Over the past decade, the technology behind vaping e-liquids has gone through three distinct stages of development: from freebase nicotine; to nicotine salts; then to synthetic nicotine. Various e-liquid manufacturers have attempted to strike a balance between providing a better user experience, and conforming to varying regulations around the often-controversial topic of the varying types of nicotine present in e-liquids.
Freebase nicotine is produced directly from the tobacco plant. In most cases, there is an alkaline imbalance due to its high PH, which leads to a harsher throat hit. For this product, many users prefer stronger box mod kits, paired with a lighter e-liquid of approximately 0mg to 3mg of nicotine content. These types of devices generate a milder, yet still noticeable, throat hit that many users enjoy.
Nicotine salt is produced by slightly modifying freebase nicotine. This method leads to a product that is more stable and not easily volatilized creating a subtle and smoother vaping experience. One of the main reasons that nicotine salts have become a popular choice of e-liquid is their low intensity; users can take reasonable numbers of puffs without experiencing throat soreness. However, nicotine salts require higher concentrations than freebase. That is to say, it is not a better option for users who try to reduce nicotine intake.
Synthetic nicotine, created in a laboratory instead of being derived from tobacco, has become increasingly popular in the last 2-3 years. This product goes through a high-tech synthesis process and advanced purification technology is used to remove all seven harmful impurities found in tobacco-extracted nicotine. Additionally, it is not easily oxidized or volatile when being added to e-liquid. Most significantly, synthetic nicotine enjoys a smoother and lower throat hit in comparison to freebase nicotine and nicotine salts, and offers a more satisfying nicotine taste. Until very recently, synthetic nicotine, was viewed as a chemically-produced synthetic, and did not belong to the scope of tobacco regulation. As a consequence, many e-cig and e-liquid manufacturers which previously used tobacco-derived nicotine switched to synthetic nicotine, with the aim of avoiding regulation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, synthetic nicotine products have been brought under the oversight of the FDA as of March 11, 2022, which means many different types of synthetic e-juice could be banned in the vaping market.
Previously, manufacturers were using synthetic nicotine to exploit an administrative loophole and aggressively marketed fruity and mint-flavored e-cig products towards adolescents, hoping to tempt them into trying out vaping. Luckily, that loophole is closing.
E-liquid research and development continues to be centered around freebase nicotine, nicotine salt, and synthetic nicotine products. With the ever-stricter regulation of synthetic nicotine, whether there will be new types of nicotine in e-liquid appearing in the future market remains ambiguous.