Mr. Salt-E Liquids: What the heck is salt-based nicotine, anyway??
Posted on July 19 2017
Nic salt is a phrase you have probably heard bandied about quite a lot in the vapor community. So what even is nic salt, or "salt-based nicotine"? When I first was exposed to the idea, it was from a friend who worked for a large, old (in vape years) manufacturer of cigalike devices. They had been using salt-based nicotine for a long time and hadn't even advertised it! At the time, it was explained to me that a secondary molecule (such as citric acid or benzoic acid) was bonded to the nicotine molecule to allow for faster uptake into the bloodstream. This seemed to make sense, because those little cigalikes were certainly effective at satisfying my craving for nicotine in short-order!
Well, it turns out that the original explanation I received was actually not the whole story. I won't pretend to be a chemist here, but it's my understanding that the biggest difference between salt-based and freebase nicotine is how smoothly it vapes. Freebase nicotine has a much stronger punch at a given nicotine concentration than Salt-based nicotine does. That's why 12mg freebase nicotine (which is what's in almost ALL eliquid available) doesn't feel much weaker than 25mg Mr. Salt-E in the same device at the same power setting. As a result of the reduced "punchiness", users are able to vape higher nicotine than they would otherwise, and whether or not the nicotine is "metabolizing" more quickly in the bloodstream, the increased nicotine received in a puff (of nic-salt liquid like Mr. Salt-E) causes the user to be satisfied more quickly with less vapor.
After doing some digging online to answer some of these questions for myself, I realized that there is some debate among people who know a lot more about chemistry than I do revolving around this subject, and I am admittedly not educated enough in the field to make any further claims, but I will mention one other interesting thing I learned in my research. We have always been curious why Mr. Salt-E liquids are so clear compared to other higher-nicotine e-liquids we keep on hand, and the answer lies in the salts! Apparently, the molecules used in nic-salts function as a preservative for nicotine, in that they greatly reduce oxidation! As nicotine ages and comes into contact with sunlight and oxygen, it tends to get darker in color. This is much less true with salt-based nicotine, and the proof is in the color of Mr. Salt-E! A bottle of Watermelon 45mg by them will remain nearly as clear as water for months on end, whereas many 12mg liquids that are clear in the beginning turn dark after a couple of months in a bottle. Cool, huh?