History And Uses Of Nicotine History Biology Essay


The native ancestors of North and South Americans are believed to be the first people to use tobacco long before Western civilization.Native Americans were the first to "drink" the smoke of tobacco.;An example of an early technique Natives would use to smoke tobacco was to place tobacco on hot coal and inhale through a hollow bone inserted in the nose. [iii] In addition to "drinking", tobacco was chewed and taken in powder form through the mouth and nose. [iv] When European explorers came to the "New World" (North America) in approximately in the 16th century, they were introduced to tobacco and quickly became addicted to it themselves. [v] Tobacco was then introduced to Europe in the mid-16th Century where it immediately became popular. [vi] News of the cures for mental and physical pains from American Indian culture spread in Europe. [vii] As a result, it was believed to be a "miracle cure" for all sorts of illnesses. [viii] A firm believer in the medical capabilities of tobacco was Jean Nicot. Jean Nicot was one of the first persons to import tobacco in France and played a major role in writing and promoting its medicinal properties. [ix] In fact, Jean sent tobacco to Catherine de Medici, the Queen Mother of France in 1561 to treat her son's migraine headaches. [x] Several centuries later in 1828, German chemists Posselt and Reiman from Heildelberg's university isolated and purified nicotine from the tobacco plant. [xi] They decide to name the genus of the tobacco plant Nicotiana tabacum (and thus the isolation nicotine) in honor of Jean Nicot. [xii] In 1843 the chemical empirical formula was established by Melsens as C10H14N2. [xiii] Only four years later, its molecular weight was determined by Schloesing. [xiv] Then, in 1895 Adolf Pinner of Germany revealed and acquired the developed structure of nicotine that chemists know today. [xv] 


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Tobacco is prevalently used as a stimulant drug to speed up the heart and central nervous system, energizing an individual. [xvi] For other smokers, affects on the brain and nervous system lead to a calmer and more relaxed state. [xvii] Today tobacco can be smoked in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. It can also be chewed and sniffed in a powder form. [xviii] Other reasons to smoke tobacco include weight loss (appetite control), to deal with depression/stress, feeling pleasure, increase in metabolism and social acceptance. [xix] In addition to stimulant purposes, there are also medicinal uses of tobacco. There have been many studies that show the onset and affects Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases can be delayed. [xx] The symptoms of Tourettes syndrome and attention deficit disorder can also be reduced with Nicotine. [xxi] It can also be used to treat nicotine dependent with lozenges, nasal sprays, dermal patches and gums. [xxii] For everyday medical uses of tobacco, there are reliefs of bites of poisonous reptiles/insects, ulcers, wounds, conspiation, fever and malaria. [xxiii] There are also some less common uses of nicotine. In the 1940s and 50s before synthetic pesticides were made, nicotine was even used as an insecticide. [xxiv] Another uncommon is the combination of nicotine and lime or chalk is rubbed on the teeth as tobacco toothpaste. [xxv] 

Physical and Chemical Properties

Physical Properties:

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The molecular weight of nicotine as determined by Schloesing back in 1847 is 162.26g/mol. [xxvi] The melting point and boiling point of nicotine is −79°C (−110°F) and 247°C (477°F) respectively. [xxvii] Therefore at room temperature (approximately 20-25 degrees Celsius) nicotine is in its liquid state. It is a thick, bitter, colorless (to yellow), oily liquid with a density of 1.01g/cm3. When warm, Nicotine produces a slight fishy odor. [xxviii] In terms of solubility, it is miscible with water, and very soluble in ethyl alcohol, ether, and chloroform. [xxix] The pKa of Nicotine (similar to pH in determining the acid/basic properties of a substance) is 8.5, meaning it is a weak base and is strongly alkaline (pH of over 7.0). [xxx] Nicotine in addition is strongly hygroscopic, meaning that it can absorb moisture (ie. from air). [xxxi] 

Chemical Properties:

