The promise of synthetic nicotine (2023)

The promise of synthetic nicotine (1)

As consumer demand for healthier and more environmentally friendly alternatives to combustible cigarettes increases, we should expect a greater focus on the benefits of this man-made alternative.

By Derek Yach

(Video) Powerful properties: how tobacco is being used to fight COVID-19

Tobacco-derived nicotine was until recently the only source of nicotine used by pharmaceutical and tobacco companies. Sector nomenclature (tobaccosector), naming companies (for example, British American Tobacco) and shaping public health policy in accordance withtobaccoall checks show how ubiquitous and deeply entrenched the word tobacco has become, despite its scientific nameNicotiana.

The dominance of tobacco plants began to wane as pharmaceutical companies developed nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) as smoking cessation products. This highlighted the fact that although nicotine is addictive, it is not the source of death and disease caused by combustion products. The emergence of a wide variety of consumer-facing products that also use nicotine (especially e-cigarettes and nicotine sachets) to help smokers switch and/or quit has further increased interest in nicotine.

Initially, there was no discussion about the source of the nicotine as it was assumed to come from the plant. In recent years, several companies have started using patented laboratory processes to develop nicotine from scratch. Many of them, like Zanoprima, use green chemistry to convert plant-derived molecules into synthetic nicotine. Other companies, such as Contraf-Nicotex-Tobacco (CNT), start with plant-based molecules used in cosmetics and derived from vitamin B.

Nicotine, like many molecules, exists in two orientations: S-nicotine and R-nicotine; however, the nicotine found naturally in tobacco is all S-nicotine. Prior to the popularization of synthetic nicotine, the distinction was of little practical importance due to its naturally occurring form. Therefore, manufacturers of pharmaceutical grade synthetic nicotine such as CNT and Njoy treat R-nicotine as a by-product of the S-nicotine production process, while Zanoprima's patented process produces no R-nicotine at all. Other manufacturers may use methods that may not meet the high quality standards of the pharmaceutical industry.

What benefits does it bring to consumers and the environment?

Consumers are increasingly demanding information about the supply chain of end products. Leading food companies are at the forefront of transparency about the source of all ingredients in their products, switching to those where farm operating conditions are known, chemical additives are reported, product-related water and greenhouse gas consumption is made public, and food ingredient traceability is independently controlled. Investors are more likely to invest in companies that have a solid track record on these issues.

This will be the case with all future nicotine products.

For many users of combustible materials, the incentive to switch to a reduced-risk product usually starts with a desire to reduce health risks. However, for a significant number of people, environmental issues are quickly becoming a reason for change, often in addition to health issues. Again, this has its parallel in the food sector, where companies like Whole Foods have built their core value proposition on environmental benefits and health credentials are questionable.

According to researchers at Imperial College London, the tobacco industry emits 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, which is equivalent to 0.2% of global CO2 emissions. A total of 20.87 million tons of CO2 comes from cultivation and 44.65 million tons from drying, which together account for 78% of all tobacco industry emissions. Synthetic nicotine has the potential to virtually eliminate them.

Synthetic nicotine brings measurable benefits to consumers: a better sensory experience, the assurance of being free of impurities, and a seal of approval sufficient for pharmaceutical companies, to name a few.

The latest report from the World Health OrganizationTobacco: poisoning our planetpaints a vivid picture of the environmental damage associated with growing, drying and processing tobacco. Recently, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World provided a qualitative summary of the potential sources of environmental harm associated with reduced-risk products. Both the WHO and the foundation advocate for reducing global tobacco cultivation, highlighting the damage caused by tobacco cultivation on arable land, labor rights and malnutrition. It is likely that products created with synthetic nicotine can alleviate many of the problems associated with the product lifecycle. And as companies selling pure nicotine make an increasing effort to make their products recyclable and/or reusable, the overall negative impact on the environment will continue to decrease.

(Video) I believe nicotine is good | John Coogan for Heretics

Where can it grow fastest?

Today, synthetic nicotine is used in next-generation nicotine products by emerging nicotine pouch companies such as NIIN and major vaping companies such as Njoy. This trend will continue and grow in popularity as e-cigarette and nicotine pouch companies seek medical licenses for synthetic nicotine.

