid bases. The most popular type of acid used in the creation of nicotine salt e-liquid is benzoic acid, a common food preservative.

The most important thing to know about nicotine salt e-liquid is that the molecular structure of the nicotine isn’t really what’s important. The important thing is the fact that adding acid makes the e-liquid less alkaline, thus making it easier to inhale at higher nicotine concentrations. The magic of nicotine salt e-liquid is that it has enabled smaller vaping devices to hit the all-important 50 mg/ml nicotine level that makes them as satisfying as tobacco cigarettes.

If you’re new to vaping, the one thing you need to know about nicotine salt e-liquid is that it’s almost definitely the type of e-liquid you want to buy if you’re going to use a vaping device that’s anywhere near the size of a cigarette. If you do that, it’s virtually guaranteed that your switch to vaping will be a satisfying and successful one.