Nicotine is an alkaloid (naturally occurring chemical compound containing nitrogen atoms) that is a polar covalent molecule. The fact that it is a polar molecule explains its solubility in alcohols (which are both polar and non-polar) and other polar molecules like water. Its alkaline nature allows for it to form salts in neutralization reactions with acids. [xxxii] Nicotine has such a strong hygroscopicity that it dissolves in the water it absorbs. [xxxiii] When reacting with air (oxygen) or light, the nicotine decomposes and changes to a brownish colour. [xxxiv] Despite its hygroscopicity, it is not a highly reactive compound. [xxxv] However, nicotine is highly flammable. [xxxvi] 

Chemical Reactions Involved in Manufacturing Nicotine

Nicotine is a naturally manufactured compound, meaning that it is not synthetically manufactured by people through chemical reactions. [xxxvii] Instead nicotine is manufactured in the tobacco plant through synthesis reactions in the roots. [xxxviii] Nicotine is created through the synthesis nicotinic acid (aka vitamin B3) - C6H5NO2 - and an N-methyl-pyrrolinium cation which is derived from ornithine (derived from Krebs cycle). [xxxix] 

To manufacture a compound of nicotine, it must first be extracted from the tobacco plant. Using nicotine's solubility in water, it is extracted by soaking the stems and leaves of the tobacco plant in water for approximately 12 hours. [xl] When the tobacco has finished soaking, the nicotine has dissolved in the water and is ready to go through further extraction processes. [xli] In one process, the solution of water with nicotine is mixed with ether or cholrophoam where the nicotine is more soluble. [xlii] The nicotine then moves from the water layer into the ether/chloroform layer. [xliii] After this movement, it can then be removed by evaporation. [xliv] The raw nicotine extract produced can make a wide-range of nicotine-products. An example of this is nicotine patches.

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There are several techniques to make a nicotine patch. [xlv] All these techniques must create a series of uniform diffusion pores for the nicotine to be carried in. [xlvi] A common technique is the polymer precipitation method. [xlvii] To make the carrier for the nicotine, a polymer film is placed on a steel belt that has a solvent-water mixture. [xlviii] The solvent will then evaporate and leave behind many tiny holes on as the polymer film hardens. [xlix] In another process, a thin melted film of polymer is stretched to make porous membranes. [l] Small pores are formed as a result of the uniform stretching. [li] This method is used when making polypropylene films which can be punctured by certain nuclear particles. [lii] Either of these processes can create a thin plastic membrane with microscopic channels for the nicotine to diffuse into. [liii] These reservoir type patches are then filled with the drug mixture and covered with a silicone-treated polyester film for easy removal of the patch to expose the adhesive layer. [liv] Finally each completed patch is dried to remove solvents and hen laminated to a backing strip/carrier. [lv] 

Chemical Reactions Involved in the Use of Nicotine

Depending on the use of nicotine the chemical reactions involved vary. The most common use however, is smoking. This subsection will go through the chemical reactions involved in burning nicotine and the reactions nicotine causes in the nervous system.

When lighting a cigarette or burning nicotine, complete or incomplete combustion reactions can take place. The Nicotine acts as "fuel" for the reaction with an oxidant (oxygen) in a combustion reaction. In a complete combustion, there is enough oxygen for all the nicotine to burn into carbon dioxide. In an incomplete combustion, with limited oxygen, carbon monoxide is produced instead of carbon dioxide. In both reactions, water is a product.

