In 2015, the world of vape juice changed forever when the JUUL e-cigarette hit the American market for the first time. The JUUL was the e-cigarette that popularized a new type of e-liquid called nicotine salt vape juice, and JUUL’s maker – PAX Labs in those days, as JUUL hadn’t yet been spun off into a separate company – promoted that fact tirelessly. PAX Labs was so proud of the JUUL’s nicotine salt e-liquid formulation that they patented it.
Even with a patent in place for the JUUL’s e-liquid formulation, other companies in the vaping industry wasted no time in developing nicotine salt e-liquids of their own. Hardware manufacturers, meanwhile, worked to develop pod systems good enough to compete with the JUUL. Before long, practically every vape shop in the country boasted a wide selection of pod systems and a shelf full of nicotine salt e-liquids.
If you’re a new or intermediate vaper, the existence of nicotine salt e-liquid leads to one question: What’s the best type of vape juice for you? In this introduction to nicotine salt vape juice, we’re going to shed some light on that question. First, though, let’s learn more about what nicotine salt e-liquid actually is.
What Is Nicotine Salt Vape Juice?
Nicotine salt e-juice is standard e-liquid that’s been chemically altered by an acidic substance such as malic acid or benzoic acid. The acid alters the chemical composition of the nicotine in the e-liquid, changing it from a free base to a salt. The more important thing, though, is that the acid also lowers the pH of the nicotine. We’ll explain why that’s valuable in a moment. Aside from the acid, nicotine salt e-liquid is essentially the same as standard e-liquid.
How Do Companies Market Nicotine Salt Vape Juice?
The next thing you need to know about nicotine salt e-liquid is that companies haven’t always marketed it in an entirely honest way. Some companies have made rather grandiose claims suggesting that nicotine salt e-liquid is better than standard e-liquid because it’s more like natural tobacco. They make that claim because nicotine is a salt as it exists in the tobacco leaf. The problem, though, is that the claim is mostly incorrect because most cigarettes are designed to produce freebase nicotine rather than nicotine salt. To freebase the nicotine in cigarettes, tobacco companies either use ammonia when processing the tobacco or manipulate the pH of the soil in which the tobacco is grown.
In short, the freebase nicotine used in standard e-liquids is the same as the freebase nicotine in most cigarettes. Nicotine salt e-liquid isn’t better than standard e-liquid because it’s more natural or more like real tobacco. The “real tobacco” in cigarettes is heavily manipulated to deliver nicotine as efficiently as possible and maximize addiction. Standard e-liquid uses freebase nicotine, and that’s the type of nicotine that’s most like what you get from a cigarette.
Why, then, does anyone bother buying nicotine salt e-juice?
Here’s the real reason.
The Real Benefit of Nicotine Salt Vape Juice
The real reason why nicotine salt vape juice is better for some people is that freebase nicotine is extracted from tobacco leaves with ammonia and has a high pH as a result. The high pH makes the nicotine somewhat irritating to the throat – and the higher the nicotine strength of the tobacco e-liquid, the more pronounced the irritation becomes.
Companies that produce freebase nicotine e-liquid generally do not offer it in strengths higher than about 18 mg. At strengths higher than that, the throat irritation gets so strong that it becomes difficult to enjoy the e-liquid at all.
So, what’s the problem? Isn’t 18 mg of nicotine enough?
Actually, for new smokers-turned-vapers, studies suggest that 18 mg of nicotine isn’t enough. At that nicotine strength, the small e-cigarettes that beginners prefer don’t produce enough vapor to deliver a satisfying amount of nicotine to the body. For a small vaping device to deliver a cigarette-like level of nicotine, the strength of the e-liquid needs to be more like 50 mg – and that’s just not possible with freebase nicotine because the throat irritation would be far too great.
The real magic of nicotine salt vape juice isn’t the nicotine salt itself; it’s the fact that the lower pH of the nicotine makes the e-liquid less irritating to the throat. With nicotine salt vape juice, a nicotine strength of 50 mg isn’t harsh and irritating. Instead, it’s smooth and satisfying like a cigarette. That’s why nicotine salt e-liquid has become so popular – it’s because nicotine salt is the only logical choice for people who want vaping to feel as much like smoking as possible.
What Vaping Equipment Works Best With Nicotine Salt Vape Juice?
Most nicotine salt vape juice comes in two strengths: a lower strength of approximately 20-25 mg and a higher strength of about 40-50 mg. While the higher strength is ideal for current smokers who want an experience as close to that of a cigarette as possible, the lower strength is better for those who have already switched to vaping and are already consuming less nicotine than a smoker would.
Whether you use the lower strength or the higher strength, nicotine salt e-liquid contains far more nicotine than most of today’s freebase nicotine e-liquids. When you examine the freebase e-liquid section of your local vape shop, you’ll primarily see nicotine strengths of 3 and 6 mg. Those nicotine strengths are intended for use in higher-output vaping devices.
So, on one side of your local vape shop, you have e-liquid in nicotine strengths of 3-6 mg, and on the other side, you have e-liquid in strengths of 20-50 mg. It’s probably obvious to you at this point that the two types of e-liquid aren’t intended for use in the same types of vaping devices.
If you’re going to try nicotine salt vape juice, you’ll need to use a lower-output vaping device designed for mouth-to-lung inhaling. The ideal vaping device for nicotine salt e-liquid is a pod vaping system with pre-filled or refillable plastic pods.