Nicotine salts is a term you might have seen popping up quite a fair bit recently, and many of you might be scratching your heads as to what they actually are. It's definitely not something you put on your chips, rather it's a very effective form of nicotine that differs slightly from the freebase nicotine we are used to in our day to day eliquids. It's become very popular in the USA, and nicotine salt products are starting to make their way over to the UK market.
I've been experimenting with nicotine salt eliquids and devices containing nicotine salt based liquids over the past year, and I've written a guide below that might help you understand nicotine salts a little better, and it also may help you decide as to whether nicotine salts are for you or not.
What are nic salts?
Nic salts are derived from the natural nicotine salts found in tobacco plants, these salts are made up of positively charged ionized nicotine molecules bound to negatively charged organic conjugates. Freebase nicotine, as found in the ‘traditional’ eliquids we are used to, is a result of extracting these salts from tobacco plants and using ammonia to increase the pH level, returning the nicotine to a neutrally charged freebase state.
Nicotine salts aim to replicate the same nicotine hit that is provided by smoking a cigarette, as the nicotine salts are absorbed into your bloodstream much faster than the freebase nicotine found in ‘traditional’ eliquids on the market, meaning that a nicotine hit is felt quicker from inhaling vaporized eliquid containing nicotine salts.
On average, when smoking a cigarette it takes around 6-7 seconds for the nicotine hit to have an effect, and vaping freebase nicotine tends to take longer for this effect to take hold, whereas nicotine salts work quicker and provide the hit sooner.
Nicotine salt based eliquids from experience allow you to vape a higher concentration of nicotine, with a surprisingly smooth draw. I've been vaping 50mg/ml nicotine salt based pod systems in the past quite happily, with little throat hit and no unpleasant side effects. I'll use 20mg/ml nicotine salt based eliquid in a rebuildable tank or dripper, only needing around 5-6 puffs to satisfy my nicotine cravings. When using nicotine salt based eliquid, I can reduce my eliquid consumption to as low as 3-5ml per day, whereas when using freebase nicotine eliquids at 3-6mg strength I would average around 30ml per day.
Who made nic salts first?
American manufacturers PAX are widely credited with being the first company to bring Nicotine Salts to market back in June 2015, the nicotine salt based eliquid contained within the pods in their Juul device. They were also granted the patent within the USA for the nicotine salt based eliquid preparation used in Juul pods.
Do nicotine salts benefit people making the switch from smoking to vaping?
There are more than a few people out there who have struggled at first with switching from smoking to vaping, because they don't get the near instant gratification of a nicotine hit that they would get from a cigarette. They also struggle with the harsh throat hit that high strength ‘traditional’ eliquid can provide, which is off putting at first to a new user and requires persistence to get used to.
Nicotine salts work differently, and are able to provide that nicotine hit quicker, satisfying nicotine cravings within a few puffs, and the throat hit is far smoother with a higher nicotine concentration. This is perfect for someone trying to quit smoking and move over to vaping, and a big reason why the Juul has been such a runaway success in the USA.
What sort of vaping products use nicotine salts?
Perhaps the most famous product to use nicotine salts is the one that started it all, the PAX Juul, which had been proven to be immensely popular in the USA. For a very brief period of time you could purchase a Juul in the European Union from a couple of vendors, however the TPD legislation put paid to that due to the nicotine content in Juul pods, and as such the Juul is no longer available in the EU.
Nicotine Salt based eliquids are available in the EU however, with a maximum 20mg limit on them. TPD complaint nicotine salt ranges such as Mr Salt E and Dr Salt are available, and I'm sure this market will continue to grow rapidly as the popularity of nicotine salt based eliquids increases. Even large e-liquid manufacturers such as Element have released nicotine salt based eliquid ranges, as they realize the effectiveness of nicotine salts.
The strongest strengths of these e-liquids are intended for use in refillable pod system devices such as the Limitless Pulse, starter kit devices such as the Eleaf iCare, or tanks with high resistance coils and mouth to lung draws, such as the Aspire Nautilus 2. Lower strengths are also formulated and geared towards RDA and Sub Ohm tank users. At present, the cost of these eliquids is slightly higher than the eliquids we are used to using, however many people will find that their bottles of nicotine salt based eliquid last substantially longer than usual due to the more effective nicotine hit requiring less usage so the saving is there to be made by lower consumption rates of juice.
The effects of the 20mg TPD limit on nicotine salt based products
I have no doubt that the draconian 20mg limit imposed by the TPD on vaping products will adversely impact upon smokers using nicotine salt based products to help them make the switch from smoking to vaping, which is a real shame due to how effective nicotine salts can prove to be in harm reduction. It without a doubt limits the choices available to them within the nicotine salt market.
The Juul has proven to be one of the most popular and successful devices at getting people to stop smoking and start vaping in the USA, and this is thanks to the 50mg nicotine salt content found within its pods doing a superb job at replicating the nicotine hit a smoker would get from a cigarette. A 20mg pod just doesn't have the same effective hit that a 50mg one provides, meaning that increased use is required in order to achieve satisfaction, which would in turn lead to increased spending on replacement pods with new users, which may put them off and potentially back onto smoking due to the amount they have to spend on replacement pods.
One way that nicotine salts can still be effective with smokers making the switch is that they can use the highest strength 20mg nicotine salt eliquids with refillable devices such as the Nautilus 2 and the iCare, however there are still many users that would prefer the simplicity of a high strength nicotine salt pod system device over a refillable device, and due to the lower power and tighter draws with pod systems a 50mg strength would really be required with these.
The emergence of nicotine salt based products is something that I have followed closely since the Juul first came to market, and it's great to see nicotine salt based products hitting our shores over here. I'm intrigued to see whether we do get a TPD compliant Juul in the U.K, although at present PAX have no plans to release one, or whether similar pod systems containing nicotine salt based eliquids come to market. The ranges of nicotine salt based eliquids available in the UK are steadily increasing, which is great to see, and I'm sure in a years time we will have access to a wide range of nicotine salt based eliquids.
I personally have no doubt that these products will increase in popularity here even further over time, however it is a shame that the TPD imposed 20mg limit prevents these products from becoming a viable option for people wishing to quit smoking, as I'm sure that the higher strength options would only benefit harm reduction. Time will tell however, and I'll be following developments within the nicotine salt market closely.