What are Nicotine Salts? A Guide for All Vapers

What are Nicotine Salts? Beginner's Guide to Salt E-Liquid

Freebase Nicotine Molecule vs. Nicotine Salts Molecule

Whether you're new to vaping, or you've been in the game for a while, you've probably heard some of the buzz surrounding "Nicotine Salts" and have wondered, "What on Earth is that?" Don't worry, we've all been there. Today, we'll go through all of the ins-and-outs of Nicotine Salts, what they are, what they do to vape juice, and who they're meant for. Join us!

Decisions, Decisions: What do I choose?

Vape juice has been comprised of the same four ingredients since vaping became a wide-spread phenomenon: Food Grade Flavoring, Vegetable Glycerin (VG), Propylene Glycol (PG), and, of course, Nicotine. While you can often change your preferences for Flavors, PG/VG blends, and Nicotine Strength, you haven't been able to choose the chemical state of your Nicotine, until now.

Freebase Nicotine

Traditionally, vape juice uses a pure-form of nicotine, often referred to as Freebase Nicotine. In this chemical form, Nicotine is at it's purest and is simply added to VG and PG to create vape juice. If you'd ever vaped prior to the last year or so, you've probably vaped a "freebase nicotine" juice, rather than a "Nicotine Salt" juice. The most important distinction between the two forms of Nicotine is their pH level. Without getting too complicated, Freebase Nicotine is the most "efficient" form of nicotine available to vapers. Because of the purified form, absorption of nicotine in its Freebase form is fast, which is why you get such a head rush when you vape a higher-strength for the first time in a while. However, due to the chemical composition of Freebase Nicotine, it is also very harsh when inhaled, which is why you notice such a drastic throat hit when you vape the higher strength vape juices like 6-12mg. 

Nicotine Salts

Enter Nicotine Salts, which make your vape juice much smoother and allow you to vape higher nicotine strengths. Rather than have a harsh throat hit on an 18mg juice in a pod system, you can use a 24mg Nicotine Salts vape juice for a much more tolerable hit. You're a sub-ohm vaper? That's cool, too. Use a lower Nicotine strength, like 5mg, and you'll see that Nicotine Salt vape juice works great for sub-ohm tanks at lower strengths! But, if you know chemistry, you also know that Nicotine Salts have a slower absorption rate than Freebase Nicotine, meaning, it's less efficient. If we're looking for the most-efficient method of quitting smoking, doesn't that seem counterintuitive? Only if you don't know the chemistry! Don't worry, we didn't at first either, so we put together a miniature chemistry lesson for you to make it easy to learn! 

The Chemistry of Nicotine (kind of...)

I, personally, didn't sign up for another chemistry class. Thankfully, I left those behind me, and I'm sure you did, too. So, we're not going to go fully-comprehensive with this lesson; I'm going to explain the ins-and-outs with as little jargon as possible so you can take what you need - nothing more, nothing less. 

The chemistry of vape juice is actually pretty simple. First of all, you need to understand pH levels and how they interact with your body. pH is essentially the measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance - whether or not it is acidic or basic. Basic substances, like bleach and baking soda, have a higher pH level than the average internal pH of humans. Freebase nicotine, notice the "base" at the end, is a basic substance with a higher pH than human beings. That is why it's so harsh on your throat. At 12mg, you can really feel the nicotine as it hits your throat; in a way, it almost burns. This is the chemical reaction of a basic substance coming in contact with an acidic surface.

In contrast, Nicotine salts have a lower pH than Freebase Nicotine. This is caused by introducing an acid to the Freebase in order to cause a chemical reaction that brings the pH level much closer to that of humans. In the case of vape juice, the acid that's introduced is Benzoic acid. Benzoic acid occurs naturally in many different plants and actually serves as a means of "biosynthesis" in nature. In short, it's a really safe way for manufacturers to alter the pH level of the vape juice they're making. By doing this, lowering the pH level, manufacturers are removing the harshness of traditional Freebase Nicotine. 

We stated earlier that making this change also makes absorption less efficient. This is really only partly true, though. In creating Nicotine Salts, chemists are able to increase the Nicotine strength of vape juice because the mixture is far less harsh to vape. So, while you might be used to vaping 3mg vape juice in your sub-ohm tank, you can use a 5mg Nicotine Salt blend in replacement that will be both less harsh on your throat, and will also help you to absorb a higher quantity over time. It might be less efficient, but it makes for a smoother and more appealing vape for many people. 

Advantages and Disadvantages

As with all things, there are advantages and disadvantages to Nicotine Salts vape juice. Looking to switch? There may be a trade-off, but you might find that the opportunity cost is well worth it. 


  • Smoother draw; less harsh on the throat.
  • Higher Nicotine levels for folks looking to maximize the effectiveness of each vape.
  • More pronounced flavor - Nicotine salts don't carry the "taste" of Nicotine like Freebase does, so you'll notice a more "true to flavor" vape at higher strengths.


  • Not encouraged for sub-ohm vapers, unless you're using a much lower strength than the usual "Salt Nic" high Nicotine levels. If you're a sub-ohmer, be careful. Only use lower strengths to start out.
  • Less pronounced throat hit - for some vapers, this may be a turn-off.
  • Fewer juices available - if you're trying to move over to Nicotine Salts, you may find that your favorite vape juices do not come that way. 

Are Nicotine Salts Right for You?

Nicotine Salts are perfect for new vapers, and others, too. It's all about knowing yourself, and knowing what you're putting in your body. If you're someone that uses a pod system or a smaller, above-ohm, vape, you might find that Nicotine Salts were something you wanted but didn't know you could have! We recommend trying Nicotine Salt vape juice if you find yourself going back to your vape more often than you'd like, or if you're looking to maximize the Nicotine strength of your vape juice without increasing the harshness. This is perfect for people who work manual labor jobs or are limited in their vape breaks at work because the Nicotine absorption for Nicotine Salts vape juice will help you to get the Nicotine you need in the short break-time you're given. 

All-in-all, it's really a personal decision. While I encourage any vaper to try them out, Nicotine Salts might not be for everyone. If you have a question about this, or anything vaping related for that matter, we encourage you to reach out to us at support@vistavapors.com! We're here to help!


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