With the Juul now being the most popular vape on the market, nicotine salts are becoming more and more common as other manufacturers follow in Juul's footsteps. There's a lot of confusion about nicotine salts and how they differ from the nicotine most vapers are used to, so we're going to look at what the difference is and why it's worth knowing about nicotine salts.
The Juul is a commonly misunderstood vape, due in no small part to the fact that they're so simple to use. The Juul pods come pre-filled, and up until recently they only had one nicotine option with the only real choice being the flavor of the vape juice that comes in the Juul pod.
The packaging is labeled as containing “5% nicotine by weight”, where most e-juice is measured in milligrams per milliliter, like 3mg or 18mg. If you were to turn those numbers into a percentage by volume, 3mg would be 0.3% and 18mg would be 1.8%. Most people think that this means the Juul is 50mg, but since the pods are 5% by weight instead of volume, this means they're actually about 59mg, or 5.9% by volume.
That may sound like a ton of nicotine, but this is where knowing the difference between nicotine salts and the freebase nicotine that has been the standard in the vaping industry up until now becomes important. First and foremost, the nicotine content in nicotine salt is absorbed into your body differently than freebase nicotine, providing a spike in blood nicotine level (BNL) much like a cigarette, where freebase nicotine provides a lower, gentler curve in BNL. This low curve can be a foreign sensation to nicotine users, where nicotine salts provide a much more familiar sensation that typically requires no adjustment period.
|You can see here that nicotine salts provide a very similar nicotine profile to an average cigarette, where freebase nicotine provides more of a gentle curve|
This difference in BNL absorption is due to the fact that freebase nicotine is just pure nicotine, where nicotine salt is the naturally occurring form of nicotine. The freebase nicotine that we use here at Vaporleaf is extracted from the naturally occurring nicotine salts found in tobacco leaves. Your body readily absorbs pure nicotine, but you don't really absorb much nicotine from nicotine salts.
|Just a few bottles from our massive selection of Vaporleaf vape juice|
In order to help your body absorb nicotine from nicotine salts, cigarette manufacturers will typically use ammonia. Obviously vaping ammonia would be less than ideal, so Juul put in the work and discovered that benzoic acid will also help your body absorb the nicotine from nicotine salts.
|This is what Juul has to say about what's in their pods. You can find more at juul.com|
Benzoic acid is already present in tobacco leaves along with the nicotine salts, but adding more helps your body absorb the nicotine. Juul chose the 5% nicotine by weight concentration because it most closely resembled the spike in BNL that you would get from a cigarette.
Aside from familiarity, there's one other very important feature of nicotine salt e-liquid that makes it much more approachable than freebase nicotine, and that's the fact that it's much smoother. The benzoic acid added to nicotine salts lowers the PH, allowing for a much higher nicotine concentration without the intense throat hit that accompanies high concentrations of freebase nicotine.
Discomfort is one of the biggest problems facing someone making the switch to vaping, and the smoother hit that nicotine salt vape juice provides allows more people to make the switch to vaping more easily. High concentrations of nicotine salt are quite comfortable, where even as much as 24mg of freebase nicotine can be downright painful.
So are nicotine salts right for you? Well from what we've seen here at Vaporleaf, nicotine salts can be a great choice for people switching to vaping, but it can be foreign and uncomfortable for people that have already been vaping with freebase nicotine for a while.
If you've already made the switch to freebase nicotine and your body has become comfortable with it, using nicotine salts will provide an unusual nicotine buzz that can cause a lot of discomfort. If you vape frequently, using nicotine salts in the same way, puff after puff after puff, you can get too much nicotine very quickly and begin to feel queasy and lethargic.
|My all day vape! I go through a 120ml of 12mg Pear about once a month, and it still hasn't gotten old to me|
In my personal experience with nic salts, I also feel a little chest discomfort over time, and it leaves me with a bit of a strange taste in my mouth. Since I work at a vape shop, I vape constantly. The low curve in blood nicotine level that I get from freebase nicotine works great for me, but the high spike from nicotine salts becomes more of a constant super-high blood nicotine level.
|The Suorin Edge is a great option for nicotine salts, but the GeekVape Legend with the Aspire Revvo is way too powerful|
If you already vape and you're thinking about trying nicotine salts, remember that you absolutely must use a low-powered vape. Using high mg nicotine salts in a high-powered sub-ohm vape will quickly result in nicotine overdose and extreme discomfort. Pod systems like the Suorin Drop or the Nautilus AIO are the most popular choice for nicotine salts, but you can use them in any low-powered vape like the Kangertech Evod or the Aspire Nautilus vape tank.
Most importantly, if you don't already use nicotine, don't start. Nicotine is highly addictive, and if you start using it, you will become addicted. I can tell you that having a nicotine addiction is not fun, and I'm one of those people that started smoking by just having a couple cigarettes every month or so, which turned into a full-blown 2-packs-a-day addiction. If you're dead set on picking up vaping, remember that you can get non-nicotine vape juice.