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More Evidence That Smokeless Tobacco Products in the U.S. Have Low TSNA Levels

Posted Oct 04 2012 1:47pm

New data shows that tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) were at very low levels in almost all popular smokeless products available in the U.S. in 2006 and 2007. The findings appear in a research article in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (abstract here ) authored by M.F. Borgerding and other scientists at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company.

TSNA levels for specific brands are listed in the table below.  In reviewing the data, one should consider these points:

1.  The table lists levels in parts per million (ppm) by weight, or micrograms of TSNAs per gram of dry product.  This allows products with different moisture levels (e.g., dissolvable tobacco at 4% and moist snuff at about 50%) to be compared directly.

2.  ALL of the American products had low TSNA levels, especially when compared to products from the 1970s and 1980s (described here ).  In the early 1980s, it was common to see moist snuff products with TSNA levels at 40-80 ppm; by the end of the decade, most products were under 40 ppm.  With rates declining further, to around 20 ppm in 1995, analytic reports ceased.

3.  Several Swedish snus products were analyzed; all had TSNA levels below 2 ppm. 

4.   The lowest TSNA levels were found in Ariva (0.1 ppm) and Stonewall (0.4 ppm) dissolvable tobacco pellets made by Star Scientific, Inc. ( here ). 

5.  Chewing tobacco products all had levels below the Gothiatek standard, which is 10 parts per million.  Gothiatek was developed by Swedish Match in the late 1990s to serve as a voluntary standard for maximum levels of some contaminants (described here ).

6.  The highest TSNA levels (12-41 ppm) were found in powdered dry snuff, a form of tobacco historically favored by older Southern women, but steadily declining in popularity (evidence here ).  When I worked with an investigator at the Swedish National Food Administration to analyze TSNAs in American products in 2003, we found very high levels in two powdered dry snuff brands ( abstract here ).

How do smokeless tobacco TSNA levels compare with those in cigarettes?  The Reynolds scientists did not test cigarettes, but I did.  Camel and Marlboro cigarettes had TSNA levels around 7 ppm in 2003, putting them in the same range as many moist snuff and chewing tobacco products.  However, TSNAs are but one of many thousands of toxins delivered in smoke, so comparing these agents in cigarettes and smokeless is almost meaningless.  

A National Cancer Institute fact sheet describes TSNAs as “the most harmful chemicals in smokeless tobacco…” ( here ), but this study shows that TSNAs are present in tiny concentrations.  As discussed in a previous post ( here ), there is virtually no evidence that current TSNA levels are associated with any measurable cancer risks.

TSNA Levels in Smokeless Tobacco Products in the U.S., 2006 and 2007Dissolvable TobaccoChewing TobaccoTraditional Moist SnuffSnus and Snus-Style SnuffPowdered Dry Snuff
Product Parts Per Million
Beech Nut2.9
Levi Garrett5.2
Red Man1.8
Red Man Golden1.2
Stoker Chew Apple4.6
Taylor’s Pride8.3
Cooper LC WG35.7
Copenhagen LC9.7
Copenhagen Pouches9.9
Grizzly LC WG 200610.1
Grizzly LC WG 20079.0
Husky FC11.2
Kayak LC WG25.5
Kodiak WG 200611.9
Kodiak WG 200713.1
Longhorn LC WG7.6
Red Seal FC10.0
Renegades WG7.9
Skoal FC Original10.0
Skoal LC Cherry9.1
Skoal LC Mint10.5
Skoal LC Straight10.4
Skoal LC WG13.9
Timberwolf LC WG8.1
Camel Frost 20061.8
Camel Frost 20072.3
Camel Original 20061.9
Camel Original 20072.5
Camel Spice 20061.8
Camel Spice 20072.1
Catch Dry Eucalyptus*1.4
Catch Dry Licorice*1.4
General Portion*1.6
General White Portion*1.3
Skoal Dry2.7
Taboka Green1.6
Dental Sweet41.0
Levi Garrett25.8
Railroad Mills27.2
Red Seal18.6
*Manufactured in Sweden
LC- long cut
FC- fine cut


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