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Nicotine: Freebase vs Nic Salt


You have heard and seen the terms DL, MTL and MTL e-liquid. This article will deal mainly with MTL which is Mouth To Lung vaping, than DL, which is Direct to Lung vaping. We explain the difference between the two types of MTL e-liquid, ie; Freebase Nicotine and Salt Nicotine also called Nicotine Salt/ NicSalt/Saltnic.

In South Africa most stores and vendors have used mainly two distingushing terms, MTL e-liquid which refers to Freebase Nicotine e-liquid which varies from 9mg up to 18mg with majority of e-liquid producers having 12mg as a standard. Then nicsalt or saltnic which refers to Nicotine salt which varies from 15mg up to 50mg.

Whats is the Difference between the two nicotines?

Freebase Nicotine

To keep it short and simple, conventional vape liquids contain freebase nicotine. Freebase nicotine  is actually converted from its naturally occurring ‘salt’ form into its more pure ‘base’ form, hence the use of the word freebase. This increases the nicotine’s potency or strength but not the dose. This explains the throat hit you feel when using high dosage freebase nicotine and the throat hit is also a byproduct of the freebase conversion process which increases the pH to an alkaline state. This version of nicotine was developed by tobacco companies in the 60’s with the science part being… Ammonia is used to strip protons from the nicotine salts which increases the pH level (alkalinity) and returns it to a deprotonated ‘freebase’ state.” So essentially the nicotine pH level is increased in the freebase process to create a more pure form of nicotine. 

Salt Nicotine

So is saltnic the natural form of nicotine? Not  exactly. The nicotine contained in tobacco leaves are in a salt form, meaning it has positive charge which is the acid and a negative charge which is the base. In its natural state nicotine cannot travel easily through cell membranes making it difficult for our bodies to absorb it or less bio-available. The other issue is that this natural form needs to be vapourised at very high temperatures.

So how is saltnic so popular? Nicotine in its natural ‘salt’ form is modified to be readily absorbed and more bioavailable at lower vapourising temperatures. The salt form of nicotine is buffered with acid to make it more acidic as it was found that our bodies readily absorb the nicotine due to the fact nicotine bonds more easily to an acid. The acid buffering also lowered the pH level taking away the throat hit and lowered the vapourising temperature of the nicotine.  The acids normally used to buffer it is, Benzoic Acid or Citric Acid, both commonly used in the food industry.

The largest benefit for smokers is that nicotine salt, due to the acid buffering, allows higher dosages to be tolerated and comes close to delivering nicotine dosages to the bloodstream in the same fashion and time as combustible cigarettes.

**** Something that is EXTREMELY important for anyone wanting to use saltnic is that you need to ENSURE you use coils with ohms at least 0.8ohm and upwards for salt nicotine product and use low wattage or the recommended wattage for the coil.  Do not use salt nicotine with coils or pods that are lower than 0.8ohms. This is due to the lower vapourising temperature as per the buffering process.***

So lets get to Freebase Nicotine VS Nicotine Salt in the table below.



  • Contains no additives
  • Has a slower absorption rate
  • Is harsh at high doses
  • Can handle high flavour complexity
  • Enables large cloud production
  • Suited to mouth-to-lung or direct-to-lung vaping styles
  • Less expensive by volume
  • More suited to low and medium nicotine strengths
  • Suited to vapers with lower nicotine requirements
  • Higher power devices needed for maximum vaporising
  • More liquid needed for comparable nicotine hit
  • Faster oxidation means shorter shelf life
  • Contains Benzoic or Citric acid
  • Is absorbed faster into the bloodstream
  • Is smooth at high doses
  • Can’t handle high flavour complexity
  • Does not enable large cloud production
  • Suited to mouth-to-lung vaping style
  • More expensive by volume
  • Suitable for high nicotine strengths
  • Ideal for new vapers, or mixed users
  • Best suited to pod and lower power vape devices
  • Less liquid needed for comparable nicotine hit
  • Slower oxidation means longer shelf life

So which is best for you?

From a non-bias viewpoint, the best would be to try and use the lowest possible amount of nicotine that will subdue the craving of using combustible tobacco, be it freebase or saltnic. In our experience, saltnic quickly assists people to get of combustible tobacco or smoking cigarettes and to vaping. The successful conversion percentage being much higher with salt nic users. On a personal note and opinion, we believe 30-35mg saltnic should be high enough to assist a pack a day smoker get off tobacco. The average usage being 60ml liquid per month, however this is user and case dependant.

One good thing is that freebase nicotine can also be used on devices with coils/pods meant for salt nicotine but not the other way around. So the option to then try freebase mtl e-liquid is then still available to see if it works for you. 

Is Vaping safe and worth the expense?

The largest benefit is the harm reduction vaping brings to smokers. It is a complete change in lifestyle. Speaking as a previous smoker and echoing the words of many others. Your sense of smell will return, the morning cough will disappear. You will have more energy, your lungs will feel clearer, you will feel fitter and in general there will be an improved quality of life which to many is priceless. The most difficult hurdle is in the mind and the will to quit and sometimes the investment into the devices can turn people off. However, the saying is, vaping may seem expensive at first but doctors bills are even more costly. Look at the device as an investment in yourself and in your health and once the initial investment in a device is made you will sometimes find the cost is less than smoking.

Vaping is not 100% safer however the Royal College of Physicians have stated that vaping is 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco products. The Royal College of Physicians founded in 1518, is one of the most recognised, if not the most recognised medical body internationally.

The Cochrane report stated “Nicotine e-cigarettes probably do help people to stop smoking for at least six months. They probably work better than nicotine replacement therapy and nicotine‑free e-cigarettes.

They may work better than no support, or behavioural support alone, and they may not be associated with serious unwanted effects.”  

Cochrane is a British international charitable organisation formed to organise medical research findings to facilitate evidence-based choices about health interventions involving health professionals, patients and policy makers. It includes 53 review groups that are based at research institutions worldwide.

So you’ve read the article. Make The Change. 

Why Quit-it?

At Quit-It we believe that vaping is the safer alternative to traditional combustible tobacco products. I was a smoker (pack a day habit or more) and tried multiple times to quit over the years but vaping was the biggest help to me using traditional vaping  which only worked over a period of time (2mg, 3mg and even 6mg liquids). Nicotine salts were not as freely available 2-3 years ago and smaller pod devices were only starting to come onto the market. Freebase MTL liquids were available but not nearly as pleasant 2-3 years ago as what is available now.  

I wish these were all available as it would have made it much easier as I have seen how much easier it has been for those who I have helped. Some have in-fact quit from the moment of receiving their device. This led me to create Quit-It to bring only the best products and local liquids to you at affordable prices. 

I have personally helped many people to quit the habit using the new pod based systems and have personally tested most of the devices sold on the store (and will continue to do so) and many of the liquids as well, or have gotten good advice from excellent sources within the vaping industry. This may explain why some devices are not listed here but at Quit-iT, we believe in only selling devices which are of a good standard and will assist smokers in quitting. We have put together products to make the experience of quitting smoking and switching to vaping easy and hassle free.  

We do also cater for Direct lung vapers and have a large amount of products for you as well. The idea in the end it is to quit. The natural progression from using higher dose MTL would be to then move down to DL and lower nicotine e-liquids which would require DL products.

We offer national courier to make access to these products easy and delivered comfortably to your door.