Where Does Nicotine Come From?

April 29, 2022 3 min read

picture of raw tobacco

Nicotine is usually associated with tobacco cigarettes and it is probably why it enjoys such a negative reputation. Everybody understands the dangers associated with cigarette use but is nicotine by itself dangerous? How much nicotine do cigarettes exactly contain? Moreover, does nicotine occur naturally in tobacco or are the tobacco companies responsible for adding it? Where does the nicotine found in e-liquids come from?

What is Nicotine and What Are Its Origins?

Let us begin with the simpler question: Does nicotine occur naturally in tobacco? Nicotine is definitely an alkaloid present in tobacco and various other members of the nightshade family including peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. You can rightly state that humanity has been consumers of nicotine for millennia since tobacco cultivation started in the Americas about 6,000 B.C. Back then people most likely smoked or chewed it. Even Christophe Columbus himself actually received a gift of dried tobacco once he arrived in the Bahamas. He even carried tobacco seeds and leaves with him back to Europe.

The Evolution of Nicotine

Nicot de Villemain, who was the French diplomat responsible for the introduction of tobacco to the Queen of France who then used it for treating her headaches was whom nicotine was named in honor of. You might not believe it but tobacco was at a time believed to have medicinal qualities. However, as early as the 17th Century, doctors had started discovering a correlation between the use of tobacco and diseases like cancer. Over 25 million pounds of tobacco were being cultivated annually around the same time in the Jamestown colony alone, thus making it a top export of the American colonies.

It is worth noting that consuming nicotine alone is not believed to be the root of health problems related to smoking. Tobacco and even cigarettes themselves contain other chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic. Nicotine was once believed to be the key driver of dependency on tobacco but new evidence suggests that those other chemicals actually play a greater role in cigarette addiction.

Interestingly, recent studies have revealed that nicotine by itself might actually possess some medicinal properties. Researchers from all over the world are successfully experimenting with using nicotine for treating Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and even depression.

The Use of Nicotine Today

A large number of people still consume nicotine from various tobacco products including cigars, cigarettes, or even chewing tobacco. Nicotine is obviously found in some e-liquids and nicotine patches. The nicotine used in nicotine replacement therapies is actually extracted from tobacco but it is sometimes manufactured artificially. The theory behind nicotine replacement is that it works by mitigating the withdrawal effects of tobacco. We currently understand that addiction to cigarettes has several different facets, which is the reason why the development of e-cigarettes happened: to mimic closely the smoking process but without the associated health risks.

If you are thinking of adopting vaping to replace traditional smoking, you should first determine if you would like an e-liquid containing nicotine or not. Some smokers may find themselves not requiring the nicotine since they are able to satisfy their urges through the act of vaping. If you do prefer taking the nicotine route, you need to choose a nicotine strength that depends on the number of cigarettes that you currently smoke on a daily basis.

You need to understand that the effects of nicotine usually differ depending on the method of delivery that you use. For instance, research shows that people that vape usually take in lower amounts of nicotine per puff than traditional smokers. In part 2 of the series, we will be focusing on how much nicotine is contained in cigarettes and reveal the amount of nicotine that smokers consume.