Last Updated on November 14, 2019 by

If you’ve been vaping for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that the vaping industry is constantly evolving. Some of the changes are easy to predict, while others have come completely out of left field to catch everyone off guard. I think that it’s safe to say that the emerging nicotine salt trend is one of those unexpected evolutions.

Over the past few years, vaping devices have been getting bigger, more powerful and increasingly advanced, while e-liquid and nicotine have remained relatively the same. Who would have thought that simplified pod-based systems would be such a big hit, and that nicotine salt e-juice would become a popular alternative to the standard e-liquid that we’ve all come to know and love.

Understanding the Emerging Nicotine Salt Trend

Nicotine Salt vs. Free Base Nicotine


Up until now the nicotine used to keep vapers satisfied is known as “free base” nicotine.  Free base nicotine has been around for years and is the active ingredient used in nicotine replacement products such as lozenges and gums. Even though it exists naturally as a salt within tobacco leaves, companies have discovered that ammonia can be used to increase their yield, which raises the pH of the nicotine and converts it from a salt to its free base form.

During the 1960s Marlboro cigarettes became wildly popular, in part because ammonia was added to their products. Research determined that converting nicotine salt to free base nicotine made the nicotine more “bioavailable”, and in turn users felt more satisfaction from the same amount of nicotine.

So you might be asking yourself, why have nicotine salts become so popular in the vaping industry if free base nicotine is more bioavailable? The answer can be found in research performed by Pax Labs – the maker of the Juul e-cigarette.

The Research on Nicotine Salts

While developing the now highly popular Juul e-cigarette, Pax Labs conducted research to compare the Juul and its nicotine salt liquid to a traditional e-cigarette with free base nicotine. The research concluded that with low-temperature vaping, nicotine salts may increase the peak concentration of nicotine in the blood and allow users to achieve more satisfaction – similar to smoking.

Understanding the Emerging Nicotine Salt Trend

The graph above (widely shared around the Internet) helped to make Juul one of the best-selling e-cigarettes in the United States. To date, more than 1 million units have been sold and Juul has been widely attributed with starting the nicotine salt trend.

But let’s be honest, the research is questionable at best. Pax Labs failed to disclose the nicotine level used in the traditional e-cigarette, and it’s very possible – if not likely – that it contained significantly less nicotine than the Juul (59mg). Either way, the Juul has proven to be successful in helping smokers quit; and that’s all the proof that many people need to consider nicotine salts as an alternative.

The Potential Advantages

So if you believe the Pax Lab findings, the greatest potential advantage to nicotine salt is that you may find it more satisfying than traditional, free base nicotine. For those who vape but haven’t been able to quit smoking (dual users), it’s possible that nicotine e-liquid may be able to help you to quit smoking for good.


At this point you might be asking yourself, “couldn’t I get the same effect by increasing the nicotine level of my current e-juice?” Possibly, but consider one other potential advantage. Many vapers who have tried both types of nicotine say that nicotine salt e-liquid is smoother and less irritating than traditional e-liquid. That’s because nicotine salts have a lower pH than free base nicotine. If you’re unable to use the nicotine strength that you need because it’s too harsh and irritating, nicotine salts could be a possible solution.

Plus, if you’re getting a higher concentration of nicotine with each puff, you’re likely to vape less often and reduce your e-juice consumption. Not only does this mean that your juice will last longer, but it can also save you money. Even though nicotine salt e-juice tends to be a bit more expensive at the moment, the costs are sure to come down, and even at current pricing levels you’re likely to save money by switching to nicotine salt e-liquid.

Some of the Drawbacks

The biggest potential drawback to nicotine salts is that not everyone will find them more satisfying than traditional e-liquid. People respond differently to nicotine, and it isn’t clear whether the nicotine salt itself, or the higher concentration of nicotine, causes some people to find it more satisfying. More than likely, if you don’t increase your nicotine level when you switch to nicotine salts, you won’t experience any benefits.

Another drawback is that you probably don’t want to use nicotine salts with a high-powered, sub-ohm device. Even though it will work just fine, the huge amount of vapor that’s generated is likely to overwhelm you too much nicotine. Nicotine salt e-juice is typically 20mg or higher. To have the best possible experience with a nicotine salt e-liquid, you need to use a e-cig designed for low-wattage, high-resistance vaping.


Nicotine salts are likely to offer some advantages to those who are trying to quit smoking. And if you’re open to modifying your vaping style, it may be a decent way to consume less e-juice and save a little money. We all know how much juice you can chug through with a high watt sub-ohm device, so if you think that your juice consumption is a problem, then nicotine salts could be the solution.

Of course, if you love ripping clouds and chucking out huge amounts of vapor, then nicotine salts will probably be of no interest to you. Most nicotine salt e-juice is only available at 20mg nicotine or higher. Unless you’re willing to downgrade or get a nasty, head-tingling buzz, then you should probably just stick with something that already works. Is your standard 3 or 6mg e-juice satisfying your cravings? Then there’s no need to switch things up!

AUTHOR BIO:  Jeremy Salter is the founder and managing editor at Cig A former smoker and proud vaper with over 5 years smoke-free, he loves to share his experiences and provide useful tips and advice about vaping.