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Synthetic Nicotine - Is there really such a thing?

Discussion in 'Nicotine' started by LaceyUnderall, Nov 5, 2009.

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  1. LaceyUnderall

    LaceyUnderall Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Dec 4, 2008
    USA and Canada
    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.

    Kind Regards,

    Christian Berkey
    Chairman & CEO
    Johnson Creek® Enterprises, Inc.
  2. ladyraj

    ladyraj Super Member ECF Veteran

    Apr 30, 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    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!
  3. Richie G

    Richie G Ultra Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    May 15, 2009
    Lawn Guyland, NY
    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...
  4. LaceyUnderall

    LaceyUnderall Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Dec 4, 2008
    USA and Canada
    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?
  5. xtraelf

    xtraelf Full Member

    Nov 4, 2009
    Ellis County, TX
    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.

  6. Mister

    Mister Super Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 3, 2009
    Nanaimo BC Canada
    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

    TWISTED VICTOR Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Sep 14, 2009
    The edge of Mayhem
    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. :cry: Thanks for posting your findings and saving a lot of frustation on our parts. :)
  8. Vocalek

    Vocalek CASAA Activist ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Apr 7, 2009
    Springfield, VA
    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"
  9. Vocalek

    Vocalek CASAA Activist ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Apr 7, 2009
    Springfield, VA
    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.

    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.]
  10. Mister

    Mister Super Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 3, 2009
    Nanaimo BC Canada
    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.

    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.
  11. tomzgreat

    tomzgreat Ultra Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 5, 2009
    Chino California
    On the subject of the Gum and the lozenges. (with exception of cherry). They contain Aspartame. Many people have a reaction to Aspartame. I"m one of them.

    When I was 27 I started drinking Diet Pepsi. All of a sudden I began having strong hypoglycemic symptoms. It took about a month of thinking that something was seriously wrong with me until I found out that Aspartame throws my body into Hypoglycemic shock and totally effects my sugar levels. I'm not alone look up Aspartame on the internet. It is very nasty stuff.
  12. newkirk

    newkirk Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 16, 2009
    North Carolina

    Tony at Innovapor claims in this post that ECOpure is made with synthetic nicotine, "It is made in a laboratory and is not derived from tobacco." However, it's worth noting that ECOpure is an Intellicig product, Innovapor is a reseller, and he may have misunderstood. AFAIK ShiningWit hasn't said anything on the subject. It's also possible that this is just carefully parsed advertising-speak, IE that it's 'made' in a 'laboratory' by extracting from some other non-tobacco nightshade species...

  13. DVap

    DVap Nicotiana Alchemia Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 26, 2009
    Previous comment (Mister, I think) was right on the mark.

    And I very much doubt that Ecopure is made with synthetic nicotine. The price would have to be astronomical.

    If you gave me a vial of absolutely pure (-)-nicotine, I could not tell you with any certainty whether it was the result of an exhaustive purification of tobacco or whether it was synthesized in a laboratory from non-nicotine starting materials and intermediates.

    If you gave me a vial of absolutely pure (+)-nicotine, or a vial containing a 50:50 mix of (-)-nicotine and (+)-nicotine, I would be absolutely certain it was a non-tobacco derived synthetic material.

    While (+)-nicotine is known to display ~50% of the toxicity of (-)-nicotine, it also displays ~50% of the potency of (-)-nicotine. Half as toxic but you need twice as much for the same effect, sound like a wash to me.

    synthesizing racemic nicotine (equal amounts of (-)-nicotine and (+)-nicotine) is quite expensive, synthesizing the pure (-)-nicotine or (+)-nicotine is far more expensive.

    (+)-nicotine may be synthesized for experimental purposes, but nobody in their right mind would synthesize (-)-nicotine for experimental purposes. It's plentiful in nature, and even after exhaustive purification, it's still pennies on the dollar compared to synthetic (-)-nicotine.
  14. TaketheRedPill

    TaketheRedPill Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 27, 2009
    Southern California
    This is what I'd like to see investigated more. at room temp PG isn't real great at evaporating; neither is VG. So how much 'evaporates' from the lungs as part of normal expiration? And what is the metabolism rate of nicotine bound in PG? are the lungs turned into a biological nicotine patch? Does the body have a set rate at metabolizing PG or can it shift into overdrive at will and metabolize whatever we throw at it? In light of different studies that show spikes in nicotine levels of NRT users, do these studies show the body only goes into overdrive when some sort of toxic threshold is reached in the lungs? What does the presence of nicotine byproducts in hair, fingernails and toenails have to say about how well the body metabolizes nicotine?

    IIRC, most nrt's state not for use longer than 6 months. Will we see a 'not for use longer than' for PV liquids?

