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Freebase Nicotine Vs Nicotine Salts

by Ben Wong 09 Apr 2020 0 Comments

Freebase Nicotine Vs Nicotine Salts

Introduction to nicotine vaping

The concept behind vaping is really simple, nicotine e-liquid is absorbed into an organic cotton within your coil and vapourised when heated up to be inhaled by the user. Large vape devices are popular for the users who enjoy the sensation of having full lungs, much like smoking a shisha. For nicotine vapers however, having a larger cloud production also means you are inhaling a higher volume of nicotine, thus providing a stronger nicotine hit. 

The strength of vaping nicotine is calculated based on x MG/ML. While in a cigarette you would have a fixed amount of nicotine such as 3mg, 6mg, 8mg, 12mg up to 16mg. In vaping, having 50mg does not mean you are basically taking in 50mg of nicotine in a single puff. It would require you to vape 1ML of e-liquid in order to fully consume 50mg of nicotine. 

Freebase nicotine vs nicotine salts

There are two kinds of nicotine to vaping, freebase nicotine and nicotine salts. While the name nicotine salts tends to confuse, nicotine salts for vaping still come in liquid form and can still be added to your e-liquids much like regular freebase nicotine. 

Science behind free base nicotine and nicotine salts

To understand this properly, we must dive into the history behind nicotine and nicotine vaping. Prior to 2015, the nicotine used in vapes was a form of nicotine called “Freebase nicotine”. Freebase nicotine is the purest form of nicotine extracted from tobacco leaves. We could get extremely science-y explaining all the chemical reactions behind freebase nicotine but for easy reading, we will do our best to summarise it as much as possible for you. 

Tobacco leaves

It starts off with nicotine that is naturally produced in tobacco leaves. Naturally produced nicotine in tobacco leaves is originally considered a salt due to its chemical composition. Salts consist of an acid and a base (alkali). Back in the 1960’s, Phillip Morris developed a way to process tobacco with ammonia in order to make their cigarettes more addictive. This process was done to change the pH levels towards becoming more of a base. 

In salt form, nicotine has a more difficult time passing through our membranes meaning it was harder for us to absorb nicotine into our bodies. Freebasing nicotine from the naturally produced salts allowed for the nicotine in tobacco cigarettes to combust and travel in gaseous form much more readily for smokers. It basically meant more nicotine would travel into your lungs when smoking ammonia processed cigarettes, edging them out from the competition since their cigarettes allowed for nicotine to be absorbed into the body much more readily. This is the same reason why Marlboro is the most popular cigarette brand in the world since it allowed for a much more potent nicotine delivery without increasing actual nicotine content. 

Freebase nicotine is used in several quit smoking apparatuses, such as nicotine gum, nicotine patches and nicotine lozenges. Since this was a long standing method of using nicotine, freebase nicotine also found its way into vape products when electronic cigarettes were first invented.

Nicotine Patches

Freebase nicotine is high in alkali since ammonia is alkali which is the reason most vapers experience a form of “throat hit”, a burning and rough sensation in the back of your throat when vaping. Therefore the stronger the freebase nicotine content in your vape, the higher the alkali content and the stronger the throat hit.

It is for this reason that most vapers that enjoy freebase nicotine use low nicotine content with high wattage outputs, in order to maximize the amount of nicotine inhaled without experiencing an overly harsh throat hit. Needing a high wattage output device also meant vape devices when first introduced were large and chunky, the devices needed to have large battery capacities in order to support a full day use of high wattage vaping.

Pros and Cons of Freebase Nicotine


If freebase nicotine is more potent, why is nicotine salts increasing in popularity?

  • Before we move on to nicotine salts, lets recap the pros and cons of vaping with freebase nicotine
  • It is the purest form of nicotine.
  • It allowed for nicotine to pass through membranes and be absorbed into the body much quicker.
  • It is an alkali
  • The higher the alkali content, the stronger the throat burning sensation 


  • It has a strong throat hit
  • Strong throat hit prevented vapers from using high nicotine content
  • A lower nicotine level meant compared to a cigarette, the amount of nicotine absorbed into the body is less than you would get from a cigarette.
  • It required larger vape mods in order to support the high wattage vaping
  • Large clouds were produced which gave a negative connotation to vaping in public

Nicotine Salts

Pax Labs are responsible for developing nicotine salts and creating the Juul vape. Nicotine salts is the scientifically derived name from taking freebase nicotine which is an alkali and adding benzoic acid to move the alkali levels back to a more neutral level, much like a salt. As mentioned earlier, salts contain both acid and bases. This process enables nicotine salts to be used at high concentrations without experiencing the harsh throat burn sensations as you do with nicotine salts. 

Essentially, making nicotine more neutral removes the harshness caused by having freebase nicotine as an alkali. With the addition of benzoic acid amongst other acids that it is processed with, an added benefit is it reduces the temperature at which the nicotine turns into a gaseous state and allows a larger amount to be absorbed when taking a puff of your vape. Another chemical reaction occurs and actually allows nicotine to become more absorbable for your body, much like in cigarettes. Looking at the studies done by Pax Labs, their nicotine allowed for a blood nicotine level which is the closest to a cigarette compared to any other kind of nicotine delivery system.

Nicotine salt absorption

With stronger nicotine concentrations, this enabled smaller devices to be used since the amount of nicotine delivered is still similar to that of freebase nicotine. Despite the lesser amount of smoke and nicotine inhaled, the stronger concentration ensures the same amount of nicotine is delivered making vapes much more compact and making pod vapes grow in popularity.

Pros and Cons of Nicotine Salts

Lets recap the pros and cons of nicotine salts before moving on.


  • It is absorbed into the body much quicker, similar to the cigarette
  • It can be used at much stronger nicotine concentrations
  • It gives a nicotine delivery which is closest to a cigarette
  • It does not have a throat burning sensation
  • The ability to use a stronger nicotine concentration enabled smokers to have a quit smoking delivery mechanism that feels exactly like a cigarette.
  • Smaller more discreet devices were possible
  • Smoke production is at a minimal and less obnoxious when vaping in public


  • It is slightly more expensive than freebase nicotine
  • Some vapers do enjoy the “throat hit” sensation, therefore it is also listed as a con seeing that the feeling of a throat hit is removed in nicotine salts.

Should I use nicotine salts or freebase nicotine?

Nicotine selection is a very personal choice, while some vapers enjoy the sensation of having a throat hit, others don’t. Nicotine salts however is highly recommended by Ace Vape Melbourne, for the very reason that it’s delivery resembles cigarettes the most and has helped many of our customers completely stop smoking. Nicotine patches have not been as effective a quitting aid as vaping with nicotine salts has since the sensation of vaping feels almost exactly like a cigarette. You can find concentrated nicotine to add to your eliquids provided in on our knowledge hub section under "Where can I find Nicotine".

If you are after more discreet little vape devices such as pod devices or even pen style vape starter kits, nicotine salts is highly recommended as well since it allows for the same amount of nicotine to be delivered while retaining a small compact size. The reduced amount of smoke produced in these small devices make vaping a little more subtle, ideal in work situations or even social gatherings where you do not want to be seen exhaling burnout sized clouds.

If  you are looking for pod devices, we have also done a comprehensive review of what pods are popular with our customers at Ace Vape. Click on the link “The Rise of the Pod” to read that review now.

If you would like to know more about pod devices or any sort of vape product we carry, feel free to give us a call at 0488 383 842 for our Carlton store or (03) 9338 7002 at our Tullamarine store in Melbourne. 

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