Nicotine is found in the nightshade family of plants with tobacco being the most dominant. Nicotine can also be found in tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and green peppers. Early e-liquids featured a bioavailable “freebase” form of nicotine derived from tobacco plants. But this form of nicotine has limitations. it’s very harsh to inhale at high strengths.
Enter the nicotine salt. Adding acid and lowering the pH allows for a more satisfying, milder hit at much higher nicotine concentrations. Salts can be absorbed much more quickly into the bloodstream at a rate that more closely mimics the absorption rate of cigarettes. Pax Labs and Juul brought nictotine salts to the forefront of the vaping industry. And with the popularity of nicotine salts came the teen vaping dilemma and the FDA’s laser focus on an industry that was already dealing with looming premarket authorizations.
It was the hope of many in the vaping industry that the use of a synthetic nicotine would escape the FDA’s regulation of “tobacco products” since the nicotine was not derived from the tobacco plant. Synthetic nicotine is completely odorless and flavorless. It acts completely the same as nicotine derived from tobacco and there is no difference between the two with regard to craving satisfaction. Tobacco derived nicotine does affect the flavor of the vape and manufacturers often need to add more flavoring as a result. Synthetic nicotine is 100% pure as opposed to the tobacco derived nicotine that leaves trace amounts of tobacco in the body. It is however, more costly to manufacture.
E-liquid manufacturers would soon discover tha synthetic nicotine did not escape the FDA’s preview. In 2020, after receiving a warning letter from the FDA, Puffbar removed its products from the market and reemerged a few months later featuring a synthetic nicotine. Many other e-liquid manufacturers followed suit. In March 2022, Congress amended the Tobacco Control Act that granted the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products authority over nicotine products made from any source of nicotine, thereby closing the loophole created by synthetic nicotine.