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Nicotine Salt vs Freebase? Why Nicotine Salt Is The New Craze

December 29, 2017 25 Comments

Nicotine salts. It’s the new thing on the block and smokers and vapers alike are flocking to it to quit cigarettes for good.

If you haven't heard of it before, nicotine salt basically allows you to vape at higher nicotine strengths without getting the rough throat hit you’re typically used to. This also means you get more bang for your buck! You end up vaping less because you get a lot more nicotine. So, if you love that light headed feeling, but hate having to vape 24/7, nic salts may be right for you.

As you may already know, the higher nicotine level you go, the throat hit becomes harsher. It can turn off a lot of smokers transitioning into vaping if they have to endure the harsh throat hit while also not getting the level of buzz that you would otherwise get in a cigarette. Not to mention, it can be a hassle for new vapers to figure out how to get a simple nicotine fix with the advancements in vaping technology in the past several years.


Nicotine Salt may be a good fit for you if you...

    For those who are interested in learning more about salt nicotine and what it can do for you, you’re in the right place. So, what’s the difference between salt nicotine and what people are vaping now?


    What is Freebase Nicotine?

    Freebase Nicotine - Marlboro Reds

    The nicotine in your vape juice that you are familiar with is something called freebase nicotine. It is a method that tobacco companies have been using since the 60’s.

    Freebase means that the nicotine is in its purest form compared to the other nicotine derivatives. In turn, the nicotine is much more potent when heated and it can be absorbed much faster in your lungs and in your brain.

    This method was found in the 1960’s by Phillip Morris, the company that owns Marlboro. What they found is that if they manipulate the pH levels in nicotine, it can provide more of a kick than the previous cigarettes in the 1950’s without increasing the dose, making Marlboro cigarettes more addictive. This was a major breakthrough for Marlboro and they enjoyed this competitive advantage for years as they became one of the most popular brands or addicting cigarettes in the world.


    The Chemistry Behind It

    Nicotine Freebase Molecule

    In order to understand what nicotine salt is, it’s important to understand how freebase nicotine works. About to get science-y here so bear with me.

    Nicotine in tobacco leaves has the chemical composition of a salt. A salt is made up of a chemical reaction that has a positive charge (Acid) and negative charge (Base).

    Nicotine’s chemical nature is a weak base and made up of negatively charged particles. As a base, it seeks to find positively charged particles (Protons) to find stability and become Ionized. Nicotine in tobacco leaves or ions is not the most effective way of delivering nicotine into our bodies because ions have a harder time moving across organic membranes and are not easily vaporized.

    This is where freebasing comes in. Phillip Morris found that if the nicotine was de-protonated (via ammonia) or to remove its positive charge, it can go back to its free state where it will be much easier to travel across membranes in our bodies. In a nutshell, nicotine in its freebase form makes it more bioavailable to your lungs and to your brain which makes it more potent.

    Phillip Morris found that impregnating tobacco with a salt like diammonium phosphate releases ammonium when the cigarette is combusted thereby freeing the nicotine into free base form.

    If freebase nicotine is more potent, then why are smokers gravitating to nicotine salts?

    What is Nicotine Salt?

    Tobacco Leaves - Nicotine Salt

    Nicotine salt as we explained above is the natural state that nicotine is in tobacco leaves.

    We also mentioned that nicotine salt is much more stable and not as volatile as the freebase form. Salt nics also take higher temperatures to vaporize and the ions don’t easily travel to your nicotine receptors in your body.

    To put simply, it’s not the most effective way to deliver nicotine to your body compared to the de-protonated freebase form.

    So, what’s all the craze about?

    Pax labs, the innovator of this new vaping method found a way to use nicotine salt as a means to make 50 mg nicotine palatable while making it more bioavailable than what we have currently in the vaping market. Their goal was to mimic the sensation of smoking a cigarette as closely as possible and so far, it looks like it’s working.

