For people quitting smoking, questions about nicotine are often among the first asked when transitioning to vaping.
Unfortunately in Australia, unlike in most other countries around the world, nicotine is not available in e-liquids. It is not legal for anyone, anywhere in Australia, for any reason whatsoever, to supply nicotine. If they do so, both the supplier and the buyer are potentially facing a large fine. While it may seem easier on the surface to get nicotine via the black market, it is definitely not worth the risk.
If you choose to use nicotine in your liquids in Australia, you’ll need to import it for personal use.
Benefits and health issues of using nicotine
The biggest benefit of using nicotine in your vape is that it will be easier to transition away from smoking.
A commonly used acronym for vapes is ENDS - Electronic Nicotine Delivery System - and this is essentially exactly what a lot of people look for when making the switch: a safer way to deliver nicotine into your body. Since e-liquid is not littered with carcinogens it’s immediately cleaner than pre-packed tobacco, and since vaping technology allows you to inhale nicotine without burning anything you avoid the carbon monoxide which produces tar on your lungs.
Nicotine is not the reason for smoking-related disease: officially it is not a carcinogen, it does not cause lung cancer, [and] it has minimal effect on cardiovascular disease.
[Professor Polosa, First Global Forum on Nicotine, 2014]
The possibility that people can be addicted to nicotine, but not die from it, is at the heart of a growing debate in the scientific community. Scientists don’t doubt nicotine is addictive, but some wonder if a daily dose could be as benign as the caffeine many of us get from a morning coffee.
There are possible side effects to using nicotine if you are not a smoker. But if you’re an entrenched, long-term smoker - somebody already addicted to nicotine - studies show that vaping is close to or more than 95% safer than continuing to smoke.
How to get nicotine into your e-liquid
We would recommend importing your nicotine from New Zealand, as its close proximity to Australia means that your delivery will likely arrive very quickly.
Be careful when mixing nicotine. Nicotine in high strengths is potentially very harmful, so it’s best to stick to an absolute maximum of 100mg base when mixing, and use protective gear including gloves and eye protection when handling. Skin contact should be avoided, and ingestion is a no-no. Handled properly, nicotine can be mixed easily and accurately with a syringe, but if in doubt please always contact an expert at your local vape shop.
You will first need to decide the nicotine strength you’re aiming for, which will be partly determined by the device in use and partly by the nicotine hit you’re after.
For a beginner starter kit the levels vary anywhere from 3mg all the way up to 12mg and above. For an advanced kit that outputs more power, most people tend to stick to 3mg or lower.
Nicotine calculators are readily available online that allow you to input the bottle size of your e-liquid, the strength of your nicotine base and your desired nicotine strength, and will then tell you exactly how much nicotine to add.
Once this small amount of nicotine base has been added to your e-liquid, it’s a case of shaking up the bottle and it will be ready to use.
The most popular form of nicotine to add to your e-liquid is freebase nicotine, however there is a more stable variation that has slightly different properties. These are called nicotine salts.
Nicotine salts are still sold in liquid form, despite the name. The reason they’re called salts is that they are a mix of an alkaline base with an acid.
There are several differences between freebase nicotine and nicotine salts.
- Nicotine salts enter the bloodstream quicker than freebase nicotine, which means a more immediate bodily reaction. Think of when you used to go for a cigarette on your lunch break and you got that immediate satisfaction. Freebase nicotine, on the other hand, has a compounded effect over time and is less immediate.
- Freebase nicotine provides the user with a ‘throat hit’ similar to the roughness on the back of the throat from smoking, whereas nicotine salts are smoother. This element of vaping is entirely up to user preference - some users prefer a throat hit and some prefer a smoother inhale.
- Because of this smoothness, nicotine salts can be used at a higher concentration (think anywhere between 20mg and 50mg) and are therefore perfect for lower-powered devices such as beginner kits.
Nicotine salts are mixed into your e-liquids in the same way as freebase nicotine. Once you’ve chosen a desired strength, just follow the same steps as stated above.
Laws regarding use of nicotine differ from one state to the next. With regulations constantly changing across Australia, we advise that you seek out clarification of the laws in your state.