  15. xtraelf

    xtraelf Full Member

    Nov 4, 2009
    Ellis County, TX
    Great answers! Yet I'm still puzzled.

    Tomzgreat, I am indeed aspartame intolerant, so I suppose I went like a lamb to the slaughter with gum and lozenges. Even a cursory exam of the FDA processes and history of it's introduction certainly shows how corrupt the FDA can be. I can easily forsee e-cigs being the "saccarine" product that gets the ax in favor of big money tobacco in a very similar scenario. The news of two days previous about aspartame causing kidney failure was no shock to me, although my side-effect was acute stomach pain. I didn't have brain fuzz and depression on it, though. Hmmmm.

    Vocalek, I valued your points also, and can see their potential as culprets. Though, there were days I saturated my system up to the point of illness with the NP and days I could barely touch the stuff, yet the mental misery remained fairly constant.

    However, I'm still mystified to some degree, because patches with no aspartame were the worst method of the three and Cold Turkey didn't unhinge me the way nicotine polacrilex products did.

    So now I've several good possilities for my issue with NP including a personal intolerance.

    Perhaps Mister could put a chemist's brain to it and tell me just what this stuff is... if he would be so kind.

    Thanking all for their replies,
  16. xtraelf

    xtraelf Full Member

    Nov 4, 2009
    Ellis County, TX
    I mispoke when I said aspartame was found to cause kidney failure. I should have said damage or deterioration.

    Further, I always type "it's" when I know it should be "its". Sheesh.

  17. Mister

    Mister Super Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 3, 2009
    Nanaimo BC Canada
    Sorry Genie, I'm not a chemist, just a layman trying to understand what I can.

    On looking around a bit I'm fuzzy as to what ingredients might be in any given NP product. It seems that NP refers to nicotine bound to an ion exchange resin, but not necessarily even a single particular resin. And then there are "buffering agents" (whatever those might be) and flavoring.

    However, it is clear that your body is reacting badly to something in the mix since you do even worse when using NP than going cold turkey. I think the best bet is just to stay away from NP products and keep trying other stuff to find something which works to deliver the nicotine content you need without new side-effects. Vaping and snus seem to be the two approaches with the greatest success for people in these forums.
  18. Angela

    Angela Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 20, 2009
    Hertfordshire, England
    I've previously tried to correct this theory, but gave up as I couldn't keep up with the Chinese Whispers!

    Intellicig has NEVER claimed that it's nicotine was synthetic.
  19. DVap

    DVap Nicotiana Alchemia Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 26, 2009

    Here's a chemist's brain...

    smoking is fine, not smoking is no fun, but NRT's (gums and patches) make you go various flavors of bonkers. Does that sound about right?

    I haven't read back closely enough to see what vaping does for you. Does it create more bonkers, or is it OK, but not like real cigs?

    Let us know here and I'll see if I can't put some pieces together and hazard a guess as to what might be going on.
  20. xtraelf

    xtraelf Full Member

    Nov 4, 2009
    Ellis County, TX
    I stumbled upon the whole concept of e-cigs about a week ago. I have now read a vast majority of posts here, watched 3 dozen vids... and y'all have sold me. In fact y'all have given me the first hope I've had in years that I might be able to quell my 36 year, almost 3 pack a day, full strength habit.

    I'm away from home til Monday but upon my return I will be ordering a KR808D-1. In full truth Vaping is pretty much my last hope as neither NRTs, hypnosis, accupuncture, Wellbutrin nor Cold Turkey have done it. Nor did seeing an old friend die due to smoking induced COPD last year. Some of the very last words out of her mouth to me were a plea for me to quit smoking. I said I'd try and she said, "No, don't try. Take a good long look at me and quit!". As you can well imagine, it haunts me.

    She was beyond right that I must get off of cigs. I am sick of feeling lousy all the time. They literally are killing me and I know it.

    I realize I'm going off topic, but I came to this particular forum section to find out about what "variety" of nicotine was in e-liquids because of my history with the alternate form. It was my last question before diving into Vaping. I feel reassured that I won't have a repeat of NP symptoms now, though I am aware I will still crave the missing tars and gunk for a short while.

    My mind is set and I'm a stubborn cuss so look for me to be vaping soon. I've really no other choice when you get down to it.

    As to the NP issue... there was one element to the equation I never thought about until this post series since I don't drink or do drugs or have to take any daily prescriptions. My sinuses went crazy when I was on that stuff and I was reduced to taking Psuedophed. Maybe, just maybe, there was a drug interaction between the two, though it seems I'd have been wired up rather than depressed. Ah, well, as was just mentioned, I should avoid it like the plague whatever the underlying reason.

    I want to thank all on this forum for the investment of time and caring that writing these responses take. I do appreciate you all.

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