Nicotine: Freebase Vs Salts For E-Liquids

Nicotine Salt E Liquid 0

Over the last several years, a growing number of e-liquid manufacturers have started offering an alternative to the free base nicotine e-liquid which had been ubiquitously used for years. These new nicotine salts were first heralded as a distinct improvement on traditional techniques, but as we’ve had more time to test and experiment with them, it’s become clear that each has their distinct advantages and disadvantages.

So to help the vapers out there understand which type is better for them, we made this short guide going over the most important similarities and differences between these different types of nicotine. We’ll also shed some light on which types are ideal for various kinds of vapers.

Nicotine Salt Infographic

What’s The Difference

For most of the time vaping has been around, the only option for nicotine was free-base nicotine. This lab treated version of nicotine was first developed in the 60s by Big Tobacco companies as a way to increase the level of nicotine found in their cigarettes.

Over the years, this became the standard, and when vaping was first introduced, e-liquids used this type of nicotine exclusively. The nicotine found naturally in tobacco leaves actually has a similar chemical composition to salt. Scientists can then convert this nicotine from its natural state into free-base nicotine by using ammonia to increase the alkalinity of the nicotine.

It was until relatively recently that free-base nicotine was the only type of nicotine available in e-liquids. This wasn’t much of an issue, given the growth of vaping, but over the next few years, those who had just switched sometimes complained about lower nicotine levels or harsh throat hits which accompany the higher concentrations.

Enter nicotine salts, and the vaping world had a new option for an improved smoking-like experience. The researchers who developed this technique had the idea to increase the acidity of nicotine, instead of decreasing it and making a free-base. After some trial and error, they were able to develop a new form of nicotine, which could provide high nicotine content without the harsh hit usually associated with higher levels.

Freebase Nicotine Salts

Pros and Cons

While some articles have tried to make the case that nicotine salts are the superior option in all cases, the truth is both have specific instances they’re best suited for. That said, there are a few advantages to nicotine salts that most people can agree on, such as a faster absorption into the system, and being appropriate for the widest range of nicotine strengths.

However, there are some disadvantages, as well. For instance, nicotine salt e-liquids generally have weaker flavor profiles than traditional e-liquids, so if flavor is extremely important to you, that’s something you need to consider. By the same token, nicotine salt e-liquids are less optimized for cloud chasing, producing far smaller clouds.

This, however, could be seen as a pro or con depending on your preference. For every vaper who wants to blow the biggest clouds imaginable, there’s one who wants to be as inconspicuous as possible. Lastly, nicotine salt e-liquids tend to be more expensive than their free-base counterparts, which is another downside for the budget-conscious.

While traditional free-base e-liquids are typically only suitable for low to medium strength nicotine, they don’t contain any benzoic acid, an additive used to produce nic-salts. Free-base e-liquids are also ideal for most styles of vaping, whereas nicotine salts only really work well for recent converts and those who prefer MTL vaping.

Nicotine Salt Liquid Bottles


Understanding the differences between traditional free-base nicotine and nicotine salt e-liquids is an essential step for any vaper. Each type has its advantages, and understanding what they are is the only way to zero in on your ideal vaping experience.

If you’re someone who only recently switched to vaping, start with a nicotine salt e-liquid, as it’ll help make the transition less bumpy. But after a few months, you may want to switch to a free-base nicotine e-liquid to enhance the flavor and work on your cloud chasing. There is no right or wrong answer, only what’s right and wrong for you!

Have you ever tried nicotine salt e-liquids? Do you think vapers should take the time to learn about what each style of nicotine provides them? Let us know in the comments below!

Jimmy, lover, blogger, vaper and ex-smoker. I’ve been blogging about and supporting Vaping since 2009. They changed my life and I think history will show them as one of the most significant public health invention of the 21st century.

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