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WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
Understanding E-Liquids and Vape Juice for Pod Systems

Understanding E-Liquids and Vape Juice for Pod Systems

Pod systems are the latest craze among vapers – and for good reason. Many former smokers will tell you that pod devices and their e-liquids succeeded where standard vape pens and expensive mods failed.

But what makes these juices so much more successful? If you happen to be one of the many who didn't find standard vaping to be effective, take this opportunity to learn about the new magic bullet that might just change your perspective.

E-liquid Basics

Before we go into pod devices, let's establish exactly what a modern e-liquid is.

Also known as "e-juice" or "vape juice," e-liquids are mixtures intended to vaporized by an e-cigarette. They contain the following ingredients:

  • Vegetable Glycerine (VG) - Naturally extracted from vegetable oil - specifically coconut, soy or palm. Much thicker than PG, so only larger-coiled sub-ohm mods can use high VG e-liquids. Not as good at carrying flavor as PG, but is a lot smoother and produces larger clouds.
  • Nicotine (optional) - The addictive substance found in cigarettes. Suspended in the PG/VG mixture until vaporized. At which point, vapers can absorb it into their lungs.
  • Flavoring - Can be natural or artificial. Relies on the PG and VG to carry it into its vapor form. Intensity varies based on PG/VG ratio.

Freebase vs. Nicotine Salts

If you're looking into pod devices, chances are you'll be presented with the question: "Are you looking for regular or nic salts?"

To new vapers, this inquiry will be pretty confusing. Liquid is liquid, right? Well, not so much. While all e-liquid is the same at its core, a new breakthrough known as nicotine salts changed the landscape in 2015, offering an alternative for very heavy smokers.


Freebase nicotine predates e-cigarettes by leaps and bounds. To learn about freebasing, we have to go back to the 1960s, where Phillip Morris of Marlboro Cigarettes discovered a sneaky trick.

By adding ammonia to his product, Morris was able to make nicotine easier to absorb than ever before. This process was known as "freebasing" and it made cigarettes more addictive. Tobacco companies use freebasing to this day, adding ammonia to the laundry list of deadly chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

Nicotine Salts

Nicotine salts are exclusive for two major reasons. First, only certain devices can use them. Most (but not all) vape pods are designed to work with these e-liquids.

Second, the form of nicotine inside the liquid allows for higher concentration and offers a different experience.

Nicotine salts aren't freebased with ammonia. They come in their purest form from the tobacco leaf. Manufacturers add benzoic acid to the nicotine so that our bodies can efficiently absorb it.

Unlike freebase e-liquids, nic salts can carry enormously high amounts of nicotine - several times higher than the amount found in most traditional cigarettes.

As a result, these liquids can far exceed the nicotine content of freebase, providing a better option for heavy smokers (over a pack a day). However, some companies do offer them in lower concentrations.

Nicotine salts reportedly provide a more authentic smoking experience. They help provide the initial head rush that we usually get from our first cigarette of the day. Nicotine salts also feel more cigarette-like because of the throat sensation they create that - again - resembles smoking.

Which E-liquid Does My Pod Device Use?

Typically, this information is written on the label or the manufacturer's website, but the type of product typically says it all.

Nic Salts

Simpler devices are targeted at current smokers looking to quit. They're about function over fashion. Pod devices with disposable cartridges usually use nicotine salts, because they contain enough nicotine to satisfy even the heaviest smokers.

The JUUL Starter Kit is a classic example of this type of device.

Freebase or Both

A pod device exclusively meant for freebase liquid isn't as versatile when it comes to nicotine content. But if you're looking for that feature, you might have to drop a few extra dollars on a refillable pod vape.

However, you do get a pretty good deal. The freebase and nicotine salt experiences are notably different. If you're not a heavy nicotine user and want better clouds, then freebase will do just fine.

Of course, you could always spring for a device that offers both. The Aspire Breeze 2 is an excellent example of a dual option.

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