A Real Up and Comer: Synthetic Nicotine
Operating out of the picturesque southern German town of Heilbronn, Contraf-Nicotex-Tobacco GmbH (CNT) has been the world’s leading manufacturer of tobacco-derived “natural“ nicotine for decades, supplying not only tobacco companies but the whole range of pharma companies as well. The company first took an interest in synthetic nicotine in 2015, commercial products becoming available in 2018.
“Long-term supply security for nicotine is our foremost focus, so adding synthetic S-nicotine to our portfolio was a logical step for CNT,“ managing director Torsten Siemann said.
The company’s Synthetic Nicotine exclusively contains S-nicotine isomer molecules because, according to CNT‘s r&d director, Dr. Thomas Ellerichmann, “only S-nicotine is meeting USP and EP standards.“ However, he added that “CNT currently uses R/S-nicotine as a production intermediate“ to derive the final product.“ The difference between an R- and S-nicotine isomers is in their respective molecule structure, of course (see graphic).
Synthetic nicotine, used in certain e-liquids, as well as smokeless products (mainly nicotine pouches), brings quite a few advantages to the table when compared to its “natural” counterpart. For instance, it can show an extremely even, neutral taste profile and does not contain any tobacco-derived impurities. Then, there is the practically unlimited production capacity. “Currently, CNT has a vast production capacity of over 500 metric tons of tobacco-derived nicotine per year, but since Synthetic Nicotine is made in an industrial setting using various chemical raw materials, there really is no cap as to how much we can potentially produce,“ said Torsten Siemann, managing director.
Existing regulations may look favorable to Synthetic Nicotine, at least for the time being. When used in a next-generation product (NGP), “natural“ nicotine is classified as a tobacco product in most countries, thus being subject to relevant legislations. On the other hand, regulators don’t seem quite sure yet how to handle Synthetic Nicotine. The situation is currently unclear. There is indeed the possibility that Synthetic Nicotine — deployed in NGPs — may eventually not be classified as a tobacco product in the US. “However, it may be classified as a pharmaceutical product [when used in NGPs],” explained Siemann. Whatever FDA eventually decides, other territories, including the EU, will likely follow suit (as has been the case on various occasions in the past).
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