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Q: How poisonous is liquid nicotine? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: How poisonous is liquid nicotine?
Category: Science > Chemistry
Asked by: svenja-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 04 May 2005 08:47 PDT
Expires: 03 Jun 2005 08:47 PDT
Question ID: 517663
I'm an author (definitely not a criminal), writing a TV-script for a
thriller, in which the victim gets killed by a high dose of liquid
nicotine, injected into an apple
1)Does anyone know if that works, after all? Is it lethal? Or does the
nicotine somehow dissolve in the apple?
2)How does it taste? Neutral enough to swallow the bite? Thanks! Catrin
Subject: Re: How poisonous is liquid nicotine?
Answered By: websearcher-ga on 04 May 2005 10:07 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello svenga:

Thanks for the interesting, and disturbing question. :-)

While I have not been able to find any conclusive evidence that an
apple injected with liquid nicotine would be an effective or
ineffective murder weapon for your script, I have been able to find
enough facts that lead me to believe that it *would* be noticed quite
quickly by any potential fictitious victim.

First off, let's look at the dosage of liquid nicotine that needs to
be ingested orally to cause a fatal reaction:

liquid nicotine
Quote: "According to the National Capital Poison Center, the lethal
dosage of nicotine in the human body is 40-60mg, although mild signs
of poisoning can show up after consuming as little as 5mg."

Your murderer character would likely want to use the upper end of that
range to ensure death. 60 mg is the amount in many over-the-counter
capsules. Not a huge amount, but not a trace amount either. There is
no way that that much poison would be able to be concentrated into a
single bite of an apple. Any liquid would rapidly diffuse throughout
much of the body of a piece of fruit.

What is the taste and smell of liquid nicotine?

Nicotine and its Derivatives from Tobacco Waste
Quote: "Nicotine has a bitter taste and a sharp odour."

Liquid nicotine clears the air in bars
Quote: "The Nicotini gets its name (and its subsequent ?buzz?) from
pure tobacco leaves that are soaked in high-proof vodka until the
concoction is thoroughly infused with nicotine. From there, the drink
is flavored with numerous liqueurs in order to dilute its ?bitter
taste,? according to Wald....
?Just because people can?t smoke doesn?t mean they?re going to drink
something that tastes like it was poured out of an ashtray,?

Quote: "Nicotine is a liquid alkaloid.  It is water soluble and has a
pKa of 8.5.  It is a bitter-tasting liquid"

So, by all accounts, the stuff is nasty tasting and nasty smelling.
Probably very noticable in apples, which are quite mild.

So, even if the victim character doesn't notice the bad taste and
smell, what happens after the first poison-laced bite?

Quote: "Nicotine initially causes a burning sensation in mouth,
throat, esophagus and stomach.  Increased salivation follows.  Nausea,
vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are common.  Vomiting may occur
very early after tobacco ingestion, minimizing absorption and other
toxic manifestations."

Not likely to cause the victim character to take a second bite. 

While some researchers have experimented with prescribing liquid
nicotine as a smoking cure, the dose is very low and the patient knows
that they are taking the cure and will put up with the taste, smell,
and other nasty sensations:

Liquid Nicotine
Quote: "Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have patented a
nicotine solution and are testing to see if it can help people quit
smoking. The nicotine solution can be added to coffee, tea, soda,
beer, lemonade or other acidic beverages and consumed several times a
day in place of smoking. In a small pilot study, the solution proved
effective. Twenty-five smokers chose a date to quit and were given the
solution to mix into their beverages with instructions to use it as
needed for smoking urges during a 12-week period. Participants drank
between 2.5 milligrams to 10 milligrams of the solution per beverage.
Abstinence rates reported by participants were 28 percent at 4 weeks,
24 percent at 3 months, and 20 percent at 6 months. Side effects of
the oral solution were minimal. Only one participant dropped out of
the study, complaining of a burning sensation at the site of dental

