What’s freebase nicotine?

It’s best to also properly understand the most common alternative form of nicotine available – freebase, to fully explain the differences to nicotine salts.

Freebase nicotine a purer and more enjoyable product, hence it is very popular in cigarettes, nicotine replacement products (including gum and patches etc) and vape e-liquids.

The freebasing process involves changing nicotine from its ‘salt’ state which occurs naturally, into its base ‘purest’ form. This way of increasing potency, without increasing the dose is why it’s popular amongst vapers as it can potentially make for a more cost-effective solution. As the name suggests the salt protons are stripped away using ammonia (an alkaline) which raises the pH level and modifies it to a deprotonated ‘freebase’ state.

However this may not provide the most optimal experience for all vapers, so why exactly would some vapers benefit from using nicotine salts over freebase?

The big difference

Most vapers share the common goal of wanting the sensation they get from vaping to most closely replicate that of smoking a cigarette. Hence to function most effectively, the delivery of nicotine has to replicate that of a regular cigarette as efficiently as possible.

Previously vapers only had the option of having freebase nicotine in their vape juice, which with its higher pH value is more on the alkaline end of the spectrum meaning users can find it harsh in higher doses.

Depending on the users previous smoking and vaping experience, a high quantity of freebase nicotine can deliver a throat hit too severe to fully enjoy. The consequence of this is newer vapers would often reduce the nicotine content of their liquid, to be gentler on their throat.

However this can prove very risky in cases as by reducing nicotine levels too quickly there’s a high risk they may be tempted to relapse back onto cigarettes when they’re not getting their early intense cravings satisfied.

There is the alternative also of taking more drags from their vape so the cravings are satisfied, however this results in more e-liquid having to be used which diminishes the cost savings promised which can prove demotivating.

What’s nicotine salt exactly?

We’ll begin by most importantly clarifying, it is NOT based around common sodium chloride also known as table salt. Therefore it won’t make your vape juice taste salty, or increase you’re your sodium intake.

The term comes from chemistry, where a salt is made up of a chemical reaction containing both a positive (acid) charge and a negative (base) charge.

In tobacco leaves the nicotine which occurs has the chemical composition of a salt. More importantly perhaps tobacco leaves only contain nicotine in its salt state, its these exact nicotine salts that are then chemically modified to produce freebase nicotine.

Yet interestingly nicotine salts chemical composition has a week base which seeks out positively charged particles (protons) so that they can become stable (ionised). Since ions have difficulty moving through our cell membranes, its hard for them to reach our bodies nicotine receptors.

Unmodified nicotine salts that could be added to the PG/VG that makes up e-liquid, would need to be vaped at extremely high temperatures for the nicotine to become effective. Even if that were possible, absorption of nicotine would still be inferior to its freebase equivalent. Hence to make it most effective for vaping, nic salts still need a touch of chemical tweaking themselves.

The Nic Salt vs Freebase battle

Since you’re now clued up on the science, we can swiftly compare the key differences between freebase and nicotine salts so you can decide which is best for you.

Nicotine Salts Core Facts

  • Will contain Benzoic or Citric acid for optimising
  • Fast absorbing in the bloodstream
  • Still smooth in higher doses
  • Limited flavour complexity
  • Constrained cloud production
  • Suits the mouth-to-lung vaping technique
  • Potentially more expensive by volume
  • Available in the highest nicotine strengths
  • Optimal for newbie vapers and mixed users
  • Works best with lower power wattage devices
  • Can achieve cigarette like nicotine hit with less e-liquid
  • Longest shelf life due to slower oxidation

Freebase Nicotine Core Facts

  • Contains zero additives
  • Slower absorbing in the bloodstream
  • Becomes harsher at higher doses
  • Maximum flavour complexity
  • Larger cloud production
  • Suits both direct-to-lung and mouth-to-lung vaping techniques
  • Often less expensive by volume
  • Available in the lowest nicotine strengths
  • Optimal for vapers with low nicotine needs
  • Works best with higher power wattage devices for most effective vaping
  • Potentially more e-liquid required for cigarette like nicotine hit
  • Shorter shelf life due to faster oxidation

Which should I choose?

If any of the following statements apply to you, then nicotine salts would be a suitable choice:

  • I want to quit smoking
  • I’ve tried vaping before however unsuccessfully
  • I don’t want an overly technical or expensive vaping device
  • I need a nicotine level higher than freebase e-liquids can provide

This guide should have hopefully provided you with everything necessary to make an informed decision about which nicotine e-liquid variant is best for you. However if you still have unanswered questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us on call or text. 

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