The yarn goes something like this: While visiting family in Toronto for the first time, an American tourist makes frequent trips to the nation’s most recognized coffee house, becoming inexplicably enamoured of Canada’s famous brew. In a tamer version of the legend, the sorry sod returns stateside green around the gills. A visit to the doctor reveals nicotine coursing through his veins. Since the tourist is a nonsmoker, his doctor is baffled. Further tests reveal that a copious amount of nicotine-laden coffee ingested during his romp north is the source of the health scare.
In a more sinister version, the American meets his demise in a Tim Hortons. Deathly allergic to nicotine, a single sip brings on cardiac arrest. Another version has a teenage girl’s heart bursting the instant her extra-large combines with the effects of a nicotine patch.
Tim Hortons is aware of the legend. They address it directly, here. Michelle Robichaud, public relations manager for Tim’s, told Torontoist unequivocally, “There is in fact nothing added to our coffee. We believe that our guests are addicted to consistency.”
[. . .]
It’s clearly implausible that Tim Hortons would deliberately poison its customers. So how did the rumour get started? Finding the source of an urban legend is impossible. Tracing its propagation, however, is easier. Urban legends relating to nicotine have a history. In the ’80s, there were tales about McDonald’s adding nicotine to hamburgers. In the ’90s, Pokémon cards were rumoured to be laced with the substance. Today in the U.S., Starbucks coffee has its own nicotine legend.