Synthetic Nicotine

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Synthetic nicotine is created in a laboratory rather than from tobacco leaves. Though synthetic nicotine has been around for some time, it has only recently started being used in products such as e-cigarettes as the production costs have gone down. It is produced as a liquid, which has found its way primarily into vape products.

Research on the safety of synthetic nicotine is ongoing. Despite not being derived from tobacco, synthetic nicotine may still pose risks. Scientists are investigating its health impacts, with existing knowledge indicating that specific flavor components could adversely affect health. Products that use synthetic nicotine, on the other hand, have the same or similar amounts of nicotine in them as tobacco-derived products.

Synthetic nicotine is crafted in laboratories through various chemical processes, yielding either pure S-nicotine or a 50:50 racemic mixture of S-nicotine and R-nicotine.

As detailed in a patent by Next Generation Labs, one method begins with ethyl nicotinate, an ester of niacin, which is transformed into myosmine, a tobacco alkaloid, and then reduced to nornicotine. This compound is further methylated to produce a racemic mix of S-nicotine and R-nicotine.
Contraf-Nicotex-Tobacco (CNT), another major supplier, separates racemic nicotine mixtures or prepares enantiomerically pure substances using specialized processes.

Alternatively, Zanoprima employs myosmine as the starting material, converting it into S-nor nicotine using recombinant enzymes before methylation yields S-nicotine. Despite innovation and scaling production, synthetic nicotine remains three to four times more costly than tobacco-derived nicotine, although prices are gradually decreasing.
The primary challenge lies in labeling and distinguishing synthetic nicotine from its tobacco-derived counterparts.