Synthetic Nicotine - Is there really such a thing?
An interesting discussion started in the SE thread regarding synthetic nicotine. So, I went to Johnson Creek and asked about synthetic nicotine as I have been unable to find any real information regarding synthetic nicotine actually being used in the eLiquids.
There were many more great posts and I do hope that those who had things to share will come and post their thoughts here, as it is an interesting discussion... Is there really such a thing as Synthetic Nicotine?
Official response via writing from Christian Berkey at Johnson Creek...
Most studies regarding synthetic nicotine were conducted in the 60's and 70's by tobacco companies looking for a way to add nicotine on the manufacturing level instead of on the agricultural or botany level. Purely synthetic nicotine is made with a combination of Niacin, Ethanol, Sulfuric Acid and a few other nasty chemicals. When adjusted for inflation, the cost of the process is prohibitively expensive when compared to modern extraction methods. Additionally, we've never seen research indicating a feasible pharmaceutical grade product - industrial grades only. While modern technology may allow for additional resolution steps, we believe the cost has kept it from being seriously pursued. That combination of high cost and more importantly low quality makes it a presently unacceptable option for Johnson Creek.
While additional research may have been done, we've never seen published works stating so. To our knowledge, there is currently no firm offering a synthetic pharmaceutical grade nicotine.
Extracted nicotine, regardless of plant origin, processed to pharma grades, is technically not synthetic. This pharma or "pure" nicotine is used in our products. Other pharma forms of nicotine, such as nicotine polacrilex, undergo a similar process but undergo specific bonding for use in products like nicotine gum, etc."
Please let me know if there is additional information I can provide. Please also feel free to post this.
Chairman & CEO
Johnson Creek® Enterprises, Inc.
Thank you so much for posting this Lacy...I was growing concerned because all I could find about synthetic nicotine was that it was a pesticide. When somone claimed it's use in Johson Creek....I put my PV down and picked up a ciggie. I would rather vape extract from a plant than some pesticide that is being blamed for killing off the honey bees!
Interesting subject, Lacey. I *think* I see where you're going with this too. An e-liquid product sans real nicotine would further distance the PV/E-cig industry from falling under the realm of the FDA. Perhaps new technology *could* develop a product without the nasties that Christian Berkey spoke to. I mean, sulfuric acid? Geez. LOL
Pardon my minor drift of the main topic here. Reading through the different vaping forums it becomes apparent that many people have already moved off nicotine altogether, while others (me included) have reduced the intake. In my case, and this has been echoed by others, I would drop my nic levels further or even eliminate it if only I could get a decent throat hit. Yes, I'm aware of high voltage devices that can accomplish that and I'm aware that some DIY folk have had TH success with menthol crystals and pure grain alcohol. But, the thought here is that there has to be something else that could provide TH -- an herb extract or something.
I've read where many people quit smoking via vaping with the realization that they were addicted to the hand to mouth action as much as anything else. Some of them were able to eliminate their nicotine on that alone. Me, I need a TH. I know I do or the whole thing is pointless. As a smoker for some 35 years, but with a 12 consecutive year hiatus mixed in there, I'm sure I can do without nicotine if only I had a TH. I think that's the only thing that is separating me from those who found that hand to mouth was their key and not nicotine.
A synthetic that could simulate the effects of nicotine would be a panacea for the masses, for sure. However, I think many of us would benefit from something much simpler. I wonder if the folks at JC, et al, have given this any thought...
Well... and until I really started learning about TSNA's, I always assumed that the NRT's themselves were made up of some kind of synthetic nicotine... hence no carcinogens. Now, their makers never claimed they didn't have carcinogens, but as a user of said products, I had NO CLUE these products contained TSNA's in them. They weren't exactly forthright on their labels noting that these products do in fact contain carcinogens as they are derived from tobacco plants. Then again, if people knew they were exchanging one level of carcinogens for another, would they have used the NRT's in the first place considering that there has been such a scare factor created even going from smoking tobacco to using things such as smokeless tobacco products?
