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Vaping Synthetic Nic Salts

by Robert Taney on November 08, 2021

Vaping Synthetic Nicotine Salts

Synthetic nicotine is one of the newest innovations in vaping. Often referred to as Tobacco Free Nicotine (TFN), this is actually the brand name of a Next Generation Labs product. Technically, it is non-tobacco nicotine if derived from plant material or synthetic nicotine if entirely manufactured from starter materials. In every case, there are advantages to moving away from the tobacco plant.

Advantages of Non-Tobacco Nicotine

Tobacco is an energy intensive plant. There are massive pesticides and fossil fuel inputs required to cultivate the massive quantities of tobacco that are used globally in the making of tobacco products.

Switching to non-tobacco nicotine allows e-juice manufacturers to cut the cord with Big Tobacco. Previously, the nicotine in e-liquids was sourced from tobacco derived nicotine. Reducing reliance on the industrial agriculture infrastructure owned and operated by the tobacco industry is no small deal. Synthetic nicotine offers performance advantages as well.

Mad Vapes carries a wide range of synthetic nicotine, TFN and non-tobacco nicotine products. This includes regular e-liquids, salt nic juices and disposable vapes.

Synthetic Nicotine Ad
Non-Tobacco Nicotine E-Liquids

Vaping Experience: Synthetic and Non-Tobacco Nicotine

Synthetic and non-tobacco nicotine has a more neutral flavor than tobacco derived nicotine. This means that e-juice flavors shine a bit brighter with synthetic nicotine.

This clearer flavor profile makes synthetic nicotine a perfect fit for salt nic juices. With an emphasis on flavor and satisfaction instead of vapor production.

Salt Nic Juice Ad
Click here to view the Salt Nic Juice Collection at Mad Vapes

This does not mean that synthetic nicotine, TFN and non-tobacco nicotine aren’’t a good fit for box mods and max-VG juices too. But this style of nicotine really goes hand in glove with nic salts.

Vaping Synthetic Nic Salts

When vaping a nicotine salt e-liquid made with synthetic nicotine, the same precautions apply as they do when vaping a tobacco derived salt nic juice. The flavor difference is marked enough where that is worth being kept in mind as well.

Most nicotine salt juices have a nicotine strength range of 25 to 50mg/ml. A lower wattage device with a high resistance coil is the only way to vape salt nic juices. A sub-ohm tank and box mod is entirely unsuitable at high wattage. The vapor production is so great that the level of nicotine in each puff runs the gamut from absurdly unpleasant to dangerous.

As we will explain later, nicotine salts could in theory be used in less potent formulations. Tru Nic of One Hit Wonder is an example of a max-VG juice with lower nicotine strength options that is made with nicotine salts. It is the exception. Freebase nicotine is perfectly suitable for high-VG formulas and the advantages of nic salts only really show up in a noticeable way at strengths greater than 18mg/ml.

Synthetic Nicotine

Unlike tobacco derived nicotine, synthetic nicotine does not use any part of the tobacco plant. The dominant player in the synthetic nicotine market is Tobacco Free Nicotine (TFN) by Next Generation Labs (NGL). An R and S isomer nicotine, the manufacturing process is protected by a wall of patents and proprietary technologies. But there is no question they have cracked the code and figured out a way to make synthetic nicotine affordable.

Tobacco Free Nicotine
Tobacco Free Niootine by NGL

There are other synthetic nicotine products on the market. Contraf-Nicotex-Tobacco (CNT) of Heilbron Germany is NGL’s stiffest competition.

Unlike like NGL, CNT only makes synthetic nicotine rather than plant derived non-tobacco nicotine. They also believe that only S-Isomer Nicotine is functional and useful. There is no s-isomer nicotine to be found in their products. For more information on the science behind synthetic nicotine, check out our feature: What is Synthetic Nicotine?

CNT Logo

Synthetic Nicotine Salts

On a molecular level, there is nothing to separate tobacco-derived nicotine from its synthetic cousins. The ratios of S and R isomers may vary but it is otherwise indistinguishable from naturally occurring nicotine.

Synthetic nicotine can be used for traditional freebase nicotine or for salt nic juices. The standard form of the nicotine used in vapes is freebase nicotine. This is the original style of nicotine and only started to face competition from salt nic formulas in 2015 with the launch of Juul.

What are Nic Salts?

