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An Introduction to Vape Juices: Nic Salts vs Freebase

With all the information out there, it can be overwhelming trying to understand all the things you need to know about vaping in order to make a well-informed decision. One of the biggest things you need to know before purchasing a product is how much nicotine is in it and what type of nicotine it is. This affects not only the vaping experience but also impacts how quickly the nicotine gets absorbed into your system and will also influence the type of vape you will need.

So what is the difference between freebase nicotine and salt nicotine? The short answer: nicotine salts are naturally found in tobacco leaves, whereas freebase nicotine refines those natural elements into their purest form. But, there’s a lot more to it than that. 


What is Freebase Nicotine?

For many years, freebase nicotine was the only type of nicotine used in vaping products. The process for creating freebase nicotine was discovered in the 1960s which unfortunately allowed cigarettes to increase their addictiveness by blending in additional nicotine. 


This process involves altering the pH level of nicotine extracted from tobacco leaves to crank up the nicotine hit that is delivered with each puff. 


In the world of vaping, freebase nicotine is used to achieve a strong throat hit that increases in intensity with higher nicotine levels and higher wattages on a vaping device. While freebase nicotine creates a throat hit that more closely resembles that of a traditional cigarette, higher levels of nicotine content can make the experience unpleasant, making it more suited to vape users looking for lower levels of nicotine. 


Vape juice made with freebase nicotine will generally come in nicotine strengths anywhere between 0mg/mL to 12mg/mL. It works well in both vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol-based e-liquids and can be used in a large variety of vapes, though higher wattage devices tend to work better. Learn more about VG and PG e-liquids in Everything You Need to Know About Nicotine Free Vapes.


Freebase nicotine has been deemed suitable for direct-to-lung vaping and produces large clouds, but it has a slower rate of absorption into the bloodstream, a shorter shelf life, and requires more liquid to experience the same level of nicotine as nicotine salts. 


On the up side, freebase has less of an impact on the flavour of a vaping liquid, making it ideal for more subtle and unique vape flavours and for those who value the taste over the nicotine hit.


What are Nicotine Salts?

Nicotine salts use elements that naturally occur in tobacco leaves and bond them with acids (typically benzoic, citric, malic, and/or lactic)  to change the chemical structure so that they can be vaped more effectively. This alteration creates a more stable compound, reduces the temperature at which the nicotine vapourizes, and makes nicotine absorb at a faster rate by the body. 


There is also a decrease in the pH level which creates a less harsh throat hit and a smoother overall vaping experience compared to freebase. Because of this, the level of nicotine in a nicotine salt-based e-liquid can be much higher than those of freebase juices making nic salts ideal for people with high nicotine dependence, such as those who have just transitioned away from cigarettes. 


Due to the increased stability of the nic salt compounds, they tend to have a longer shelf-life than freebase nicotine and require less liquid for the same nicotine hit, but they do not produce as large or dense clouds on the exhale. 


Nic salts work best with lower wattage devices as going over 40W could make for a hasher throat hit and runs the risk of your puff tasting burnt. They generally come in nicotine levels ranging from 0mg/mL to 50mg/mL (But a number of countries, including Canada, have put a limit of 20mg/ml on nicotine strength).


Which One is Right for You?

In order to determine which form of nicotine is right for you, you’ll need to get a good idea of what aspects of the vaping experience are most important to you. 


If you are a cloud chaser then you’re probably going to prefer freebase. More concerned about having enough nicotine to abate your cravings and stay away from cigarettes, then nic salts are likely a better fit. 


Looking for the simplest and most cost effective option? Then, a better option for you will likely be nicotine salts as they require less e-liquid and the devices are often cheaper since the optimal wattage is lower. If unique flavour experiences are what you are after, freebase is probably more your speed. 


Whichever type or concentration of nicotine you choose, it’s important to make sure that you have a compatible device to avoid weak or burnt hits.



STLTH pods are developed using nicotine salts to deliver the smoothest and most convenient experience possible. Our liquids are specifically blended for optimal performance when used with our specially crafted vaping devices.


The closed pod system allows for maximum convenience, and our nationwide recycling centres mean that you can rest easy knowing that your completed pods aren’t winding up in a landfill. STLTH also looks out for the environment by participating in the Nation Greening Program where each order helps us plant new trees across Canada. 


Check out our wide range of flavours, each available in four nicotine levels: 0 mg/mL, 20 mg/mL, Bold 35 and Bold 50.