Newsletter articles about nicotine.
not a lot of good chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes can do for your
health. But, as this ScienCentral News video reports, one researcher
says genetically modified tobacco may do some good by cleaning up some
polluted military sites.
14, 2005 http://www.sciencentral.com/
Nicotine: What is it, and
where does it come from?
to clear the air.
The best way to understand nicotine, if you
don't have a lot of chemistry background is to understand table salt.
The chemical name for table salt is "sodium chloride". It is
made up of two chemical elements named "sodium" and "chlorine".
Sodium is a soft, dull grey metal that looks a lot like aluminum
or lead. Unlike aluminum or lead however, metallic sodium is rather
unstable. Drop some of it into water and it immediately bursts into
flames. Expose it to air and it reacts with oxygen and water vapor to
form white, powdery crystals. It has to be stored in an oxygen free
atmosphere to retain its pure, metallic form. Usually, it is stored in
Chlorine is a highly toxic gas. When concentrated, it has a
pale, yellowish green color. Like sodium, chlorine reacts quickly with
just about everything. Chlorine bleach, which has chlorine dissolved in
water, allows the water to dissolve wood, paper, cotton, fat, human
skin, and just about every living tissue. This is why chlorine kills you
pretty quickly if you inhale the stuff. Chlorine gas was one of the
first chemical weapons invented and used in World War I.
However, mix sodium and chlorine together and the two neutralize
each other to form sodium chloride, a harmless, stable chemical compound
that we call "table salt". Small to moderate amounts of sodium chloride
are found in every living thing on earth. In fact, without the stuff, a
person would get sick and die.
Nicotine has a chemical nature
much like sodium. In its pure form, which is called "freebase nicotine",
it reacts chemically with oxygen in the air, with water, and most other
living tissues, destroying them instantly.
Freebase nicotine is
highly poisonous and is sometimes used as an insecticide. It makes a
good insecticide because it only lasts about half an hour in the
environment, being so unstable in the presence of air. In very small
amounts, freebase nicotine can be injected into a person's bloodstream
and has an effect almost identical to cocaine.
All green, living
plants produce and store nicotine. They use the nicotine to produce
another chemcal compound called NADP (nicotinic acid adenine
dinucleotide phosphate). NADP is what breaks apart water molecules
during photosynthesis. Plants make NADP from nitrates and phosphates
found in the soil. The common name for nitrates and phosphates is
The secret to how plants store nicotine, without
the nicotine killing them, is that they combine it with other things to
make more stable compounds. The common forms of nicotine stored in
plants are nicotine citrate, nicotine malate, nicotine sulfate, nicotine
oxide (cotinine), and nicotinic acid (vitamin B3, niacin). Like table
salt, these compounds formed from nicotine are stable, are not
poisonous, are not addictive drugs, and are essential to good human
health and nutrition.
The tobacco plant stores its nicotine as a
mixture of nicotine citrate and nicotine malate. The tobacco plant
happens to produce a lot off nicotine because it grows quickly. Corn and
hemp (marijuana) also produce and store nicotine at roughly the same
rate as tobacco, because they also can grow six to ten feet in one
To give a clear picture of just how unstable freebase
nicotine is, let's look at a few facts about it. According to the
International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), freebase nicotine has
the following physical properties:
Melting Point: -80 degrees
Boiling Point: 247 degrees Celsius
Flash Point: 95 degrees
Auto-Ignition Temperature: 240 degrees Celsius
Limits: 0.7 - 4 percent, by volume, in air
Vapor Pressure at Room
Temperature: 0.006 kPa
The interesting thing to note here is
that the auto-ignition temperature is lower than the boiling point. This
means that, if you heat freebase nicotine in an air free container, it
will detonate (explode) before it boils.
Nicotine is so unstable
that it does not need to react chemically with anything to have an
explosion occur. Its low vapor pressure tells us that nicotine does not
evaporate on its own. If you heat it, nicotine will decompose chemically
before it boils. Furthermore, in the presence of air, nicotine bursts
into flames at a temperature just below the boiling point of water.
For a reference on the physical properties of nicotine, you can
check the IPCS:
In summary, what the above physical properties are saying is
that there is no possible way in this universe, or any other, that a
nicotine vapor can exist.
You can not get nicotine by burning
tobacco. The nicotine will chemically decompose before a vapor of it is
formed. Furthermore, if any nicotine vapor did form by burning tobacco,
it would burst into flames before any residual moisture in the tobacco
leaves is boiled away.
Now, I realize that the stuff I just said
is going to stomp hard on the religion that you have been taught since
childhood, but there is no nicotine in tobacco smoke. Never has been and
never will be.
When "scientists" study tobacco smoke to measure
"nicotine content", they do not actually look for nicotine. They look
for a different chemical named "cotinine", which is nicotine oxide.
Cotinine is neither harmful, nor addictive, nor psycho-active.