    How is this possible? Many of you are probably a little confuddled right now. The secret ingredient that makes all of the magic happen lies in the use of benzoic acid. Benzoic acid serves two key purposes in salt nicotine:

    1. It helps nicotine salt vaporize at lower temperatures as well as lowering the pH levels in the salt nicotine which results in a smoother throat hit
    2. A chemical reaction occurs that makes the nicotine more absorbable like free base nicotine

    What this means is that you can vape comfortably at high nicotine levels such as 50 mg and it also makes it easier for your body to absorb nicotine contrary to the nature of nic salts. It seems from Pax’s patent that it only works on specific salt nicotine formulation with certain types of acids. As you can see in the graph provided by PAX labs, the nicotine salt e-liquid can help you deal with your cravings more effectively than regular vape juices.   

    Nicotine Salt in Bloodstream versus Cigarettes Graph   

    If you look at the purple and green line above, the amount of nicotine absorbed into the bloodstream is comparable to smoking a cigarette and can provide greater nicotine satisfaction than traditional e-liquids in the market.


    What’s the difference between freebase nicotine and nicotine salt?

    Nicotine Salt vs Freebase Nicotine

    From a vaping perspective, the difference between freebase nicotine and nicotine salt is a matter of how it affects your vaping experience.

    One noticeable difference is the harshness induced by higher nicotine levels. Freebase nicotine has a higher pH level which affects the alkalinity. What this does is that it makes freebase e-liquid taste harsher as you climb the nicotine ladder. Whereas, salt nicotine have a lower alkalinity due to the benzoic acid which gives you a reportedly smoother throat hit and makes vaping at 50 mg nicotine bearable.

    The second difference is how the two travel through your body. Even though nicotine salts are known to be not the most effective way to deliver nicotine, Pax Labs have supposedly figured out a way to make it more effective than freebase nicotine. This is due to the benzoic acid added to the salt nicotine as the nicotine becomes much more readily available and more effective than traditional freebased e-liquids.


    What Device To Use For Salt Nics

    Low wattage device vs high powered device

    One thing to keep in mind is that salt nics operate in lower wattage devices. It is strongly recommended to avoid using high powered devices to vape salt nicotine. Using sub-ohms to vape salt nicotine at 50 mg nic levels will give you excessive amounts of nicotine and would be fairly unpleasant.

    As we have stated above, the salt nics are designed to be used in lower wattage devices due to the higher amount of nicotine absorbed as well as not requiring to vaporize at higher temperatures.

    Not only are the devices low profile and sleek, most of the low wattage devices are autofire meaning you only get vapor when you inhale it. This makes it a user-friendly device for any smokers who are new to vaping without the investment in figuring how all of the current devices work.

    The low wattage, high resistance devices that are currently on the market come with two available options:

    1. Open System - you can refill manually by buying nicotine salt e-liquids
    2. Closed System - you can buy cartridges/pods that contain e-liquid which usually come in packs of 4 without creating a mess :)

    Side note: You can also consider getting lower nicotine levels like 3 mg and 6 mg in nicotine salt form for your sub-ohm device. As far as it being more effective at delivering nicotine than freebase nicotine as PAX lab claims in their study is up to debate. What you may notice is a smoother throat hit than freebase nicotine e-juices.


    Benefits of Nicotine Salts

     Ruthless Nicotine Salt E-juice Bottles

    • User-Friendly Device - It’s easy to use and hassle-free. You also have the options to buy cartridges which can be convenient since you don’t have to make a mess refilling e-juices. Not only that, it fits in your pocket like a charm and if you’re not into getting huge clouds then salt nics are right for you
    • Higher Nicotine Levels - This is a huge step for the vaping community since the higher nicotine levels and the instant rush you get from nicotine salts will help immensely in quitting cigarettes. Some may argue that nic salts are more effective in fighting cravings than the other devices in the market.       
    • Smoother tasting and less nicotine bite - Nicotine salt can create a better vaping experience in general for those who want to vape at higher nicotine levels. The throat hit will not be as harsh compared to the freebase nicotine at the same levels.
    • Use Less E-liquids - Because of the high nicotine levels and better absorption, you will not need to consume as much e-juice. Less vapor production is needed and can be a big plus for someone who is looking for a more low profile device that works arguably better for your nicotine satisfaction
    • Longer shelf life - Due to nicotine salt being in its natural state, it is more stable and less likely to oxidizing faster.

    Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with nicotine salt. And feel free to browse our mouthwatering nicotine salt e-juice collection!

    If you found this article helpful, read our beginner's guide to nicotine salt to see if nic salts are a good fit for you! 

      25 Responses


      January 21, 2019

      Great article! My boyfriend has been a heavy vapor (using a high wattage tank and freebase e-liquid. I have spent hundreds over the last year attempting to quit smoking and get on the vapor train but the vaping always fell short and I was back to the cigarettes within a few days. I have been cigarette-free for almost 5 weeks now after discovering the Suorin Air and the 50mg Nic Salts. I definitely suggest this route for people who are trying to quit smoking – it is the only vape setup that has worked for me and I was smoking a pack a day.

      Brian from Ruthless
      Brian from Ruthless

      July 02, 2018

      Hello Greg:

      If a 3 mg of regular e-juice (freebase) was compared to a 3 mg nicotine salt ejuice, then the nic salt would be much smoother.

      However, commercial nic salts usually range in the 25 – 50 mg range in the vaping market. Anything lower will require you to DIY nics salts to be in the 3mg or 6 mg range.

      At Ruthless Vapor, the lowest nic salt we offer is at 35 mg. If you were to compare a 35 mg nic salt to a 3 mg freebase, many would say 3 mg would be much smoother. Even at 35 mg nic salts, some may find it harsh but after couple of usage, you will easily get used to the throat hit.

      PAX labs claims nic salts are more effective or stronger due to the chart they provided above.

      As for choking at 6 mg, it may also be due to how you are inhaling your vape. I would adjust the airflow or take smaller and slower hits.

      Check out this article here to learn about the two kinds of vapes:


      Hope that helps Greg! My final advice is to stick with 3 mg nicotine if you feel like it’s a good nicotine level for you to stay away from smoking!

      Happy Vaping,



      June 29, 2018

      So I have a question… If I smoke 3mg vape juice because 6mg is too harsh and jokes make me choke… With nicotine salts being less harsh w more nicotine- does that just mean if I get higher nicotine it won’t be as harsh or does it mean the salts are stronger themselves- meaning a 3mg of salt is stronger and more “effective” than 3mg of vape juice or freebase nicotine? Your time and help is much appreciated! Thank you

      You can put regular juice in pod mods!
      You can put regular juice in pod mods!

      June 12, 2018

      You can put regular e-juice in a pod mod vape such as the sourin air or rolo badge. Just remember, pod mod devices are low wattage mouth to lung devices.

      You may not get the full flavor profile with a lower wattage device as you would in a sub-ohm vape! Either way, a pod mod is a great secondary device to carry around! Cheers!

      Brian From Ruthless
      Brian From Ruthless

      June 11, 2018

      Hello Kaitlynn:

      Thanks for the comment, you can totally put regular e-juice in your Rolo badge as long as its Ruthless e-juice ;) Check out our new flavors “Antidote On Ice” and “Skir Skirrr On Ice” if you haven’t already here:


      Happy Vaping!


      June 06, 2018

      Can I put normal juices (Non Salt) in my Pod System? I have a Rolo Badge from SMOK.

      Nathan Y.
      Nathan Y.

      May 14, 2018

      I loved reading your article, I found it quite informative and very easy to follow as a layman with an interest in chemistry. I just wanted to point something out, maybe you’ve already been made aware, and if so, please disregard this comment. “Using sub-ohms to vape salt nicotine at 50 mg nic levels will give you excessive amounts of nicotine and would be fairly unpleasant.” I daresay from both reading and experience, that in addition to POTENTIALLY being unpleasant (depends on what kinda vaper you are), it is absolutely hazardous to vape above 24mg/mL through a sub-ohm device. Again, depending on preference and constitution, some people might be fine with sub-ohming 50 nic (I used to work at a shop and we had a customer who did this), but in general I would ALWAYS recommend against it. I just wanted to put that out there, as most companies that I’ve seen who make or co-pack high-nic salts put some kind of “Not for Sub-Ohm Use” label on their bottles.

