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Nicotine Concentration Methodologies

Navigating the world of vaping can be complex, especially with terms like "nicotine base" and "nicotine salts." This guide demystifies these terms and explains the regulatory changes in New Zealand, aimed at simplifying how nicotine levels are measured and compared across products.

Nicotine Base vs. Nicotine Salts

Nicotine Base refers to the pure, unaltered form of nicotine found in tobacco plants. It's the standard measure of nicotine strength in vaping products, quantified in milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml). Nicotine base is known for its rapid absorption and strong effect, but it can be harsh on the throat at higher concentrations.

Nicotine Salts are a form of nicotine combined with organic acids, like benzoic or salicylic acid, creating a compound that's smoother on the inhale. This allows for higher nicotine concentrations without the associated harshness. Despite the higher levels, nicotine salts provide a more comfortable vaping experience.

Types of Nicotine Salts

Nicotine salts come in various forms, each paired with a different organic acid, for example:

  • Nicotine Benzoate: Commonly used for its balanced throat hit and quick absorption.
  • Nicotine Salicylate: Known for its smooth inhale and mild impact.
  • Nicotine Lactate: Offers a milder throat hit and is less common in the market.

Standardization of Nicotine Measurements

With the latest vaping regulations from the New Zealand Ministry of Health, coming into effect on March 21, 2024, there is now clarification in how nicotine content is reported. For nicotine salt vaping products, the standard measurement will now be the nicotine base content. This change aims to provide a consistent measure of nicotine strength across all vaping products, making it easier for consumers to compare and understand.

Maximum Nicotine Limits

The new regulations also introduce maximum limits for nicotine content in vaping products containing nicotine salts:

  • Disposable Vapes: Up to 20mg/ml of nicotine base.
  • Nicotine Salt eLiquids: A higher limit of 28.5mg/ml of nicotine base.

These limits are designed to standardize nicotine content and ensure consumer safety.

What is the conversion for nicotine salts to nicotine base?

Each type of nicotine salt has various conversion factors depending on its molecular structure. The most common nicotine salt is nicotine benzoate. To convert nicotine benzoate concentration to nicotine base concentration, we need to account for the difference in molecular weight between nicotine benzoate and nicotine base. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Determine the molecular weights of nicotine benzoate and nicotine base. Nicotine has a molecular weight of approximately 162.23 g/mol, and benzoic acid (to form nicotine benzoate) has a molecular weight of about 122.12 g/mol. However, in nicotine benzoate, we consider the combined molecular weight, which is the sum of nicotine and benzoic acid minus the weight of water (18.02 g/mol) lost during the formation of the salt. So, the molecular weight of nicotine benzoate would be approximately 162.23 + 122.12 - 18.02 = 266.33 g/mol.

  2. Calculate the proportion of nicotine in nicotine benzoate by dividing the molecular weight of nicotine by the molecular weight of nicotine benzoate: 162.23266.330.609.

  3. Apply the proportion to the given concentration to find the equivalent concentration in nicotine base. If you have 20 mg/ml of nicotine benzoate, you multiply this by the proportion of nicotine in nicotine benzoate to find the equivalent nicotine base concentration.

Let’s calculate the exact value:

Equivalent nicotine base concentration=20 mg/ml×0.609

Let's compute this:

The equivalent nicotine base concentration for 20 mg/ml nicotine benzoate is approximately 12.18 mg/ml. This means that 20 mg/ml of nicotine benzoate contains the same amount of nicotine as 12 mg/ml of nicotine base. ​

Nicotine Base (mg/ml) Nicotine Benzoate (mg/ml) Nicotine Salicylate (mg/ml) Nicotine Lactate (mg/ml)
3 5 5 4
6 10 10 9
10 16 17 14
12 20 21 17
15 25 26 22
17 28 30 25
18 30 31 26
20 33 35 29
25 41 44 36
28.5 47 50 41
30 49 52 43
34 56 59 49
35 57 61 51
40 66 70 58
50 82 87 72

Note: The row for 28.5 mg/ml nicotine base is marked to indicate that this is the maximum allowed nicotine concentration.


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