Complete Combustion:

2 C10H14N2 + 27 O2 → 20 CO2 + 14 H2O + 2 N2

Nicotine Oxidant Carbon Dioxide Water Nitrogen Gas

Incomplete Combustion

2 C10H14N2 + 17 O2 → 20 CO + 14 H2O + 4 N2

Nicotine Oxidant Carbon Monoxide Water Nitrogen Gas

Lighting up a cigarette doesn't combust all the nicotine that's available. [lvi] Some of the nicotine goes into the body of the smoker and triggers some chemical reactions within the body. [lvii] The nervous system of a body relies on neurons (nerve cells) that communicate with each other by sending chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to each other's receptors. [lviii] Each neurotransmitter has its own specific family of receptors. [lix] Nicotine has a similar shape to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and docks to their receptors found in various parts of the brain. [lx] This as a result causes rapid changes in the brain and body. [lxi] The nicotine promotes the release of more neurotransmitters as they dock and act on the neurons. [lxii] Neurotransmitters are responsible for sending and receiving messages from the brain, therefore, their increase would make an individual more alert and focused. [lxiii] Nicotine also causes the brain to make more endorphins which are the natural pain killers of the body that can lead to feelings of euphoria. [lxiv] In addition to neurotransmitter encouragement, nicotine also activates certain receptors on neurons in parts of the brain. [lxv] This causes the neurons to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which causes feelings of pleasure and ecstasy. [lxvi] 

When smokers begin to regular take doses of nicotine, the brain adjusts to high amounts of dopamine by cutting production of neurotransmitters and thus reducing the amount of receptors. [lxvii] People who are addicted need nicotine to have normal levels of dopamine in their brain. [lxviii] Going without a smoke for too long can lead to cravings for more nicotine and thus an addiction. [lxix] 

Technological and Economic Benefits of Nicotine

Technological Benefits:

Most of nicotine's technological benefits relate to its benefits in health. In recent government studies nicotine improves memory and protects brain cells from diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. [lxx] In Alzheimer's disease, a loss of nicotinic receptors in the brain leads to deficiency in acetylcholine. [lxxi] Acetylcholine deficiency leads to impairment of the brain and several other mental conditions. [lxxii] With the technology of nicotine therapy, acetylcholine is artificially substituted, inhibiting the damaging affects of Alzheimer's diseases to the brain. [lxxiii] In other new technological advances to health, nicotine is proven to be able to repair veins and promote the development of new blood vessels. [lxxiv] The nicotine, according to the study led by John P. Cooke at Stanford (2000), "stimulates the cells to release a cascade of chemicals that promote the formation of new blood vessels". [lxxv] New nicotine technology allows it to be sold in alternate forms to help people quit smoking. This provides a healthier source of nicotine for addicted smokers. There are different forms for nicotine: gum, inhaler, patch, lozenge, and spray. [lxxvi] The nicotine patch in particular, has been tremendously successful. [lxxvii] Studies have shown that they've doubled the successful quitting rate. [lxxviii] In addition, the number of successful quits achieved in the United States using pharmacy nicotine patches alone was 13, 566. [lxxix] In addition to smokers, recent studies at Duke also show that nicotine patches can be used to treat people with depression. [lxxx] The nicotine increases the release of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters which depressed persons are lacking. [lxxxi] Nicotine can also help build resistance towards the MPTP by inhibiting the monoamine oxidase B toxin which creates a condition similar to Parkinson's disease. [lxxxii] Having nicotine can also serve as protection from ulcerative colitis, Tourette's syndrome, and possibly colorectal cancer. [lxxxiii] 

Economical Benefits

There are several benefits that nicotine brings to society. By helping thousands of smokers quit, nicotine patches generate approximately $1.28 billion in net social benefits. [lxxxiv] The government also benefits from smoking taxes. [lxxxv] In addition, the trial lawyers that aid the government benefit from smoking lawsuits. [lxxxvi] The money that the government gains from the taxes can be used to fund more social programs for the public. The use of the nicotine patch is cost effective and is quite cheaper than cigarettes. [lxxxvii] It produces a lifetime quitter an estimated cost of $7,332. [lxxxviii] This is a good bargain in terms of costs to society by tobacco use which is approximately $3391 per smoker per year. [lxxxix] In addition, the substitution of the nicotine patch for medical practices is more cost-effective then other disease-prevention approaches (ie. treatment of hypertension blood). [xc] 

