Nicotine Salt vs. Freebase: What’s the Difference?

As a product of growing interest, nicotine salt e-liquids are getting asked a lot of questions. Where did they come from? How are they different? What makes them salty? The answers to these questions and more can be found right down below.

The Difference Between Nicotine Salts and Freebase Nicotine

The difference between nicotine salt and freebasing is the chemical composition of the nicotine. Nicotine salt e-liquids are a naturally occurring form of nicotine that has not been treated with an ammonia solution, whereas ordinary e-liquids, cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products are treated with said solution.

A Brief History of Nicotine

At this point, you’re probably wondering why these products are treated with ammonia but don’t worry; has answers. During the 1940s, 50s and 60s, cigarette companies (Phillip Morris and its Marlboro brand specifically) spent a fair amount of money investing in the research and development of their products. Product testing and user feedback, for example, were done by these companies to better understand the specific benefits their customers sought out.

And, of course, they also wanted to make more money by cutting costs, using less material and so on. We’re getting back to the nicotine salt e-liquid versus freebasing, by the way, just hold tight. Anyway, the researchers happened upon treating the tobacco leaves with ammonia in pursuit of “fluffing” the material to make it lighter.

Ammonia & Tobacco: A Perfect Match

It wasn’t a perfect process at first. They had to refine the specific concentration of the substance as too much would make the product terribly unpleasant, and too little caused insubstantial effects. But, at a particular percentage, the puffing effect was pronounced, and curiously, the flavour had also changed in a way that seemed to delight the product testers.

Naturally, the research continued and found profound benefits to the treatment outside of the enhanced flavour. Of particular note for nicotine salt e-liquids is that ammonia could produce “…free nicotine in cigarette smoke, providing a more powerful nicotine kick than the milder low-pH tobaccos traditionally used in American-blend cigarettes.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Phillip Morris and the Marlboro brand used the technique to great success, but it was a common treatment throughout the industry before and after their discovery of the increased nicotine. Worldwide, it is impossible to know the extent to which tobacco manufacturers have adopted the freebasing technique.

How Nicotine Salts Change the Game

But, nicotine salt e-liquids have taken a third option in their chemical makeup. They are not freebase, of course, nor are they a naturally-occurring salt either. Instead, they are a third technology that uses benzoic acid to help the salt occur at lower temperatures. The exact process is unknown as it is protected by a patent filed by Adam Bowen, Chenyue XING and assigned to Juul Labs Inc.

Still, this patent was filed nearly six years ago, according to this press release from December 2015, and it seems that the success of nicotine salts e-liquid only continues to grow. It is very interesting to think that nicotine-based products have progressed so far as to have come right back to where they initially started. Although technology has advanced significantly in the last seventy years. So, perhaps it is only natural that we would better understand and utilize the resources available to us.

Author: Guest Contributor

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