There are two forms of nicotine you typically come across in vaping applications, freebase nicotine and salt nicotine. When e-cigarettes became popular on the Canadian market, freebase nicotine was the only option. With the increasing demand for more compact devices that produced less vapour, stronger nicotine options were required to compensate for less liquid burned when getting less vapour. Unfortunately going above 12mg in freebase nicotine starts to get very harsh, so salt nicotine became popular to allow for increased nicotine dosing without feeling uncomfortable to inhale.
Some differences between the different types of nicotine are explained below.
Freebase Nicotine: Freebase is the purest form of nicotine, and is the most commonly used form of nicotine in e-liquids. Freebase nicotine is created by adding ammonia to pure nicotine. This must be done because nicotine by itself would not be very potent in the body at all; nicotine is made up of negatively charged particles which essentially means that, when it enters the body, the particles cannot move across organic membranes very well.
So, we must ‘freebase’ the nicotine in order to make it more effective in the body and increase bioavailability. The vast majority of e-liquids on the market contain freebase nicotine.
Salt Nicotine: Nicotine salts are found naturally in the tobacco leaf, meaning you will have already experienced them if you have smoked a traditional cigarette! Salt nicotine is created by adding a weak acid (usually benzoic acid) to the freebase nicotine to lower the PH level which can cause a softer, smoother throat hit even at high doses. Salt Nicotine is made to work in less powerful devices that run below 20w with the provided coil. Most pre-filled pods and disposable vapes are filled with salt nicotine.
Hybrid Nicotine: Hybrid nicotine is a mix of freebase nicotine and salt nicotine. Hybrid nicotine is popular for those seeking the effects from both freebase, and salt nicotine. It is less harsh than freebase but has more of a kick than salt nicotine. 20mg/ml is the highest nicotine strength legally allowed to be sold in Canada and some may turn to hybrid nicotine seeking a stronger throat kick than they experience from 20mg/ml salt nicotine.