A great deal of research has been done on cotinine because it
blocks the effects of cocaine on the human nervous system and is used
medically for detoxification from cocaine addiction.
is a chemical component of many related compounds, such as nicotine
citrate, nicotine sulfate, nicotine malate, nicotine oxide (cotinine)
and nicotinic acid (vitamin B3, niacin). Pure, free base, nicotine is a
deadly poison, an addictive drug and also a good explosive. The above
mentioned compounds containing nicotine however, bear as much
resemblance to nicotine as table salt does to metallic sodium, or as
water does to hydrogen.
Now, you may ask, if nicotine is so
unstable, how do scientists get it to use as a pesticide? The method
used to extract freebase nicotine from dried tobacco leaves was
discovered in 1828, and can best be summarized by this quote from a 1911
NICOTINE, Ci0H14N2, an alkaloid, found with small
quantities of nicotimine, C,9H14N2, nicoteine, Ci0Hl2N2, and
nicotelline, CioH8N2, in tobacco.
The name is taken from
Nicotiana, the tobacco plant, so called after Jean Nicot (1530-1600),
French ambassador at Lisbon, who introduced tobacco into France in 1560.
These four alkaloids exist in combination in tobacco chiefly as malates
and citrates. The alkaloid is obtained from an aqueous extract of
tobacco by distillation with slaked lime, the distillate being acidified
with oxalic acid, concentrated to a syrup and decomposed by potash.
The free base is extracted by ether and fractionated in a
current of hydrogen. It is a colorless oil, which boils at 247 C. (745
mm.), and when pure is almost odorless. It has a sharp burning taste,
and is very poisonous.
It is very hygroscopic, dissolves readily
in water, and rapidly undergoes oxidation on exposure to air. The free
alkaloid is strongly laevo-rotatory. F. Ratz (Mounts., 1905, 26, p.
1241) obtained the value [o]u = 169-54 at 20; its salts are
dextro-rotatory. It behaves as a di-acid as well as a di-tertiary base.
Here is a link to the web page of that enclopedia article:
In other words, to get nicotine from tobacco, you would have to
soak your dried tobacco leaves in water to produce an "aqueous extract".
Then, mix that aqueous extract with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide).
Then, mix the distillate with oxalic acid. Then concentrate it into a
syrup. Then mix that syrup with some potash (potassium hydroxide). Then
distill it again in an atmosphere of flowing ether and hydrogen. Do you
take the time to do all this when you smoke a cigarette? Highly
Stop to think, the next time you read some b.s. on
"nicotine addiction" and realize that all this crap has been based on 75
years of pure "junk science" and propaganda. Who was it that said, "Tell
a lie enough times and it becomes the truth?" I believe that the author
of this strategy was a certain high ranking officer in the Nazi Party of
Germany in the 1930s, which Party was also the origin of today's
When you burn tobacco, you don't get any
freebase nicotine. What you get is an assortment of harmless, stable
chemicals that result from the oxidation of nicotine. Visit a drug store
and read the ingredients of "nicotine" gum, lozenges and patches. You
will find that most of them contain no nicotine, but rather nicotine
sulfate or nicotine oxide, or even good old vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid).
The fallacy that makes "nicotine addiction" junk science is
that: Yes, if you make freebase nicotine in a chemical laboratory and
inject it intravenously, it will act as a potent, addictive drug, and do
every evil thing ascribed to nicotine. However, burning the tobacco does
not produce any freebase nicotine.
Many double blind studies
have already shown that "nicotine" patches, gum and lozenges are no more
effective than placebos at stopping a smoking habit. Strictly,
scientifically speaking, there is no (freebase) nicotine in tobacco
smoke; never has been and never will be.
If you really want to
nail the health-nazis to the wall in court, get the research scientists
on the witness stand, under oath and penalty of perjury, and ask, "Did
you actually measure 1.5 mg of pure, freebase, nicotine in the smoke
from that cigarette, or was it actually cotinine that you measured?" The
infamous FTC method devised in the 1960's for measuring the "nicotine"
content of different brands of cigarettes is a test for cotinine
(nicotine oxide). At the time, the researchers said they had to do it
that way because it "is not possible to measure nicotine in tobacco
smoke because nicotine decomposes too rapidly." A good library or even
the web might have a paper telling exactly how the "FTC Method" is done.
Do a Google search on "FTC Method" and I bet you find the word
"cotinine" in the same paragraph.
Patrick J. Gleason
Cigarettes and Other Nicotine Products
Heading down a new tobacco
Arthur Hirsch Sun Staff Originally published July 29,
University of Maryland research project seeks to juice up the familiar
plant and develop it as a source of proteins for numerous uses by other
MARLBORO - The tobacco thriving here on the University of Maryland's
research farm looks like the plant that dominated state agriculture for
centuries, the leaves mint green, fuzzy to the touch, long and wide as
the blades of a ceiling fan.
plants have been to college, though, and might be nearing the threshold
of a future that generations of tobacco farmers would scarcely
one thing, this vision of Maryland tobacco's future is stamped "NO
SMOKING." Think, instead, of tobacco as a component of cosmetics, diet
supplements, medicine or shampoo. Consider high-protein fluids for
kidney dialysis patients, and drugs that might someday be used to treat,
of all things, cancer and heart disease.