      Brian from Ruthless
      Brian from Ruthless

      May 09, 2018

      Hey Rick:

      Thank you for your well-thought out comment man! I feel you immensely on so many levels and I wish I never started. Nicotine addiction is no joke, and the thought of being a slave to it is not a way to live your best life. With that said, the additives in cigarettes also contribute to the addiction which makes quitting cigarettes super difficult. Nicotine salts is a step in the right direction and it has the potential to help many vapers be entirely smoke-free. Thank you for sharing your experience with us and I wish you the best on your vaping journey!




      May 09, 2018

      Ah… the internet, a plethora of mis and disinformation… which has led me here. Chemistry aside, but wait, we cannot escape it. (sigh) Appearantly ions and/or amonia are the factor in better nicotine absorbtion in regard to nic salts. I find chemistry interesting, but it is far from my grasp. Perhaps it is the too much to know and understand before an application can be made for me to delve into. I know bleech and amonia are a bad mix from experience.
      Back to the nic thing, I know ammonia, and I presume ammonium in a lab, increase our body’s ability to absorb nicotine. It is found naturally, if that is the term you like, in tobacco leaves. It is also added by some cigarette makers to increase nic absorbtion. Most if not all of the ammonia present in tobacco leaves, is released through curing and aging before it is used as a commercial product.
      Due to our countries laws, we have so called fire safe smokes. What a joke, and yet another mindless head and body *&$# by our fearless leaders. The additives taste horrible, and worse, cause me to wake in the middle of the night with a new form of smokers cough, With flem that refuses to exit my lungs. Thanks to our mindless leaders, I know what unmolested tobacco leaves taste like, and the difference in taste profile and nicotine level in the most common leaf types.
      I for some reason am not the average bear when it comes to smoking and addiction. I get the nic buzz in varing degrees. Having become a heavy smoker, those degrees tend to be on the lower side when using tobacco. I have found through experimentation with wattage settings while vaping, the upper range of a coils power limits gives a very quick rush with freebase nicotine. Complete with a body rush that I rarely get with tobacco leaf. I do not want to invoke or provoke an increase in anyone’s addiction level, but for those like me who find vaping short on delivery compared to smoking, information is the key to success. Like this little gem —> the more nicotine your brain recieves, the more it will tell you it needs.
      Addiction is annoying, and frustrating thing. Like having to breath while under water, If only I never when swiming. If smoking could kill as effectivly as heroin, most of us would have no doubt never tried it, and the Gooberment would have outlawed it at some point.
      Thanks for the article. Now I know salts are worth trying, but moreover, I dont need special gear.

      Brian From Ruthless
      Brian From Ruthless

      April 17, 2018

      Juul Lover:

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us! A common misconception is that nicotine is bad for you since it’s in cigarettes. However, nicotine is not what causes cancer from smoking. It can be toxic and lethal when ingested in large amounts but unless you are manufacturing pure nicotine or are DIY’ing, it shouldn’t raise any concern as long as you are properly handling your e-liquid. Just like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant and have addicitive properties which explains why we have nicotine gums and nicotine patches out on the market. There are negative side effects from nicotine but one will have to decide between giving up nicotine completely or using less harmful ways of getting your nicotine other than smoking cigarettes.

      For more information, check out the article below.



      Hey Kathleen! Thanks for the read and sharing your input! I haven’t tried the Smok Rolo yet but that will be up next on my to-vape list! Check out our Ruthless nic salts if you haven’t already!

      Appreciate it Y’all!


      April 15, 2018

      If you enjoy the juul as I have for a yr you will absolutely love the smok ROLO Badge u fill the pod yourself and save tons of money!

