Several minor tobacco alkaloids have been found to exhibit properties pharmacologically relevant to the addictive profile of tobacco; however, little is known of their effects on a behavioural model of drug addiction. In this study we compared the locomotor and reinforcing effects of intravenous nicotine (30 μg/kg per infusion) vs. a cocktail of nicotine plus five minor alkaloids found in tobacco smoke (anabasine, nornicotine, anatabine, cotinine and myosmine). Rats were initially tested for their locomotor response to nicotine or nicotine plus the minor alkaloids with six intravenous injections over 1 h. We then assessed the spontaneous acquisition of intravenous self-administration with nicotine or nicotine plus the minor alkaloids, under a fixed-ratio 1 schedule followed by responding on a fixed-ratio 5 schedule, progressive-ratio schedule and a single within-session ascending dose–response test. The activity test was repeated following the progressive-ratio phase to assess locomotor sensitization. A second group of rats were then tested on the locomotor procedure to better clarify the role of each individual minor alkaloid in nicotine-induced locomotor activity. Compared to nicotine alone, addition of the minor tobacco alkaloids increased locomotor activity and increased locomotor sensitization following self-administration. During fixed-ratio 5, progressive ratio and the dose–response test, rats receiving nicotine plus the minor alkaloids responded significantly more than those receiving nicotine alone. Testing of each minor alkaloid in the second experiment indicated that anatabine, cotinine and myosmine individually increased nicotine-induced locomotor activity. These results suggest that the minor tobacco alkaloids, particularly anatabine, cotinine and myosmine, may increase the motivation for nicotine and thus facilitate smoking behaviour.