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Nicotine Salts Versus Freebase Nicotine: A Comprehensive Comparison


Nicotine Salts Versus Freebase Nicotine: A Comprehensive Comparison

Since the introduction of e-cigarettes in 2003, freebase nicotine has been the standard. However, the vaping landscape evolved with the arrival of nicotine salts in 2016, sparking curiosity and sometimes confusion among both new and seasoned vapers. 


Derived from the same source, these two nicotine formats offer distinct experiences. This guide aims to demystify the differences between nicotine salts and freebase nicotine, focusing on their absorption rates, vaping styles, and overall user experience, to help vapers transitioning from traditional cigarettes make an informed choice.


The Science Behind Nicotine Salts and Freebase Nicotine


Delta Extrax

Understanding the chemical makeup and absorption dynamics of nicotine salts versus freebase nicotine is crucial to appreciating their differences.





The Basics of Freebase Nicotine


Historically, freebase nicotine has dominated the vaping scene. The process of “freebasing” involves adding ammonia to nicotine, enhancing its bioavailability by stripping away protons, thus converting it into its freebase form. This method not only makes nicotine more potent without increasing its amount but also results in a product that is more alkaline, with a pH level of around 8, leading to a more pronounced throat hit.



  • Stronger throat sensation
  • Suitable for both MTL and DTL vaping styles
  • Produces dense vapor clouds with high VG e-liquids


  • Slower absorption rate compared to nicotine salts
  • Lower nicotine strengths may not fulfill cravings for some users


Introduction to Nicotine Salts


Nicotine salts marked a revolutionary change in the vaping industry in 2016, thanks to JUUL. Contrary to what the name might suggest, nicotine salts are the natural form of nicotine found in tobacco leaves, offering a smoother vaping experience. The addition of benzoic acid lowers the pH level, making the nicotine less harsh and more rapidly absorbed by the body.



  • High nicotine content without the harsh throat hit
  • Faster absorption into the bloodstream
  • Smooth and satisfying throat hit



  • Potential for quicker onset of side effects
  • Not suitable for DTL vaping due to intense nicotine delivery


Vaping Styles: Salt Nicotine vs. Freebase Nicotine


Your vaping style plays a significant role in choosing between nicotine salts and freebase nicotine.



Mouth-to-Lung (MTL) Vaping


Mouth-to-Lung (MTL) vaping is a technique that mirrors the act of smoking a traditional cigarette. This method is particularly appealing to newcomers in the vaping community or those transitioning from smoking because it offers a familiar sensation. Here’s why MTL vaping stands out:


  • Simulates Smoking: The draw and throat hit closely resemble that of a cigarette, easing the transition for smokers.
  • Taste the Flavor: Vapor is held in the mouth briefly, allowing the full spectrum of flavors to be savored before inhalation.
  • Nicotine Delivery: Ideal for e-liquids with freebase nicotine, it provides a satisfying hit that many ex-smokers crave.
  • Smoother Alternatives Available: For those who prefer a gentler experience, nicotine salts used in MTL setups offer a smoother throat hit.
  • Versatile Device Compatibility: MTL vaping can be achieved with a wide array of devices, making it accessible to beginners.


Direct-to-Lung (DTL) Vaping


Direct-to-Lung (DTL) vaping offers a distinctly different experience from traditional smoking, often preferred by more seasoned vapers. This method involves inhaling vapor directly into the lungs, bypassing the mouth, which can produce larger vapor clouds and a more intense flavor. Here’s what makes DTL vaping unique:


  • Direct Inhalation: Creates a unique sensation that’s markedly different from smoking, appealing to those looking for a new experience.
  • Cloud Chasing: Perfect for vapers who enjoy producing large clouds of vapor, often associated with the sub-ohm vaping community.
  • Enhanced Flavor: The direct lung inhalation can intensify the e-liquid’s flavor, offering a rich and satisfying taste.
  • Optimized for Freebase Nicotine: Freebase nicotine e-liquids are well-suited for DTL vaping, providing a balanced throat hit without overwhelming the vaper.
  • Not Suited for Nicotine Salts: Due to the high nicotine content, nicotine salts are generally not recommended for DTL vaping as they can lead to an overly intense experience.
  • Requires Specific Equipment: DTL vaping is typically done with sub-ohm devices designed to handle the direct lung technique.




The Vaping Experience: A Side-by-Side Comparison


Choosing between nicotine salts and freebase nicotine goes beyond vaping style; it also involves considering the intensity of the throat hit, the smoothness of the inhale, and the richness of the flavor.


Throat Hit and Smoothness


When it comes to the sensation that hits the back of your throat upon inhaling vapor, there’s a significant difference between freebase nicotine and nicotine salts. Here’s what you need to know:


  • Harsher Throat Hit with Freebase: Freebase nicotine tends to deliver a more pronounced throat hit due to its higher pH level, around 9, making it more alkaline.
  • Smoother Experience with Nicotine Salts: Nicotine salts, on the other hand, offer a smoother throat hit as they are more acidic with a pH around 5.
  • Choosing the Right Nicotine Strength: It’s crucial for new vapers, especially those transitioning from smoking, to select the appropriate nicotine strength. For example, lighter smokers might prefer lower concentrations of freebase nicotine or higher concentrations of nicotine salts for a balanced experience.


Flavor Intensity and Satisfaction


The debate between salt nicotine and freebase nicotine extends into the realm of flavor intensity and overall satisfaction. Let’s dive into the details:


  • Enhanced Flavor with Nicotine Salts: Nicotine salts are known for their ability to intensify the flavor profile of e-liquids. This is partly due to the addition of benzoic and citric acids, which not only enhance flavor but also ensure a smoother vaping experience.
  • Quick Absorption for Immediate Satisfaction: Studies have shown that nicotine salts are absorbed into the bloodstream approximately 30-40% faster than freebase nicotine, providing an instantly gratifying experience.
  • Balancing Flavor and Throat Hit with Freebase Nicotine: While freebase nicotine is associated with a stronger throat hit, it doesn’t lack in flavor. Those seeking a more pronounced flavor can opt for e-liquids with a higher PG ratio, as Propylene Glycol is known to carry flavors more effectively.


Making Your Choice


  • For a Smooth Transition from Smoking: If you’re moving away from traditional cigarettes, consider starting with nicotine salts for a smoother throat hit and quicker nicotine satisfaction.
  • For the Cloud Chasers and Flavor Seekers: If you’re all about the clouds and flavor, freebase nicotine might be your go-to, especially if you’re into DTL vaping. Just remember to choose the right PG/VG ratio to balance the vapor production and flavor intensity.
  • Personal Preference Reigns Supreme: Ultimately, the choice between nicotine salts and freebase nicotine comes down to personal preference. Whether you prioritize a smooth experience or a potent flavor and throat hit, there’s an option tailored to your vaping style.


By considering these aspects, vapers can make informed decisions that align with their preferences, ensuring a satisfying vaping experience whether they choose nicotine salts or freebase nicotine.



Final Thoughts: Which One to Choose?


The decision between nicotine salts and freebase nicotine boils down to personal preference. Whether you prioritize a strong throat hit, flavor intensity, or a smooth experience, there’s a nicotine type that suits your needs. Remember, the goal is to find a vaping experience that helps you transition away from traditional cigarettes, and both nicotine salts and freebase nicotine offer pathways to achieve that.


As you embark on your vaping journey, consider starting with tobacco-flavored e-liquids, which can provide a familiar taste and ease the transition. Remember, the best choice is the one that meets your personal preferences and vaping style.


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