So in discovery for the perfectly pure eLiquid, one that would contain nicotine because as you note, throat hit IS important and from what I can ascertain, it does come from the nicotine, how do you refine the nicotine so much that it still keeps it's quality, yet eliminates the TSNA's? What is the best method? And while researching all of this... I just kept running into dead ends regarding this idea of "synthetic nicotine".
Currently, the only product on the market with nicotine that does not contain TSNA's is the Commit Lozenge. At least from the study I reviewed. Why wouldn't the other NRT's made by the same manufacturer contain no TSNA's as well?
Glad you're talking about this
I've tried gums, lozenges, patches and whatever nicotine polacrilex is, it isn't nicotine as found in tobacco. It's not even close. I try to explain to my non-smoking friends that it does something horrible to my nervous system, as they can't understand why I'd suffer since I was supposedly getting my nic-fix.
All I know is that the longer I gave it a go each try, the more muddled and depressed my thoughts became. And at the cost of not even remotely chaining my tobacco monkey down. I just couldn't get a grip.
When I stopped it each time and picked my REAL nicotine back up, I recovered my senses in under 24 hours. Neither cold-turkey attempts, nor accupuncture altered my personality like nicotine polacrilex did, although it should have been worse with those methods, so I know it's that particular concoction.
I've known others who shared similar and weirder side-effects on that stuff, so it's not just my particular biochemistry. One chain-smoking friend broke out in hives in under 5 minutes the first time she ever touched nicotine polacrilex. ER here we come.
If the FDA has nothing better to do then torment folks who want off analogs they should focus their efforts on that vile chemical and leave the e-smokers be.
I think it is time to back up a bit here and re-examine nomenclature.
There are only two distinct things named nicotine. Both of them have the chemical formula C10H14N2, and the molecular structure described by the IUPAC name 3-[(2S)-1-methylpyrrolidin-2-yl]pyridine.
The only difference between the two is the "optical" arrangement in the molecule. It can be either levorotatory or dextrarotatory. As vapers or as smokers we're only using the levorotatory form. It is the one which occurs naturally in plants and is the one whose addictive affect on us is understood. Little is known about how the other form might affect us and it is probably unwise to experiment with it - it would probably take decades to understand whatever effects it might have as well as the kind of nicotine we're using is understood.
The main point I want to make here is that if a chemist were given a quanitity of pure levorotatory nicotine, there is no way the chemist could determine where it came from or how it was made. It isn't possible to distinguish synthetic from natural, at least with our knowledge today. And that includes distinguishing it by it having any different effect on anything inclulding our bodies. Regardless of how produced, it is exactly what it is - levorotatory nicotine.
There may be some "nicotine analogs" around which are chemicals expected to behave similarly to nicotine, and some people may be tempted to call them synthetic nicotine. I think we'd be crazy to experiment with any such chemical. Little enough is known about nicotine itself after all this time. Better the devil we know.
I think that the only concern we need have regarding our nicotine is its purity. It can of course matter a lot if there are other things mixed into it. The kinds of impurities it might contain would be different depending on the process used to extract or synthesize it. But synthesizing it is not an inherent guarantee that it will be pure, and extracting it from plants is not a guarantee that it will be impure. So the question of whether it is synthetic or natural has no importance at all to me.
It does appear to be possible to synthesize nicotine but there aren't a lot of references to procedures that I can find. There's one here: synthesys
Well, Lacey, I was watching this early on and, as with you, only found dead ends, 35 year old studies that appeared like everyone left the lab for lunch and didn't come back. It looks like, at least for now, it's a closed door. Thanks for posting your findings and saving a lot of frustation on our parts.
Mister: I'm interested in your reaction to these ideas from 1929.