Nicotine salts are created when regular/freebase nicotine is processed through a chemical reaction that typically uses benzoic acid. Other formulations and techniques can accomplish the creation of nicotine salts, but benzoic acid is most common and effective.

salt nic versus freebase
Freebase Nicotine versus Nicotine Salts

The application of benzoic acid tweaks the molecular structure of nicotine and changes the freebase nicotine into a nicotine salt.

It is impossible to write about nicotine salts and not mention that the word salt is misleading. Outside of the scientific realm, you may picture table salts or something granular. The reality is that nicotine salts function much the same way as regular nicotine. The foundation of the e-juice remains the same, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol. That the ratios typically used in in these e-juices are different is due to the unique characteristics of nic salts.

Nicotine salts have a lower pH level and according to studies cross the blood brain barrier more readily. There is no reason you cannot put a smaller amount of nicotine salts in a max-VG juice, and One Hit Wonder does exactly that with Tru Nic.

Salt Nic Juices

The main reason that salt nicotine is not used in more max-VG juices is because it costs more, and freebase nicotine is perfectly suitable for those purposes. The purpose being an e-liquid with a nicotine strength of 3 and 6mg/ml.

When you start dealing with higher nicotine strengths, the advantages of nicotine salts really start to stand out. Most salt nic juices are sold in 30ml bottles. They generally have a VG/PG ratio of 50/50. The available nicotine strengths usually range between 25 and 50mg/ml.

These specifications are common because they take full advantage of the lower pH level of salt nic. High pH levels translate to harshness.

Nicotine salts can be added in greater quantity and the vape juice does not become too stiff and caustic to vape. Nicotine salts also cross the blood barrier more readily according to research from nic salt pioneer Juul Labs. The original Blu cigalikes experimented with freebase nicotine strengths this high. The product proved to be quite unsatisfactory, and the vapor production had to be slashed to almost zero to keep it from being too rough on the user.

There is no comparison between the old Blu e-cig and the cheapest disposable vape on the market. This is all because of salt nic juice. The flavor of disposable vapes is further enhanced because many of the manufacturers also use synthetic nicotine.

Vape Pod Kits

Refillable Vape Pod Kits
The Mad Vapes Collection of Vape Pod Kits

A higher nicotine strength means less vapor is needed to provide a satisfying user experience for adult vapers. Creating vapor requires a coil and battery. If less vapor is required, the battery can be smaller and the coil higher resistance. This allows manufacturers to use smaller batteries, and this results in a smaller vaping device.

A less powerful device requires a smaller battery. This further shrinks the size of the device. Burning less e-liquid per puff, a smaller reservoir of e-juice is required to a get a vaper through the day. Fewer overall puffs are required, less vapor is produced

Vape pod kits were initially designed to provide a refillable alternative to the popular Juul pod system. They may have started as low-wattage devices but this class of e-cig has expanded dramatically. There are now vape pods with outputs exceeding 50 watts. There are sub-ohm coils, allowing them to match vape mods stride for stride. The main defining trait is that there is no standardized threading. Only pods built expressly for that device will be compatible.

Freebase Synthetic Nicotine

The path of less vapor, smaller devices and higher nicotine strengths is exactly the opposite of the developmental path of freebase nicotine. Ten years ago, there were very strong freebase nicotine e-juices. These could range up to 36mg/ml, which is stronger than the lower end nic salts. But the throat and chest burn on those strengths was quite severe.

There are fans of tobacco flavored e-liquids who loved the authenticity of potent freebase vape juices, which usually were heavy on PG and designed for use in eGo style cartomizers. But most adult vapers wanted sweet fruit, beverage, and dessert flavored e-liquids. Physical pain was not considered a selling point, and a different approach was adopted. This was the mighty box mod.

Vape Mods

Vape Mods
Click here to view the Vape Mods collection at Mad Vapes

Most mod users are using 0, 3 and 6mg/ml nicotine strengths. They deliver a satisfying experience by dint of the massive vapor product and sheer volume of e-liquids consumed in each puff.

The upshot is that there are two major types of vaping. Lower potency freebase e-liquids vaped with more powerful devices and potent nic salts vaped in smaller vape pod kits and disposable vapes.

There is no reason why nicotine salts cannot be used in lower strength, max-VG juices instead of freebase nicotine. But it does cost more per ml and wouldn’t take full advantage of salt nicotine’s greatest advantage.


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