Surveillance of smokeless tobacco nicotine, pH, moisture, and unprotonated nicotine content

Nicotine Tob Res. 2003 Dec;5(6):885-9. doi: 10.1080/14622200310001614647.


Smokeless tobacco is a complex chemical mixture, including not only the components of the tobacco leaf but also chemicals added during the manufacturing process. Smokeless tobacco contains the addictive chemical nicotine and more than 20 cancer-causing chemicals, including the potent tobacco-specific nitrosamines. The National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health has concluded that oral use of smokeless tobacco is a human carcinogen. Therefore, smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. In fact, smokeless tobacco use begins primarily during early adolescence and can lead to nicotine dependence and increased risk of becoming a cigarette smoker. Under the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986 (15 U.S.C. 4401 et seq., Pub. L. 99-252), tobacco manufacturers report annually to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the total nicotine, unprotonated nicotine, pH, and moisture content of their smokeless tobacco products. This information is considered "trade secret," or confidential, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4) and 18 U.S.C. 1905 and cannot be released to the public. In an effort to provide consumers and researchers with information on the nicotine content of smokeless tobacco, CDC arranged for the analysis of popular brands of smokeless tobacco. The results of this CDC study show that pH is a primary factor in the amount of nicotine that is in the most readily absorbable, unprotonated form. Furthermore, this study found that the brands of moist snuff smokeless tobacco with the largest amount of unprotonated nicotine also are the most frequently sold brands.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / analysis*
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / chemistry
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Nicotine / chemistry
  • Nicotine / pharmacokinetics
  • Reference Values
  • Tobacco Industry
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / chemistry*
  • United States
  • Water / analysis


  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Water
  • Nicotine