Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical compound found naturally in the tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plant. Aside from being present in tobacco products, nicotine is also added to several other products, including pesticides, smoking-cessation products and liquids for use in electronic cigarettes. When added to other products, a nicotine extract from the tobacco plant is used. All products containing nicotine are addictive.
Nicotine was first isolated as a chemical compound in 1828. According to Clemson University, nicotine was first patented for use as an insecticide additive in 1908. Nicotine has been added to some pesticides ever since. According to Laura Picket Pottorff, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension horticulturist and plant pathologist, nicotine extract is one of the oldest botanical insecticides in use today.
Nicotine is present in all tobacco products. Cigarettes that are marketed as low-tar or low-nicotine still contain nicotine. Nicotine is also present in dip, snuff, packets, chewing tobacco, cigars and pipe tobacco. The nicotine in the smokeless tobaccos is absorbed during use.
Nicotine is added to many products designed as smoking-cessation aids. These products include nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine lozenges and nicotine nasal sprays. They are all designed to be used instead of cigarettes, as part of a program to stop smoking. The amount of nicotine in these products varies and can be tailored to help an individual “wean off” their nicotine dependence.
Electronic cigarettes are “smokeless” cigarettes that deliver nicotine to the user, without the combustible by-products associated with smoking tobacco-based cigarettes. The liquid used for electronic cigarettes usually contains nicotine, although it can be purchase nicotine-free. The electronic cigarette liquid typically contains nicotine extract, propylene glycol and flavoring. The liquid can be ordered in varying nicotine strengths and flavors.
Liquid nicotine can be especially toxic. Gloves should always be worn when using a nicotine-based pesticide. Care should be observed when handling the nicotine-based liquids used for electronic cigarettes. Any liquid nicotine, including pesticides and electronic cigarette liquids, could be fatal if handled or ingested by a child.
Nicotine, in trace amounts, occurs naturally in eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.