The only mention I found of trying to camouflage the taste and smell
of nicotine for oral consumption is the "Nicotini", a nicotine laced
cocktail. They go to great lengths to cover up the offensive

Liquid nicotine clears the air in bars
Quote: "The Nicotini gets its name (and its subsequent ?buzz?) from
pure tobacco leaves that are soaked in high-proof vodka until the
concoction is thoroughly infused with nicotine. From there, the drink
is flavored with numerous liqueurs in order to dilute its ?bitter
taste,? according to Wald.
?Just because people can?t smoke doesn?t mean they?re going to drink
something that tastes like it was poured out of an ashtray,? Wald
said. ?When mixed together, it?s a tasty drink in its own right. The
nicotine kick is just something that appeals to our patrons who can?t

But again, that's a very mild dose. Who knows what you'd have to do to
cover up 60mg!

So, if you want to use liquid nicotine in your script plot, I suggest
you find another, more plausible way of getting it inside your
fictitious victim.

Further scientific information on nicotine and its effects can be found at:



Search Strategy (on Google):
* "liquid nicotine" poisonous
* "liquid nicotine" fatal dose
* "liquid nicotine" taste
* "liquid nicotine" apple

I hope this helps. 

svenja-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: How poisonous is liquid nicotine?
From: dancethecon-ga on 04 May 2005 14:09 PDT
Dear Svenja,

I'm afraid someone beat you to it. I remember reading a mystery years
ago where someone wanted to find unique ways to kill someone.
Poisoning by liquid nicotine was one way. I remember reading--this
might be from another source--that concentrated nicotine is one of the
strongest poisons known to man. To get this level of toxicity, though,
requires taking nicotine concentrations well above those found in
tobacco products, and even above the concentrations found in
nicotine-based insecticides. At super-concentrated levels, I read that
liquid nicotine can cause death just by being having a small amount
applied to the skin.

Since nicotine is a subject that interests me, let me give you some
more places to visit.

As websearcher pointed out, a fatal dose for a human is 40-60 mg.
Here's a web site that puts that into real-world terms: 
The fatal dose of pure nicotine is approximately 40-60 mg (0.6-1.0
mg/kg, 1-2 drops) i.e. the quantity contained in 2 g of tobacco
(equivalent to 2 common blend cigarettes; 15-25 mg of nicotine per

Websearcher gave you this link:
It has detailed descriptions of nicotine poisoning and how to treat
the poisoning. Note the mention of intranasal application. Maybe
instead of using an apple, you could have your character die after
using a nasal inhaler that had liquid nicotine substituted for its
medicine. If your murderer is good with tools and if the victim has
asthma, maybe the nicotine could be put inside an asthma inhaler

Here are some more links you might like: 
Nicotine has a chemical nature much like sodium. In its pure form,
which is called "freebase nicotine", it reacts chemically with oxygen
in the air, with water, and most other living tissues, destroying them

Freebase nicotine is highly poisonous and is sometimes used as an
insecticide. It makes a good insecticide because it only lasts about
half an hour in the environment, being so unstable in the presence of
air. In very small amounts, freebase nicotine can be injected into a
person's bloodstream and has an effect almost identical to cocaine.
Nicotine concentrate is very poisonous if inhaled. It is derived from
tobacco and is commonly sold as a 40 percent nicotine sulfate
concentrate. Nicotine is a fast acting contact killer for soft bodied
insects, but does not kill most chewing insects. It is less effective
when applied during cool weather. Do not spray within 7 days of
This site states that nicotine is a more powerful poison than arsenic
and strychnine. You might like investigating nicotine in one of the
books mentioned on this page: _Poisoning/Toxicology_, Third Edition,
Jay M. Arena, B.S., M.D.

Good luck with your script,

Subject: Re: How poisonous is liquid nicotine?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 04 May 2005 15:06 PDT
An old episode of "Columbo" involved a murder that was committed with
liquid nicotine. The poison was, ironically, placed on a cigarette,
and the victim inhaled enough to kill him.

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