all seems at least as unlikely as the idea that Maryland tobacco has a
future at all. Growing on a testing ground here no bigger than a Major
League Baseball diamond, this tobacco might help resurrect a Maryland
business shrunk to a fragment of its old self since the 1980s, most
recently by a program that has paid farmers millions to stop growing
tobacco for smoking.
the buyouts, a question has been hanging in the air, said Gary V. Hodge,
a Southern Maryland regional planner who helped run the tobacco program
that began in 1998, cutting Maryland tobacco sales from 9.58 million
pounds to 1.4 million this year.
what?" Hodge said. "We're trying to answer that
was standing under a hazy sky on the test patch off Route 202 recently
with a group of men involved in the University of Maryland's Alternative
Uses of Tobacco Project. These men have doctoral degrees and business
experience. They are schooled less in the arduous work of bringing
tobacco to local auctions year after year than in chemical extraction
technology and multibillion-dollar markets in
future of Maryland tobacco and the state's agricultural landscape might
along with the aroma, taste and nicotine buzz smokers crave, tobacco
offers proteins. Extracted in pure form, the protein might compete with
milk, egg and soy proteins used in sundry ways by
hope, said Hodge, is to restore the economic impact of Maryland tobacco,
which in 1997 accounted for two-thirds of Southern Maryland's farm
income while growing on less than 5 percent of farmland in those five
A. Belson, president of Pharmacognetics Inc., a biotechnology company in
Port Tobacco and a member of the project team, called the effort part of
a larger shift from petroleum-based to plant-based industrial materials,
"from a hydrocarbon to a carbohydrate economy."
plants produce proteins and other compounds, but the reason scientists
are so enthusiastic about tobacco in particular is evident even to the
untrained observer visiting the research farm. In a word:
is a key appeal of tobacco," Belson said.
plants can be grown in dense thickets, sprouting leaves nearly as long
as your arm and a couple hands across. Crop science people call all this
green stuff "biomass," and tobacco produces more of it per acre than any
matters when the compounds you're trying to extract constitute very
small percentages of the whole plant. The more mass you start with, the
more of any given material you might get.
means treating Maryland tobacco in a new and rather brutal way. For much
of its centuries-long history, the plant has been babied step by
Maryland tobacco farmer typically transplants about 6,000 seedlings per
acre in spring and harvests once in late summer. The stalks are raised
in roomy rows, chopped by hand and hung in barns to air dry through the
fall and winter, the dried reddish-brown leaves then carefully stripped
off by hand, tied in fan-like clusters and bundled off to market in
spring. Maryland tobacco farmers could hardly take more care if they
were raising orchids.
steady decline here beginning in the 1980s had much to do with the
difficulty of finding labor to raise it. The Alternative Uses project
suggests a new, mechanized and high-volume tobacco crop that would
demand less labor.
researchers have devised direct seeding methods to raise about 90,000
plants per acre, harvesting two or three times a year. Leaves harvested
by machine on the research farm recently have been trucked to the
University of Maryland's College Park campus and unloaded at the old
creamery, where the school once made ice cream.
professors and graduate students working there have run a few tests on a
noisy configuration of conveyors, hammer choppers and a screw press,
cutting about 200 pounds of tobacco leaves into particles as fine as
"McCormick spices," said Y. Martin Lo, an associate professor in the
University of Maryland's Department of Nutrition and Food
of the juice has been taken to a laboratory and run through an elaborate
series of spinnings, filtrations, washings, chemical treatments and
cooling to produce a pure protein crystal: colorless, odorless,
said they have produced maybe a couple teaspoons of two different
proteins. It's a small start at a stage of the game where quantity
matters if you are trying to attract investors.
scientist Ray Long knows that only too well from his research at North
Carolina State University in Raleigh, where work on protein extraction
and bio-engineered tobacco began in the 1970s.
ruefully recalled a day in the 1990s when a representative of a chemical
company that supplies the cosmetics industry called him asking about
said they would like to have 50 pounds to do formulations and test in a
market," Long said. "I didn't have 50 grams. ... That has been the
is, the research on how to produce large amounts of this pure protein
costs money, which might be available from industry representatives if
they could get large amounts of the material.
difficulty of inducing the plant to produce significant amounts of a
particular protein by genetic manipulation should "not be trivialized,"
said Long's N.C. State colleague, Arthur Weissinger. He estimates it
could be 20 years before human vaccines based on tobacco proteins will
Maryland research, which does not include genetic engineering,
anticipates results sooner.
the end of 2006, Lo wrote in an e-mail, researchers hope to have a
blueprint for a protein-producing operation. Such a design on paper
would then be offered "to interested parties such as tobacco farmers or
investors to establish a commercial processing facility adjacent to
tobacco farmlands," Lo said.
Researchers here hope to attract investors while there are
farmers around who know how to grow tobacco, and before too much more
farmland is transformed into subdivisions and shopping
than 80 percent of Maryland tobacco farmers took the buyout, meaning
they agree never to grow tobacco again for smoking and what the state
calls "similar personal consumption."
would not include sipping a soft drink that has been given a nutritional
boost with a shot of tobacco protein, or foaming up your hair with a
tobacco-protein shampoo, washing out the smell of a night in some smoky