When they hit the market a few years ago, nicotine salt e-liquids from brands like Naked 100 were all the rage. Every popular vape juice brand released nicotine salt versions of its most successful flavors. It seemed like every vape shop was devoting half of its shelf space to the latest nicotine salt e-liquids and the small pod-based devices that were designed to deliver the best possible experience with those e-liquids. Although most vape shops still do carry plenty of nicotine salt e-liquids, people don’t seem to be buying them in quite the same volumes as they did in the past.
So, is nicotine salt e-liquid on the decline in 2021? A few years ago, many people predicted that nicotine salt would soon become the most popular type of e-liquid on the market, but that hasn’t happened so far. In this article, we’ll examine the reasons why. First, though, let’s take a closer look at what nicotine salt e-liquid is and what its potential benefits are.
What Is Nicotine Salt Vape Juice?
Nicotine salt vape juice is e-liquid that contains the salt form of nicotine rather than the freebase form found in traditional e-liquids and most other nicotine replacement products. One of the selling points of nicotine salt e-liquid is that the nicotine is similar in its molecular structure to the nicotine found in tobacco, which is also a salt. The nicotine that’s used in traditional e-liquids and nicotine replacement products, on the other hand, is a free base due to chemical changes that take place during the extraction process. Ammonia – which is used as a solvent to extract nicotine from tobacco – raises the pH of the nicotine and changes it into a free base.
However, it’s not entirely correct to say that nicotine salt is more natural or more like the nicotine in tobacco leaves. That’s because the nicotine in nicotine salt e-liquid actually starts out as freebase nicotine. It becomes a salt when a mild acid is mixed with the e-liquid. With that being said, nicotine salt vape juice does have real benefits. It’s often the best type of vape juice for a new vaper to use, and it’s usually the type of e-liquid that works best in the small pod-based vaping devices that new vapers often prefer.
How Does Nicotine Salt Compare to Traditional Vape Juice?
Nicotine salt e-liquid isn’t necessarily more natural or more like real tobacco than traditional vape juice because both types of e-liquid start out with freebase nicotine. The only difference is that nicotine salt e-liquid contains a small amount of acid such as benzoic acid, which triggers a chemical change in the nicotine.
The main difference between nicotine salt e-liquid and traditional vape juice, though, doesn’t have anything to do with the chemical structure of the nicotine. Rather, it’s the acid that’s added to nicotine salt vape juice that makes the difference. The acid doesn’t just alter the chemical structure of the nicotine; it also lowers its pH.
Ammonia, as you might know, is a very alkaline substance that also happens to be an extremely effective solvent for nicotine. When it’s used to extract nicotine from tobacco, the nicotine ends up with a somewhat alkaline pH. That’s fine for nicotine replacement products, because those products generally contain only 2-4 mg of nicotine per unit. The alkalinity doesn’t make the products unpleasant to use. In addition, the fact that ammonia changes nicotine to a free base is also a good thing for users because freebase nicotine is more volatile and is therefore more readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Likewise, the alkalinity doesn’t make freebase nicotine unpleasant for vapers to use – as long as the nicotine concentration of the e-liquid is low. However, freebase nicotine can be problematic if the nicotine concentration is high because the alkalinity can cause throat irritation. That’s a problem for beginning vapers because the small e-cigarettes that new vapers generally prefer can only deliver the same level of satisfaction as tobacco cigarettes if they contain high concentrations of nicotine.
With freebase nicotine e-liquid, nicotine concentrations higher than 18 mg/ml are generally unfeasible for most vapers to use because anything higher than that causes severe throat irritation. Nicotine salt vape juice, on the other hand, has a more neutral pH and doesn’t cause throat irritation. Nicotine salt makes it possible to use an e-liquid with a nicotine concentration of 50 mg/ml – and even higher – without experiencing irritation. Thanks to nicotine salt, even the smallest e-cigarettes can be just as satisfying as tobacco cigarettes.
The problem, though, is that extremely small e-cigarettes aren’t as popular as they used to be.
Why Could Nicotine Salt Lose Popularity in 2021?
The two most popular types of vaping devices are pod-based systems – which are usually slightly larger than tobacco cigarettes – and mods, which are about as large as cigarette packs. A pod-based system usually produces small vapor clouds and is often small and light enough to hold between two fingers. A mod, on the other hand, produces very large clouds. Mods work best with low-strength traditional e-liquids, and pod systems usually work best with high-strength nicotine salt e-liquids.
When pod-based vaping devices first hit the market in the mid-2010s, new vapers flocked to them because they appreciated the small and stylish designs of those devices. They also loved the fact that pod-based systems are very easy to use. Using a mod, on the other hand, tends to require a bit more tinkering if you want to have the best possible experience.
Once pod-based systems had been on the market for a few years, though, owners of those devices became interested in upgrading. However, they didn’t want to buy mods – they wanted to buy more powerful pod systems. The manufacturers of vaping devices responded by creating a new type of device called the pod mod. A pod mod offers the performance of a full-sized mod in a package that’s as simple and easy to use as a pod-based device, and owners of small pod systems have been buying pod mods by the millions.
So, what’s the catch?
The catch is that a pod mod usually works best with lower-strength e-liquids because of the high cloud production it offers. Therefore, people who use pod mods generally don’t use nicotine salt e-liquid. In 2021, therefore, the vaping industry finds itself in a place that’s not altogether different from what things looked like several years ago. The devices may have changed, but vapers have never stopped loving big clouds – and if you want a vaping setup that produces big clouds, nicotine salt e-liquid isn’t the right choice for you. People are flocking back to traditional e-liquid by the millions, and it doesn’t look like nicotine salt e-liquid will ever dominate the vaping industry the way people once predicted it would.