      Juul lover
      Juul lover

      April 13, 2018

      I quit smoking 7 years ago. I don’t like cigarettes anymore. I even tried to start smoking again because I missed the act upon occasion. It is so terrible though. Tastes like crap, makes me feel sick really and I just can’t even do it.
      Then I hit someone’s juul, and I love it!!! No pain at all anywhere – no upset tummy, no throat hit, no bad taste in your mouth, no stinkiness, and it’s yummy and I really like it. I don’t get cravings. I can put it down for days. I feel absolutely no different using the juul, and I use the juul pods so I think that means I’m getting 50mg?
      Question is:
      Is nicotine itself, in a very pure form, bad for you?

      Brian From Ruthless
      Brian From Ruthless

      April 03, 2018

      Hello Paulie Peanuts! Thanks for the read and your comment!

      There are many differences between smoking and vaping. Although both contain nicotine, smoking and vaping absorb differently in your body. There are chemicals in cigarettes to boost the effect of nicotine, so you feel it instantaneously. Researchers have found that even when using a high wattage sub-ohm device, it takes about 35 minutes for the nicotine in your bloodstream to be equivalent to the first 5 minute of smoking a cigarette. Thus, you feel like you have to vape 10x times to get the same satisfaction which can also lead to chain vaping and get a little nic sick.

      For more information on this matter, feel free to read this article:


      To answer your question, one of the key reason nicotine salt is becoming popular is that nic salts reduce what vapers call a nic bite. The higher the nicotine strength in freebase e-juice, the harsher it becomes. If you were to vape an 18 mg freebase e-juice, it would be very harsh, and it will be hard to enjoy the flavor. However, if you have 18 mg nicotine salt juice, you will have a much smoother throat hit.

      There is two school of thoughts here when it comes to nicotine salts:

      1) Nicotine salt absorbs faster in your bloodstream than freebase e-juice due to specific nicotine salt formulation and the use of benzoic acid. According to an experiment done by Pax Labs.

      2) Nicotine salt is NOT more efficient than freebase nicotine based on tobacco scientists. This is because freebase nicotine travels through your body easier. A highly engineered feat conducted by tobacco researchers to increase smoking satisfaction. However, nic salts allow vapers to vape at high nicotine strength in a user-friendly way. Thus, useful in helping smokers quit.

      The confusion comes with PAX Lab’s chart as shown above. Nicotine salt shows to be much more effective than freebase nicotine which seems contradictory to what tobacco researchers have found. What we don’t know is if PAX labs have used the same nicotine strength for the freebase and nicotine salt to conduct the experiment. Some may even speculate that freebase nicotine is released in nic salts due to a chemical reaction.

      With all of that being said, nic salts (Ruthless Ez Duz It on Ice) have worked for me to quit smoking cigarettes due to the high nicotine strength compared to freebase e-juice. It will be hard to tell with confidence what the equivalent will be. If you were to vape 35 mg nicotine strength in the same device with nic salt and freebase nicotine, nic salt will reduce the throat hit but will one be more effective than the other? That will require further investigation from the scientific community to answer your question. I hope that helps and feel free to ask more questions!

      Brian From Ruthless
      Brian From Ruthless

      April 03, 2018

      Sage of the Six Paths:

      Of course, golf course. You can vape our many Ruthless flavors at zero mg all day long my friend! May not be ideal for vape tricks but def will work! Thanks for the read!

      Paulie Peanuts
      Paulie Peanuts

      April 02, 2018

      Some of this doesn’t make that much sense to me. When we quit smoking we have to vape like 10x the amount that we smoked to feel satisfied.. So how is free base nicotine in regular e-juice more efficient than nicotine in its natural state? So what really is the equivalent. Lets say im on low wattage 9 watts… what is the equivalent ? 18mg = 50mg salts? Or can we just say the nicotine amounts and absorption are relatively the same.. with the only difference is the harshness and amount ur consuming at once… So 18mg would have the same or less throat hit than 50? And ud just end up vaping more 18mg and less 50mg?

      Sage of the Six Paths
      Sage of the Six Paths

      March 31, 2018

      Sooo, would you be able to use a 0mg vape juice in a refillable pod system?

      Brian From Ruthless
      Brian From Ruthless

      March 21, 2018

      Hey Tony, thanks for reading and much appreciated on the correction! We are in the process of uploading a new diagram!!

