1059 Main Avenue, Clifton, NJ 07011

The most valuable resources for teachers and students

(973) 777 - 3113


1059 Main Avenue

Clifton, NJ 07011

07:30 - 19:00

Monday to Friday

123 456 789


Goldsmith Hall

New York, NY 90210

07:30 - 19:00

Monday to Friday

Toxicity of Nicotine

Introduction: (Initial Observation)

Nicotine is one of the addicting and harmful substances in cigarette. Tobacco plant that is used in making cigarette and cigars is the main source of nicotine. Scientists have recently proven that tobacco is one of the causes for disease such as cancer. In this project we intend to test the toxicity of nicotine by using it as an insecticide.


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.

Project advisor

Adult supervision and help is required in this project.

Information Gathering:

To collect information about this project we can start gathering information about tobacco plant that is the source of nicotine. There are many websites on the internet that are related to cigarette and tobacco. To find such information you can use a popular search engine such as yahoo.com or altavista.com and search for keywords such as “tobacco” or “cigarette”.

Also if you want information related to disease caused by tobacco, you can use two keywords together such as “tobacco disease” or “tobacco law”.

A good source of information is the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Following are among the information that you may find.

For thousands of years, people have smoked or chewed the leaves of the tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum. Tobacco was first found and cultivated in the Americas, perhaps as early as 6000 B.C. Following the discovery and colonization of North and South America, the tobacco plant was exported widely, to continental Europe and the rest of the civilized world. Even in its early days, tobacco use was controversial. Some hailed its medicinal properties. For example, tobacco was supposed to be protective against the ravages of the Plague!

As early as the 1600s, people speculated that there might be a link between diseases, like cancer, and tobacco use. Since then, modern research methods have provided evidence of this link.

What is it about tobacco that makes people so compelled to use it despite all of the admonitions?

Smoking or chewing tobacco makes people feel good, even mildly euphoric. While there are thousands of chemicals in the tobacco plant (not to mention those added by cigarette manufacturers), one, nicotine, produces all the good feelings that draw people back for another cigarette or plug of tobacco.

What is Nicotine?

Nicotine (C10H14N2) is a naturally occurring liquid alkaloid. An alkaloid is an organic compound made out of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and sometimes oxygen. These chemicals have potent effects on the human body. For example, many people regularly enjoy the stimulating effects of another alkaloid, caffeine, as they quaff a cup or two of coffee in the morning.

Nicotine normally makes up about 5 percent of a tobacco plant, by weight. Cigarettes contain 8 to 20 milligrams (mg) of nicotine (depending on the brand)

The most common (and the most expedient way) to get nicotine and other drugs into your bloodstream is through inhalation — by smoking it. However nicotine can also be absorbed trough the skin.

Nicotine’s Dark Side
Some of nicotine’s effects have spurred studies on whether it might be useful as a therapy for certain conditions. Some diseases that nicotine might improve include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease – the first neurons lost to Alzheimers are cholinergic neurons in a specific region of the brain. Nicotine may improve the function of the neurons that are left and slow the onset of symptoms.
  • Tourette’s Syndrome – this disease produces tics (uncontrolled movements of the head, hands and other body parts) and violent urges in its sufferers. Nicotine patches that slowly deliver nicotine through the skin can reduce symptoms of people with Tourette’s.

But, for the average person, the health problems associated with using nicotine-containing products are far worse than any benefits. These include:

  • Cancer
  • Emphysema
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke

Many of these are actually caused by other chemicals in cigarette smoke or in smokeless tobacco products. The biggest problem with nicotine is how easily you become dependent on smoking or chewing tobacco.

Question/ Purpose:

What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.

The purpose of this project is to test and demonstrate the poisonous nature of nicotine and its affects on living things.

Identify Variables:

When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.

The amount of nicotine or the rate of exposure is an independent variable. The amount of disease and death caused by nicotine is a dependent variable.


Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.

My hypothesis is that nicotine is toxic and can be deadly.

Experiment Design:

Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”

The purpose of this experiment is to test the toxicity of nicotine.


Put the tobacco in the water. Let it soak for at least an hour, the longer the better. Overnight will make a very strong solution. Collect some bugs or purchase crickets at a bait shop or pet store.

Pour the water into the sprayer and spray it on the bugs. Check the bugs every one hour and record the results.

You are done with your project.
This experiment and a nice display may bring you an “A”
But I suggest to continue with additional experiments.

Additional Experiment:

The purpose of this experiment is to find out what the answer to the questions that rise during our initial experiments. Some of these questions are:

  • Can we extract pure solid nicotine by soaking the tobacco in water?
  • How much of nicotine comes out of the tobacco?
  • Does using hot water help us to extract more nicotine from tobacco?
  • What color is pure nicotine?
  • What concentration of nicotine is a good and effective insecticide?


In this experiment you can use 100 grams of tobacco and use half of that for extracting pure tobacco and the rest for other experiments.

Part 1: (extracting pure nicotine)

Cover a wide tray with a clean sheet of clear plastic and pore the nicotine water over that. A wide surface will accelerate evaporation. You may also place an electric fan close to the tray, so the flow of air will also speed up drying process. When all the water evaporates, what remains is nicotine. Try to collect the dry nicotine. Based on the gathered information 5% of tobacco plant is nicotine. So you may get up to 2.5 grams nicotine.

Part 2: (Making a known concentration of nicotine)

Put 50 grams tobacco in about 500 milliliters of water and let it soak overnight. If all the nicotine be extracted from the tobacco, we will have a 0.5% solution of nicotine.

Pour the nicotine solution into the sprayer and spray it on 10 or 20 bugs. Check the bugs every one hour and record the results.

Add water to the existing nicotine solution to dilute it to a 0.4% solution and repeat the test again. Repeat the dilution and test so finally you have tested all different solution from 0.1% up to 0.5%.

Record the results in a table like this:

Percentage of bugs that die with each concentration of nicotine.

Nicotine solution Bugs die in 1 hour Bugs die in 6 hours bugs die in 24 hours Bugs alive after 24 hours


  1. You may want to modify this table based on your results.
  2. Keep a few bugs as control and don’t spray them.
  3. You will not need to feed the bugs during your experiment.
  4. You can use you results table to create a graph.

Materials and Equipment:

For this experiment you will need:

  1. One or Two large pinches of chewing tobacco
  2. A cup or two of warm water
  3. A spray bottle
  4. A small strainer
  5. Various bugs or bait shop crickets

Results of Experiment (Observation):

Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.


While diluting the 0.5% solution, you need to do some calculations to find out how much water you need to add in order to dilute a 0.5% solution to a 0.4% solution. You will also need some measuring cups or a graduated cylinder. If you don’t have these, just estimate. This is a sample calculation.

0.5% solution has 0.5 gram nicotine in 100 grams of solution. If you add X grams of water, the new concentration will be 0.5/(100+X). You need to know how much water must be added to each 100 grams of solution in order to make a 0.4% solution. The equation is 0.5/(100+X)=0.4/100. Solve this equation to find X.

50 = 40 + 0.4X

10 = 0.4X

100 = 4 X

X = 25

That means that to if you add 25 mL of water to 100 mL 0.5% solution, you will have 125mL 0.4% solution. (1mL water is 1 gram)

Summary of Results:

Different bugs will react more quickly or slowly, but they all will die. A graphic demonstration of what a powerful poison tobacco is.


Nicotine is a very strong poison, in fact one DROP can contains enough poison to kill an average person if injected. Tell them that nicotine used to be used as an insecticide but it was banned for health reasons.

Related Questions & Answers:

Does nicotine kill the plants?

Does nicotine prevent mold?

Does nicotine kill bacteria?

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.