What is the difference between “Freebase” And “Salt” Nicotine?

Have you heard talk about nicotine salt eLiquids? Don’t understand what freebase nicotine is? Then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to explain everything you need to know about the difference between freebase and salt nicotine. But first…

What is nicotine?

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, found and extracted from certain plants (or a synthesized version).

Nicotine alters the balance of chemicals in your brain (specifically dopamine and noradrenaline) which give “pleasurable changes” reducing stress and anxiety. When you take your first hit in a morning and get that calming effect? That’s what it does!

For reference, the average cigarette in the UK contains a total of 12mg of nicotine (but you actually inhale around 1.8mg). 

Freebase Nicotine

Freebase nicotine is the standard nicotine that most people are used to vaping (and was used pre-TPD in pretty much every single juice). 

It’s extracted using the same method that tobacco companies have been using since the 1960’s. 

The nicotine is extracted and processed in its purest form (compared to other methods) and in turn is more potent and can be absorbed into your body much quicker then previous techniques. 

Freebase nicotine is generally used in nicotine shots for Shortfill eliquids (for low strength) or in higher strength liquids for more of a throat hit. 90% of the nicotine shots on the UK market will be freebase nicotine, as that is generally accepted as the “norm”. 

If you are using a 3mg / 6mg juice and getting a small throat hit, that’s likely to be from the nicotine. When you are using 12mg juice (or higher) and finding it “throaty”, yep – that’s freebase nicotine too!. 

Freebase in 6mg or lower is generally advised to be used in RDAs, RTAs or Subohm tanks. It can be used in pod systems for people who don’t want to be using salts. Higher strength freebase juices can also be used for people switching to vaping from cigarettes to replicate the “throat hit” they are accustomed to, however we do normally recommend that you drop down in strength once you have been quit a while. 

Salt Nicotine

Before we go any further, in case you were wondering, salt nicotine does not use salt! Salt Nicotine is actually a combination of chemicals, or compounds. 

A picture of Anarchist Black Nicotine Salt E Liquid
Anarchist Black Nicotine Salt E Liquids

One common example is Nicotine Benzoate – Benzoic acid is added to the nicotine compound to improve stability of the nicotine and reduce its throat hit. 

Other acids can be used to create the Salt Nicotine compound and each has its own signature “feel”. Nicotine Salicylate can be created to give an even smoother throat hit, or Nicotine Malate can be created to give a smooth hit but with a slightly sour taste. 

Generally, most salt nicotine products are created using Nicotine Benzoate however some manufacturers are not very transparent about this. 

Have you seen 36mg nicotine shots on the market? These are not 36mg, simply a clever marketing strategy. By adding Benzoic Acid to nicotine to create Nicotine Benzoate, you are not altering the nicotine strength. If this is mixed at a 1:1 ratio with nicotine, you can say you are using 36mg Nicotine Benzoate by weight, however your actual nicotine content is only 18mg. 

Salt Nicotine is preferred by people who want a higher strength, without the throat hit and is commonly found in 10mg or 20mg strengths (as per UK regulatory law). 20mg gives very minimal throat hit with all of the “satisfaction” of a higher nicotine strength. 

Salt Nicotine juices are advised to be used in Pod Systems or MTL devices, however there is nothing to stop you using them in any other device (or using Salt Nicotine shots in a shortfill), however do be careful if you are sub-ohming 20mg as you can easily give yourself some mild nicotine poisoning by vaping too much of it in a short period of time!

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