      H.S. James, Yes you are correct. Nicotine salts with high nicotine strengths such as 25 – 50 mg are not recommended in high wattage or sub-ohm devices. However, there are DIYers who make 3 and 6 mg juices using a nicotine salt formulation for an ultra-ultra smooth throat hit! Let me know if that helps or if you have any other questions :)

      H.S. James
      H.S. James

      March 21, 2018

      I’m a bit confused. Would a Druga RDA be something that you would NOT use the salt based juices with?


      March 17, 2018

      My organic chem may be a bit rusty but I think your 2 nicotine structures are both the same. The line coming off the pyrrolidine nitrogen (upper left) represents a methyl group, ie CH3 (upper right), in geek chemist pictograms. The salt formation comes about by an acidic hydrogen forming a “hydrogen bond” to the lone pair of 2p-electrons (not shown) on the nitrogen atom. The acid hydrogen forms a sort-of bridge linkage between the nicotine molecule and the rest of the acid molecule. The same thing can also happen at the pyridine nitrogen at low pH conditions. But I won’t get into the equilibria here because the rust is too too much.

      Brian from Ruthless
      Brian from Ruthless

      March 02, 2018

      Hey Lesley! Awesome stuff!! The first two weeks are the hardest to quit smoking and big ups on making over that hump! Experts recommend 50 mg as a starting point for heavy smokers and Juuls are a great way to get started. If you’re interested in similar devices, check out the Phix.

      Vaping doesn’t always have to be about the nicotine and you can always make it a richer experience by entering into a whole new world of flavors :) If you’re interested, try out some of the open pod systems out there. You’ll get a slightly airier draw and a wider range of flavor selection. Psss, they will save you money in the long run. Happy for you Lesley and Keep it up!


      March 01, 2018

      On day 10 no cigs I bought a JUUL and this is the first time I’ve been totally satisfied using a vap. I haven’t looked back nor craved a cigarette at all. I am using 5 mg pods and the hits are so smooth yet a very satisfying throat hit. Yeah!!

      Brian From Ruthless
      Brian From Ruthless

      February 16, 2018

      Hello Jon! That’s awesome to hear you’re staying away from the stinkies !! and for sure dude, using nic salts as a secondary device is super handy when you’re out with friends and such. If you haven’t tried open pod systems, it’s a great way to try out a variety of flavors in nicotine salt form. Plus they have an airer draw than closed pod systems like Juuls or Phix. Here is an article about vape pods if you’re interested: https://www.ruthlessvapor.com/blogs/ruthless-e-liquid/nicotine-salt-devices-vape-pods Happy vaping and always glad to hear a fellow vaper staying away from smoking!

      Jon k
      Jon k

      February 15, 2018

      I just purchased a juul and its the first time a vape has succesfully kept me from smoking. I also smoke it much less a week after buying it, yet still thoroughly enjoy it. Im seriously impressed with paxs work.

      Ill still probably vape freebase juice, but more for fun than my nic fix


      January 29, 2018

      The compound itself is called a salt due to its ionized state. To answer your question, it’s not the same thing as table salt. However, chemically speaking, the compounds are similar.

      As far as being swollen, it is most likely due to being dehydrated. Vaping nicotine salt or freebase nicotine will cause dehydration since both e-juices contain PG. If you aren’t familiar witht he ingredients in your vape juice, there are 4 main ingredients: PG, VG, Flavoring, and Nicotine. PG is a humectant and it will retain water which will take moisture away from your saliva and may cause a sore throat.

      A good practice for new vapers is to drink more water than you usually do. Chain vaping will further amplify this effect so be wary of any symptoms of dehydration. If the PG ratio is high in your e-juice, I would recommend playing around with a lower PG e-juice and see if that will do the trick. Let me know if this helps!

      Brian from Ruthless!!


      January 25, 2018

      When we talk about nicotine salts in that compound is there any similarity to actual salt?
      The reason I ask, is since I have using the juul I find my body retaining water, swollen.

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