Risks of the Uses of the Compound to Society and the Environment

Nicotine is a highly poisonous and toxic compound. [xci] In high doses, nicotine can cause vomiting, tremors, convulsions and death. [xcii] Most of nicotine poisoning comes from accidental ingestion from nicotine insecticides. [xciii] It is so toxic that death comes within a few minutes after ingestion. [xciv] This poses a threat not only to people, but the ecosystem surrounding the area of nicotine insecticide usage. [xcv] Nicotine chewing gum, lozenges and inhalers pose a threat to causing cancer. [xcvi] These alternatives to smoking can potentially cause mouth cancer due to exposure to nicotine. [xcvii] Nicotine is also highly addictive. [xcviii] After stimulating the central nervous system, depression and fatigue often follows as nicotine can also play a sedative role by discharging epinephrine. [xcix] Smoking nicotine also causes lung cancer - the number one cancer killer in America. [c] In addition to having cancer, smokers also have double the death rates from cancers compared to nonsmokers. [ci] Heavy smokers can sometimes have four times the rate. [cii] Tobacco kills almost half a million Americans every year and one in six deaths in the United States is caused from smoking tobacco. [ciii] The irony in these staggering statistics is that it is the most preventable cause of cancer in the United States. [civ] The carbon monoxide produced in the combustion reactions from smoking is highly toxic. [cv] Carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin in the blood to produce carboxyhemoglobin which is ineffective for delivering oxygen to cells throughout the body. [cvi] A horrible part about smoking is that one doesn't have to be the smoker to have the adverse affects from smoking. Second-hand smoke also puts the people around smokers at risk to getting lung cancer and increases the risk of respiratory illness in children and sudden infant death. [cvii] Nicotine is also associated with coronary heart disease, ulcers, strokes (due to increase in blood pressure) and cancer of the stomach, pancreas, larynx, uterine cervix, esophagus, bladder, and kidney. [cviii] 

There are also additional psychological risks from using Nicotine. Drugabose.gov studies show that teenage smokers are six times more likely to develop agoraphobia and 15 times more likely to suffer panic attacks. [cix] It is also a common trend to see depression and anxiety disorders increase in positive correlation with nicotine consumption among teenagers. [cx] 

The pollutants from smoking nicotine stay in the air and the ground. [cxi] Harmful chemicals are released into the air and atmosphere. [cxii] Millions of cigarette buds are just tossed on the ground. [cxiii] These same buds carry with them the toxicity of nicotine to lakes and rivers and the soil, affecting animals and plants in the ecosystems. [cxiv] The farming of tobacco is not environmentally friendly. [cxv] Tobacco is a delicate crop that needs to be sprayed with a lot of harmful pesticides and chemicals. [cxvi] Nicotine poses a fire hazard in dry temperature and is the number one cause of fires and death and injury due to fires. [cxvii] In response to this special wrappers and packaging are made to produce "reduced fire risk cigarettes". [cxviii] 

Interesting Facts

Smoking kills more people than AIDS, drug abuse, alcohol, homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined. [cxix] 

A pure drop of nicotine can kill someone. [cxx] 

To sustain pleasant effects of nicotine, a smoker would have to puff, on average, 20 cigarettes in 24 hours. [cxxi] 

50mg of nicotine is the average lethal dose to kill a human. This is more lethal than common street drugs (ie. cocaine). [cxxii] 

It takes only 7 seconds for nicotine to reach the brain when smoked. [cxxiii] 

Cigarettes are the most traded item on the planet. [cxxiv] 

An average smoker will lose 14 years of their life due to smoking. [cxxv] 

Urea, a major component of urine is added to cigarettes for flavor. [cxxvi] 

The nicotine content in major brands has increased by as much as 11% between 1997 and 2005. [cxxvii] 

U.S Cigarette companies make more money selling cigarettes internationally than to Americans. [cxxviii]