Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), such as tobacco. It is largely used as an insecticide and can be found in many common products, such as cigarettes.
On exposure to UV light or various oxidizing agents, nicotine is converted to nicotinic acid (vitamin B3), nicotine oxide, and methylamine. As the active stimulant in tobacco products, it is a highly addictive drug when absorbed and exhibits neurotoxic properties in the body.
As a nitrogenous base, nicotine forms salts with acids that are usually solid and water soluble.
Nicotine is a hygroscopic, colorless oily liquid, miscible in alcohol, ether or light petroleum. It is also soluble in water in its base form. Impure nicotine has a brownish color, due to tar and other organic substances dissolved. Nicotine's flash point is 95 °C and auto-ignition temperature is 244 °C. Nicotine melts at -79 °C and boils at 247 °C. It has a density of 1.01 g/cm³.
Nicotine is available in the plants of the nightshade family, in various concentrations, mostly in leaves. In case of tobacco, it constitutes approximately 0.6–3.5% of the dry weight and is present in the range of 2–7 µg/kg of various edible plants.
Several insecticides contain nicotine salts, such as nicotine chloride or sulfate.
Nicotine patches contain a small amount of nicotine.
In most localities it is illegal to buy tobacco as a minor or buy tobacco for a minor.
Nicotine can be extracted from tobacco leaves or any other plant from its family. As it is water-soluble, nicotine is easy to extract, although it's difficult to purify, as nicotine is also a solvent and may dissolve many other alkaloids from tobacco that are not water-soluble.
- Nicotine-based insecticides
- Niacin (nicotinic acid aka Vitamin B3) synthesis
Concentrated nicotine is highly toxic and quantities as small as 60-100 mg can cause death for an average non-smoker. Smokers can tolerate a slightly higher dose. Nicotine can easily be absorbed through the skin, making it a contact poison, and should be treated as such. Proper protection, such as gloves, water-proof apron, and goggles should be worn when handling the compound, and a gas mask may be necessary if it is fine enough to become airborne.
Nicotine should be stored in small quantities in closed containers, in dark well ventilated areas.
Nicotine is biodegradable. Heating nicotine with elemental selenium will destroy the compound. Diluted nicotine can be used as an insecticide, as long as it's not contaminated with harmful non-tobacco extracts.