Someone asked me to say something (YouTube video here) about Nicotine - or as it is sometimes called among the pipe smoking community -Vitamin N content in pipe tobacco. Of course there is no such Vitamin for the record...



Often what pipe smokers describe as Nicotine bombs, didn't hit me as such. But let me give you my opinions. What I know is that the higher the sugar content of a tobacco, the lower the nicotine and vice versa. This means then that Virginia (Va) has the lowest Nicotine content while Burly has the highest due to the sugar content in Va and Burley. Second is Kentucky. What I also know is that the curing method can have an effect on the Nicotine content of tobacco - for example, flue cured tobacco has the lowest Nicotine while fire-cured tobacco has the highest Nicotine content. But, it will also depend n the tobacco's Nicotine content. Although a Latakia is usually fire-cured, it has in its composition a low Nicotine content and would therefore have less Nicotine than for example a Burly. (see also my other page on tobacco variants)

  • Air-cured tobacco is hung in well-ventilated barns and allowed to dry over a period of four to eight weeks. Air-cured tobacco is low in sugar, which gives the tobacco smoke a light, sweet flavor, and a high nicotine content. Cigar and burley tobaccos are usually air cured.
  • Fire-cured tobacco is hung in large barns where fires of hardwoods are kept on continuous or intermittent low smouldering fire. Fire curing produces a tobacco low in sugar and high in nicotine.
  • Flue-cured tobacco is strung together and hung in curing barns with flues which run from externally fed fire boxes, heat-curing the tobacco without exposing it to smoke, slowly raising the temperature over the course of the curing. Flue-cured tobacco has a high sugar content and medium to high levels of nicotine.
  • Sun-cured tobacco dries uncovered in the sun, usually used in the Mediterranean countries to produce oriental tobacco. Sun-cured tobacco is low in sugar and nicotine (1).

I've also read an article from Russ Ouellette (2) that spicy / peppery tobacco has a higher content of Nicotine than other English / Balkan bends.

Effects of Nicotine

How would you notice Nicotine? It is reported that some of the effects Nicotine can cause is headache, lightheadedness, nauseous and even hiccups. Of course, there are many factors that can affect these effects - I believe in a holistic and systems approach to life. People's chemistry are different and substances and processes works differently in everybody. During the 80's cholesterol and fat debate, we were told to cut all ft. Its only know that we've learned that that was a simplistic one-dimensional look at the problem of cholesterol. Maybe stress, modern lifestyle and many other factors contributed to the problem of cholesterol and not fat lone.

Possible benefits of Nicotine

Contrary to what many people wants us to believe is that Nicotine does have some benefits. Don't take me wrong - Nicotine is dangerous, highly addictive, and causes cancer; but it has been reported to have a calming effect on people. It is after-all a stimulant. It is said that it helps with concentration and relaxation and helps people with ADHD, Alzheimers and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. ADHD is known to be a disorder due to the lack of dopamine release in the body. Nicotine causes the release of endorphin and dopamine and therefore can have positive effects in ADHD. It also helps for anxiety and stress. What I also know is that pipe and cigar smoking do release less Nicotine than cigarettes; mainly because of the amount of cigarettes being smoked, the immediate uptake of Nicotine through the lungs and maybe also because of some additives in cigarettes which are not in pipe tobacco and cigars. Furthermore, many pipe smokers don't inhale and if they do, the amount in contrast to cigarette smokers are much less.  


Which pipe smoking tobaccos have the highest Nicotine content? I hear that Five brothers are real Nicotine kicks. I haven't tried it so I wouldn't know. From those that I do know, Nightcap from Dunhill has supposedly a higher Nicotine content. Having said that, I haven't felt that while smoking Nightcap. Maybe I'm more tolerant to Nicotine or maybe its just because I don't realise the Nicotine kick. Tobacco has a long history as a substance used by people. Some say it has even roots back to more than 2000 years ago, but generally it looks like its been used and recognised since the late 1400's and thereafter. The medicinal use of Nicotine is also a very ambiguous topic. Jean Nicot, a French ambassador treated patients with "the leaf" with great "success", and cancer patients are experimenting with marijuana leaves. However, I a not qualified at ll to comment on these; only to mention what I've heard about the use of Nicotine. Remember, its dangerous and addictive. If you do smoke a pipe or cigars, do it in moderation as we should do all things in life. I wouldn't smoke cigarettes at all. My two cents of limited knowledge about the Vitamin N :-) Some worthwhile articles below.   References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Nicotine- Tobacco’s “N” Word by Russ Ouellette
  3. Running from the Nicotine monster
  4. Good-Bye Cigarettes, Hello Pipe by Steve Fallon
  5. Pipes Magazine article on curing and Nicotine
  6. History