Last fact-checked 26 January 2021 | Report a factual error on this article
Nic salt boosters were more popular than ever in 2020, but our research shows that the majority of UK vapers are sticking with freebase nicotine. Footnote 1 If you’re still on the fence about nic salt, then this is the article for you!
Nicotine salt is smoother and more effective than freebase nicotine — it’s a game-changing innovation — but it’s still quite new, and lots of vapers still have questions about it. In this article, we’ll take the 5 most commonly-asked questions about nic salts and we’ll give you the facts you need to give nic salts a try.
Common Nic Salt Questions:
There was a time when nic salts were more expensive than freebase alternatives, but nowadays there’s no price difference. In fact, when you consider the way that salt nic is absorbed by the body, salt nic is better value.
We made a list of every nicotine booster we currently sell and compared the average prices (price per-millilitre and price per-milligram of nicotine). What we found is that, on average, salt nicotine boosters are marginally more expensive per millilitre (£0.16 per ml versus £0.14 per ml for freebase nicotine), but both booster types are exactly the same price per milligram of nicotine (£0.008 per mg for both freebase and salt nic). While some 18mg/ml freebase nicotine boosters are available for less than £1.89 per 10ml bottle, salt nic is typically sold at a 20mg/ml strength: footnote 2
While there’s no difference in cost per-milligram of nicotine when you buy it, your body gets more ‘bang for its buck’ out of salt nicotine than it does traditional freebase nicotine — you need fewer puffs to satisfy your nicotine cravings when you vape salt nic. We’ll explain this in the next section…
Nicotine salt is considered ‘stronger’ than freebase nicotine, because when you vape it, your blood nicotine levels are much higher for a much longer period of time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re trying to quit smoking.
If you’re using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, it’s vital that you get enough nicotine into your bloodstream to match the dose you were previously getting from cigarettes. It can make it much harder to quit smoking successfully if you drop your nicotine dosage too soon. Footnote 3
Per-puff, cigarette smoke is much better at delivering nicotine than freebase-infused e-liquid vapour. This is a problem that PAX Labs (the inventors of salt nicotine) set out to fix in 2015. The chart above shows the difference in blood nicotine levels between cigarette smoke (the yellow line at the top), traditional freebase-nic-infused e-liquid vapour (the blue line at the bottom) and salt-nic-infused e-liquid vapour (the pink line). PAX Labs were able to make vaping much more ‘like’ smoking in terms of nicotine delivery, and that has made all the difference for ex-smokers trying to fight off nicotine cravings. Footnote 4
There aren’t any peer-reviewed academic studies out there that look specifically at the safety profile of nic salt compared to freebase nicotine (there is one clinical trial in America that may be relevant - see footnote 5). Current evidence suggests that nic salt is no more dangerous than freebase nicotine.
There is just one chemical difference between freebase and salt nicotine: salt nicotine contains benzoic acid. Benzoic acid occurs naturally in certain foods (cinnamon, cranberries and plums, for instance); it’s also used as an additive in soft drinks and sugar-free jams. Based on research conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), you would ingest a lot more benzoic acid by spreading sugar free jam on your toast in the morning than you would by vaping nic salt infused e-liquid for a whole day. Footnote 6
Nicotine, in any form, is a highly addictive and potentially dangerous substance. If you have serious heart problems or if you have had a heart attack, the NHS advice is to talk to your doctor before starting on any form of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) (see more on the NHS website here). You should avoid nicotine if you’re not already addicted to it.
Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance, and when you vape nic salts, the nicotine gets absorbed into your bloodstream more effectively than with freebase boosters. This makes some people worry that they could accidentally increase their dependence on nicotine, just by switching from one type of booster to another. If nicotine cravings become too strong, then cigarettes start to look tempting again, so you have to tread carefully here.
Nicotine is nicotine — it doesn’t come in varying forms of ‘addictiveness’ — but you will feel like you’re getting more nicotine ‘per vape’ from salt nic, purely because of how it works in your body. Salt nicotine is smoother on the throat, too, so if you usually only stop vaping when the throat hits become too much, then salt nicotine could be a bad choice for you.
To switch from freebase to salt nic safely, our advice is to start vaping nic salts at a much lower nicotine strength (mg/ml). You can always adjust your nicotine dosage upwards if you feel you need more. Some box mods have puff counters which can help you to keep an eye on your consumption levels, too. If you have any doubts, ask your NHS Stop Smoking counsellor or your doctor for further advice.
Just remember that the ‘job’ of nicotine-infused e-liquid is to help you quit smoking. If you’re doing well on freebase nicotine and you’re worried you might relapse if you try salt nic, the safest thing to do is stick with freebase nicotine. You don’t have to make the switch.
It might be harder for a lab technician to make nic salt, but for consumers and end-users like us, there’s no noticeable difference.
Nicotine salt boosters are sold in 10ml bottles, just like freebase nicotine. The process of adding nicotine to shortfill is the exact same when you’re adding nic salt as it is when you’re adding freebase nicotine. Learn how to add nicotine to shortfill here.
A growing number of pre-mixed e-liquids use nic salt rather than freebase nicotine, so you don’t have to be able to ‘mix your own’ — you can try nic salt without any pre-mixing. Just browse our nicotine salt e-liquids department and find a flavour that’s right for you.
Nic Salts Can Prevent Dilution, too!
More and more e-liquid producers are offering pre-flavoured salt shots that match their most popular lines. This is a great way to get your nicotine fix without diluting the flavour of your favourite vape juice.
For instance, you can now buy a 50ml shortfill bottle of Nasty Juice's ASAP Grape and pair that with an ASAP Grape flavoured 'Nasty Salt'. At the 20mg strength, this 10ml nic salt shot produces 60ml of 3.3mg strength ASAP Grape juice with no loss of flavour.
I hope this guide has given you a bit more information about nicotine salt. If you have any other questions, please get in touch with us. We’re not chemists, but we are expert vapers, and we’re always happy to help our customers. Just fill in our contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
Stay safe and happy vaping!John Boughey
Links & Citations
Our own statistics show that nicotine salt boosters, as a share of total nic booster sales, reached an all-time high in the period 1st Jan - 31st Dec 2020. In fact, the share of sales of nicotine boosters that are nic salt based has increased by 31% in the last year alone. In spite of rapid growth in demand for nicotine salt based nicotine boosters, 61.56% of our customers continued to buy freebase nicotine in 2020.
This chart is based on average prices for the full range of nicotine boosters available for sale on gourmeteliquid.co.uk on 25 January 2020. ‘Out of Stock’ boosters were not included. The most up-to-date list can be found on our Nic Boosters Department.
It’s important to maintain your normal nicotine dosage when you’re quitting, and wean yourself off slowly with professional guidance. This is fundamentally what NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy, i.e. e-cigarettes, patches, gum and sprays) is all about. For professional, free advice on how to quit smoking, talk to your local NHS Stop Smoking Service.
The chart shown here is taken from a TechCrunch article about PAX Labs and Salt Nicotine, which you can read in full at the link below:
There is one trial in the United States that is comparing nic salt versus freebase nicotine, but it’s looking more at how the use of either substance’s ‘Pharmacokinetics, Subjective Effects and Abuse Liability’ is affected by flavours. You can find the study at the link below:
Full WHO statistics on Benzoic Acid consumption, by nation, can be found on pages 11 and 12 of the WHO report on Benzoic Acid at the link below:https://www.who.int/ipcs/publications/cicad/cicad26_rev_1.pdf