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GUIDE TO NIC-SALTS


When you start vaping, typically the first thing anyone will recommend you look at is your nicotine strength. Getting the strength just right is important for a few reasons. First and foremost - it needs to be strong enough to keep away cigarette cravings. However, you don’t want it to be too strong or you might be put off because it’s too harsh and makes you feel lightheaded. Many transitioning smokers need a high nicotine level (18mg to 20mg). The issue with freebase nicotine (the most common form of nicotine in e-liquids) is that the higher the strength, the harsher the inhale is on your throat. Freebase nicotine has a naturally peppery taste so can also interfere with the flavour profile of your e-liquid.

In recent years, the invention of nic salts has made vaping with higher nicotine levels more accessible and enjoyable for many vapers. Originally, nic salts were most commonly used in closed pod kits. Now, they’re available widely in multiple strengths in 10ml bottles in a huge array of flavours.

WHAT ARE NIC SALTS?

Nicotine salts (nic salts for short) are the product you get from taking freebase nicotine and adding an acid - typically benzoic acid. Freebase nicotine has a pH of around 9, which means it’s on the alkaline end of the pH spectrum. 7 is neutral and the further you go either side of that middle ground, your nicotine will either end up being acidic or basic. With that, flavour and throat hit will also be more obvious.

Nicotine salts help neutralise the pH of freebase nicotine. When you take something that’s basic (higher in pH) and add an acid - they counteract and balance each other. The end result is a more neutral pH which gives a more gentle throat hit and neutral flavour too.

Nic salts are also more stable on a molecular level than freebase nicotine, meaning you can keep nic salts for longer without them breaking down or oxidising. Nicotine salt is actually the original format of nicotine when extracted from the tobacco plant too and due to their slightly different chemical composition, they also absorb into your body differently too.

HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM FREEBASE NICOTINE?

THE WAY THEY’RE ABSORBED IS DIFFERENT.

Nic salts are incredibly fast acting and can be absorbed into your bloodstream within around 6 seconds. In essence, they were designed to give a similar feeling to the nicotine rush a cigarette would offer. They’re absorbed quickly and also leave your system more quickly. This means you’ll alleviate your craving more quickly and with less puffs than freebase nicotine. Freebase nicotine on the other hand takes slightly longer to hit your system and builds up over time - meaning it’s slower to peak and slower to leave your system. This is why nic salts are especially popular with ex-smokers, they offer that near-instant fix of nicotine that freebase nicotine can’t.

FLAVOUR AND THROAT HIT IS DIFFERENT BETWEEN NIC SALTS AND FREEBASE NICOTINE.

Like we mentioned before, flavour can get affected by high strength freebase e-liquids. They’re a little more peppery in flavour which not only affects the taste of your e-liquid but also makes the throat hit much more harsh. With nic salts having a more neutral pH, they’re a much softer throat hit even at high levels and won’t affect the flavour of your e-liquid. For comparison's sake: a 3mg freebase nicotine e-liquid will have about as much throat hit as a 20mg nic salt solution.

Nic salts vaporise at a lower temperature, meaning they’re great in low powered mouth to lung kits. Generally speaking, high strength e-liquids will come in a 50:50 PG to VG ratio. The addition of benzoic acid to freebase nicotine makes them easier to evaporate so the “hit” you get from a 20mg nic salt will feel more like a 24mg freebase nicotine. All of that, without the harsh feeling on the inhale and without compromising your bubblegum flavour (or whatever e-liquid floats your boat).

WHO ARE NIC SALTS BEST FOR AND WHY ARE THEY SO POPULAR?

Nic salts, for a number of reasons, are best for transitioning smokers who are just getting into vaping. They’re particularly well suited to those smokers who need a super strong nicotine level. While smokers are used to that throat hit feeling, an 18mg freebase nicotine can be uncomfortably harsh. Nic salts tick the box on both fronts - comfortable to inhale and give a satisfying nicotine hit.

Since they’ve become such a go-to for vapers, many e-liquid manufacturers are now making them in different strengths too. Rather than just servicing the ex-heavy smokers, vapers coming into a 12mg freebase level can now opt for a 6mg nic salt instead if they so choose. The varying levels of nic salts also enable vapers to gradually wean themselves off the higher strengths until they’re either at a zero nicotine level or can stop vaping altogether.

THE BEST KIND OF VAPE KITS TO USE WITH NIC SALTS:

Bearing in mind the fact that nic salts are easily vaporised, come in a high strength and hit harder than conventional freebase nicotine - they’re made for low powered starter kits. Things like pod kits and vape pens are perfect, just make sure you’re using something with a coil that’s at least 1.0ohm in resistance. Nic salts are designed for mouth to lung vaping, if you put them in a Sub Ohm, direct to lung device the nicotine hit would be way too hard - even if you’re using a lower strength nic salt.

    • For those of you smoking more than a pack a day: If you’re starting out with vaping and have a very heavy smoking habit, we’d recommend something like an open pod kit (that means the pods are refillable) with a 20mg nic salt. It combines the convenience of a pod kit with the option to choose your e-liquid flavour too.
    • If you’re smoking around 15 to a pack a day: You can also benefit from an open pod kit but you may also enjoy a vape pen. Pairing your device with a 10mg nic salt would be ideal. Almost a pack a day smokers still tend to need a higher strength and if you’re finding 10mg isn’t quite enough, you have the option to top your tank up with 20mg, or just move onto 20mg completely. If you’re using a coil that’s around 1.0ohm to 1.2ohms you’ll get a decent nicotine hit and great flavour.
    • For smokers getting through 5 to 10 cigarettes a day: You’re still a “moderate smoker” at this level and something like a 6mg or 10mg will work for you too. We’d recommend a vape pen with a coil resistance of anything over 1.0ohm. The benefit of vape pens is that they often have adjustable airflow. More airflow will give you more of a nic hit and a looser inhale - so you adjust accordingly until it’s “just right”.