• 1998

Company Description

22nd Century Group is a plant biotechnology company developing tobacco harm reduction and smoking cessation products.

In 1998, Joseph Pandolfino founded 22nd Century Limited, LLC (22nd Century) to provide funding to North Carolina State University (NCSU) for a research and development collaboration on nicotine biosynthesis in the tobacco plant. Mr. Pandolfino questioned, coffee without caffeine and beer without alcohol are commercially available so why aren’t tobacco cigarettes without nicotine a choice for consumers? Further, he hypothesized: If it were possible to produce tobacco cigarettes without nicotine, smokers could use these extraordinary cigarettes to successfully quit smoking. A paradox to be sure. Nonetheless, Mr. Pandolfino’s hypothesis stemmed from his careful observation of real smokers. As an importer of tobacco-free herbal cigarettes, Mr. Pandolfino had come to realize that some consumers were using nicotine-free herbal cigarettes to successfully quit smoking. Anecdotal evidence suggested that this approach was actually effective. The biggest problem with the novel “therapy” was the fact that herbal cigarettes have distinct taste and aroma characteristics which greatly limit their consumer appeal and acceptance. Indeed, although various processes were developed to improve these nicotine-free herbal cigarettes, it became clear that their peculiar taste and aroma characteristics would never appeal to mainstream smokers. If, on the other hand, a tobacco cigarette without nicotine could be developed, Mr. Pandolfino believed a new cigarette category could prove an attractive product choice to all smokers. With this in mind, Mr. Pandolfino set out to investigate the feasibility of efficiently producing tobacco cigarettes without nicotine. Already Philip Morris USA had developed a process to extract nicotine from tobacco; however this process, similar to that of producing decaffeinated coffee, proved very costly. What’s more, these “denicotinized” or “denic” cigarettes (test-marketed from 1989 to 1991) simply did not taste good. Philip Morris concluded that within the denicotinization process, various other tobacco leaf compounds important to tobacco’s taste characteristics were extracted along with the nicotine. Denicotinization tobacco processes are not selective for nicotine and, according to Philip Morris, “resulted in a dramatic change in the taste of the original tobacco”