One example is SMOOD, an emerging next-generation e-cigarette and NRT company based in New York City. SMOOD creates its products as a comprehensive approach to simultaneously address health and environmental issues. Synthetic nicotine, recyclable equipment and quit-smoking hardware could be a sign of what's to come. “We have always used non-tobacco nicotine due to the lack of minor alkaloids and tobacco metals that are inherent in agricultural production,” says Martin Steinbauer, chief engineer of SMOOD. “Together with repetitive pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, tobacco-free nicotine improves the toxicological safety of our equipment and eliminates carbon emissions, water use and deforestation from tobacco cultivation. Most importantly, it finally offers a clean nicotine-to-tobacco break."

Snus and tobacco products are unlikely to move away from tobacco in the medium term, but they reduce the health risks associated with the tobacco they use through changes in snus processing and the elimination of combustion for heated tobacco products. In the coming decades, tobacco plants will be used in these products, as well as in combustible materials such as cigarettes and cigars, for which there is likely to be significant consumer demand, even if overall demand declines.

(Video) Vaping: what people are getting wrong

Most major tobacco companies are already helping farmers diversify. It will be interesting to see the dynamics of companies with large and growing reduced-risk portfolios that will continue to sell combustibles, even as they shift more to lower-risk products in later years. Altria's purchase of Njoy, Philip Morris International's acquisition of Swedish Match, and BAT's dominance of the US vape space all signal that these companies will take a two-pronged approach to sourcing nicotine.

Who is doing it and how do they see the future?

The CNT said that synthetic nicotine is now a niche product with huge potential. "We see a huge demand there, and the possibilities for chemical synthesis are endless."

Zanoprima, the only company using myosmin as a starting material, believes that over time, synthetic nicotine will become the main source of nicotine in pharmaceutical products, as well as in products that can be sold both as medically approved smoking cessation products and as recreational facilities for ex-smokers to use.

Isn't it expensive to use?

No - prices have been falling recently and will continue to fall as demand increases.


Consumer demand related to health and the environment, coupled with benefits in terms of quality and safety, suggests that synthetic nicotine will realize its potential in the coming years.

(Video) How Smoking vs Vaping Affects Your Lungs ● You Must See This ! !

A global health expert and anti-smoking advocate for over 30 years, Derek Yach is the owner of Global Health Strategies. Previously, Yach was the director of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and the cabinet director of the World Health Organization and executive director of non-communicable diseases and mental health. He was deeply involved in the development of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

(Video) FDA’s Premarket Review Process: What’s the Latest?

The promise of synthetic nicotine (2)


The promise of synthetic nicotine? ›

Synthetic nicotine brings tangible benefits to consumers: A better sensorial experience, assurances about the absence of contaminants and a stamp of quality good enough for pharmaceutical companies, to name a few.

Is the FDA banning synthetic nicotine? ›

In response to the increase of non-tobacco nicotine in popular tobacco products, Congress passed a federal law that went into effect on April 14, 2022, granting FDA authority to regulate tobacco products containing nicotine from any source, including synthetic nicotine.

How bad is synthetic nicotine? ›

Synthetic nicotine is still nicotine. Even though we don't know how addictive it is compared to tobacco-based nicotine, it is still addictive and, most importantly, can still cause the same damage to developing brains.

Does synthetic nicotine give you a buzz? ›

Does Synthetic Nicotine Give You a Nicotine Buzz? Synthetic nicotine can give you a buzz, depending on your tolerance and your body's ability to process nicotine. Some people don't experience any kind of buzz with synthetic nicotine, while others don't notice any difference from normal nicotine at all.

What is a synthetic nicotine? ›

Synthetic nicotine refers to nicotine developed in a lab and not derived from tobacco leaf. It is synthesized using a chemical or enzymatic process and is therefore not a tobacco product.


1. Revealing the Mind: The Promise of Psychedelics
(World Science Festival)
2. What They Aren't Telling You About Nicotine
(The Truth About Vaping)
3. Vaping vs Smoking vs IQOS: Which is Least Harmful? 🚬
(Joseph R Nemeth DDS)
4. Following a Moving Target: Policy Issues in Addressing Emerging Tobacco Products - Minal Patel
(Prevent Cancer Foundation)
5. Econ 480 - Lecture 8: Difference in Differences
(Ivan Canay)
6. The Universe of Juul Litigation
(Public Health Law Center)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Errol Quitzon

Last Updated: 10/11/2023

Views: 5564

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Errol Quitzon

Birthday: 1993-04-02

Address: 70604 Haley Lane, Port Weldonside, TN 99233-0942

Phone: +9665282866296

Job: Product Retail Agent

Hobby: Computer programming, Horseback riding, Hooping, Dance, Ice skating, Backpacking, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Errol Quitzon, I am a fair, cute, fancy, clean, attractive, sparkling, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.