A synthetic form of nicotine exists quite
different in its effects from^that present in
smoking tobacco. This nicotine is twofold
less poisonous than the form produced
by nature. The molecular pattern in the
natural product is left-handed, while the
synthetic nicotine has its atoms arranged
in a right-handed form.
It is too difficult and expensive to make
this synthetic nicotine by present methods
for commercial production. "And perhaps
its effect would be so different that
tobacco users would not care for it."
I went back to check the date on this alumni newsletter and was flabbergasted:
MAY 2, 1929
See third page of the PDF under the title "Dr. Jaeger to Speak"
Your friend sounds like a case of a true allergic reaction to some extra ingredient in the gum. If she was able to go back to smoking w/o a reaction, it's unlikely she is allergic to nicotine.
Originally Posted by xtraelf
Your case, however, sounds suspiciously like my circumstances. In my case, a significant reduction in nicotine -- even though I am still getting some -- can bring on depression, confusion, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness. These are reversed as soon as I get my nicotine levels back up where they need to be.
I once thought I was having symptoms of early Alzheimers. I even went to a neurologist for testing and did not do well on the Mini-Mental Exam. Shortly thereafter, all my symptoms disappeared like magic. It wasn't until quite a while later that I put 2 plus 2 together. During that period I was using sheer will-power to cut my consumption of cigarettes in half. When I stopped trying to control it and went back to smoking whenever I felt the urge, I suddenly got well.
I was able to get the number of cigarettes I smoked down to 10 by using a combinations of things, one of which was 6-8 pieces of gum or lozenges a day. I was only able to get all the way off tobacco when I started using the e-cigarette.
But even then, I started to get edgy at first and that went away when I sent away for some 24 mg. liquid and started refilling my cartridges. The 16 mg that comes in the cartridges they call "high" isn't high enough.
So the bottom line is that there isn't enough nicotine in the gum, patch, lozenges, etc. for most of us. They design them that way on purpose, to minimize potential to be addictive for non-smokers who might happen to use them for some reason. [Yes I realize that this is stupid reasoning, but I'm just describing their thinking, not explaining or condoning it.]
Last edited by Vocalek; 11-05-2009 at 10:18 PM.
The "Levorotatory" and "Dextrarotatory" terms I used earlier are the same as that article's use of the terms "left-handed" and "right-handed". Although it is known that the Dextrarotatory (right-handed) form of nicotine does not satisfy our nicotine cravings as well as the other form, I don't think it has been studied nearly enough to consider that it doesn't have other consequences we might not want. I think that if we want to reduce the effect we should stick with the left-handed stuff we've become addicted to and just use less of it.
Originally Posted by Vocalek
I think that the important things we should be understanding and working to improve are:
1. The purity of the nicotine.
2. The purity of the other ingredient(s). This is an area where there's much to be learned as soon as we move beyond PG and water. And even with PG there's a really interesting possibility I wish someone would pursue (I'm no chemist and wouldn't know where to start): PG also comes in left-handed and right-handed types. The stuff we use is called "racemic", meaning it is a mixture of both. It is known that our bodies metabolize left-handed PG much better than right-handed. I'd love to see someone make a pure left-handed PG for us to try. That might solve the problem some people have with PG.
3. The interaction of the nicotine with other added substances. This is especially significant in some of the NRTs where the nicotine may be delivered in a modified form as a "salt". Fortunately for us as vapers it seems that in most or all of the liquids we use we're getting pure non-salt (otherwise known as "freebase") nicotine so this area may be of less interest to us.
4. Any chemical changes which occur between the time our juice is in liquid form and the time it enters our bodies. So far these seem minimal but there may be exceptions. A worrisome one I'd stay far away from is vaping VG at a high temperature (e.g. a high voltage mod.)
5. The phsyical characteristics of the nicotine delivery. So far it seems likely that we're receiving our nicotine in teeny blobs of PG and that this slows the absorption time. Not a health concern in any way that I know of but something which may be important in understanding the differences in the feel of nicotine between smoking and vaping.
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