• Sean Mills

Nicotine Salts: Unraveling the Mystery

You’ve probably heard “nicotine salts” over the last few months, but what are they? Nicotine salts allow you to use high nicotine strengths (20-50mg/mL) without the bad taste and harsh kick that is typical of traditional juices above 3-6mg.

What if you could have a clean-tasting, hard-hitting liquid that you didn’t have to puff often?  What if you could use it in a device the size of a bottle of juice?  Thanks to this newer type of e-liquid, you can.

What is nicotine salt?

Salt is the form nicotine takes while it is still in the tobacco leaves.   It’s helpful to compare them to what you’re already used to in your daily vape.  Most vapers use e-liquids with 3-6mg per mL of nicotine.  This is often described as flavor with a tingle of “throat hit” in the background.  Throat hit is that pinch you feel in the back of your throat when you inhale vapor or smoke with nicotine.  

The manufacturing process for salt nicotine separates it from its traditional counterpart.  Avoiding technical jargon, during manufacture the alkalinity is reduce by introducing benzoic acid.  That lowers the pH of the final nicotine base.  On the consumer end, this process adds several benefits.

  • Smoother throat hit:  The alkaline nature of most traditional nicotine bases can result in a harsh, scratchy throat hit at higher strengths.  Salt nicotine is more balanced, resulting in a smoother hit even at strengths up to 50mg.

  • Less flavor impact:  Salt nicotine produces a smoother sensation, so it has less effect on the flavor of the juice you want to vape.  Many users find their flavors to be more defined and better tasting in a salt form.

  • Faster satisfaction:  Due to the higher strengths available in salts, users can take fewer puffs for the same satisfaction.  That makes these devices ideal in settings where vaping is discouraged.

  • Lower vaporization temperature:  Because of the chemistry of nicotine salts, they are used with lower power devices and still produce desirable amounts of vapor.

Suorin Air devices

Should I get a salt device?

For many, vaping less often with a harder hitting product that resembles what they felt while smoking makes the switch easier.  These devices also lean towards a tighter “mouth-to-lung” airflow style.  They feel more like smoking, which many new (and old!) vapers appreciate. 

Others need something that’s more pocketable and discreet because of their lifestyle or work policies.  These factors can range widely from family gatherings and leasing restriction to workplaces prohibiting vaping indoors.

You’ve probably run into examples of nicotine salt products without knowing it. The JUUL and the PHIX are among the best-known and oldest makers of convenient, pre-filled salt pods.  These products can be expensive for your everyday vaper, so there are more economical vapes you can refill yourself – and it’s super easy.  Examples of these include:

  • Suorin Air and Drop

  • Aspire Breeze and Breeze 2

  • Lost Vape Therion

  • Smok Novo and Nord

An honorable mention also goes to small, disposable devices like the STIG.  These are generally cheap enough to buy on impulse (under $10) if you’re looking for a “sample size” to keep you going for a day or two.

Is it bad for me?

We have no medical evidence at this time that salt nicotine poses different or more risks when compared to freebase liquids. 

However, because salt liquids contain much higher concentrations of nicotine, there is a measure of caution to be used.  Vaping salts in the same setup that you would with much lower nicotine e-liquid is a bad idea.  Doing so could lead to symptoms of nicotine poisoning which include:

  • Headache

  • Nausea or stomach ache

  • Dizziness

  • Increased heart rate

  • Quick, heavy breathing

If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, you may want to monitor your usage more closely or speak with your physician about your nicotine use.  This should not be understood as medical advice – if you’re not sure of something related to your health, talk to your doctor.  Don’t trust medical advice from the internet.

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