Tobacco use leads to 6 million deaths every year due to severe long-lasting diseases. The main component of tobacco, nicotine, is recognized as one of the most addictive drugs, making smoking cessation difficult, even when 70 percent of smokers wish to do so. Clinical and preclinical studies have demonstrated consistently that nicotine seeking is a complex behavior involving various psychopharmacological mechanisms. Evidence supports that the population of smokers is heterogeneous, particularly as regards the breadth of motives that determine the urge to smoke. Here, we review converging psychological, genetic and neurobiological data from clinical and preclinical studies supporting that the mechanisms controlling nicotine seeking may vary from individual to individual. It appears timely that basic neuroscience integrates this heterogeneity to refine our understanding of the neurobiology of nicotine seeking, as tremendous progress has been made in modeling the various psychopharmacological mechanisms driving nicotine seeking in rodents. For a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive nicotine seeking, we emphasize the need for individual-based research strategies in which nicotine seeking, and eventually treatment efficacy, are determined while taking into account individual variations in the mechanisms of nicotine seeking.