An overview of the effects of tobacco ingredients on smoke chemistry and toxicity

Food Chem Toxicol. 2004;42 Suppl:S53-83. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2004.01.001.


This paper presents an overview of a series of studies designed to assess the influence of 482 tobacco ingredients on cigarette smoke chemistry and toxicity. The studies are: pyrolysis of the ingredients; influence of the ingredients on smoke constituents believed by regulatory authorities to be relevant to smoking-related diseases ("Hoffmann analytes"); influence of the ingredients on in vitro genotoxicity and cytotoxicity of smoke partiulate matter; and influence of the ingredients on the inhalation toxicity of smoke. The present paper brings the salient features of these studies together. A pyrolysis technique has been developed which, as far as practicably possible, mimics the combustion conditions inside a burning cigarette. The results from 291 single-substance ingredients indicate that almost a third would transfer out of the cigarette burning zone at least 99% intact (i.e. less than 1% pyrolysis), and almost two thirds would transfer at least 95% intact. Of the ingredients that underwent some degree of pyrolysis, a few "Hoffmann analytes" were detected amongst the pyrolysis products of 19 ingredients. Taking into account maximum use levels, their maximum pyrolysis levels were generally small and often insignificant compared to the levels typically present in smoke. Possible exceptions were acetaldehyde and benzene from the pyrolysis of malic acid. However, subsequent smoke chemistry studies indicated that the maximum levels predicted from pyrolysis of this involatile substance were overestimated, suggesting that malic acid does not undergo complete pyrolysis in the burning cigarette and/or generates acetaldehyde and benzene at similar rates to that of tobacco on a per weight basis. When added to tobacco, many of the ingredient mixtures produced no significant effect on the levels of many of the "Hoffmann analytes" in smoke, while some produced increases or decreases relative to the relevant control cigarettes. The study has concentrated on the increases. Many of the differences were found to be not significant when the long-term variability of the analytical methodology was taken into account. However, even taking this into account, the smoke formaldehyde levels in two of the test cigarettes were significantly increased relative to their controls, by up to 26 microg (73%). These increases are likely to be due to the pyrolysis of sugars, cellulose and other polysaccharide materials. The activity of smoke particulate matter from cigarettes containing tobacco ingredients has been determined with three in vitro bioassays, two for genotoxicity and one for cytotoxicity. These were the Ames test, the mammalian cell micronucleus assay, and the neutral red uptake cytotoxicity assay. Within the sensitivity and specificity of these bioassays, the specific activity of the cigarette smoke particulate matter was not changed by the addition of ingredients to the cigarette. Three 90-day sub-chronic inhalation studies have been undertaken and histopathological and histomorphometric assessments made within the respiratory tracts of animals exposed to smoke from cigarettes containing the various ingredient mixtures and their control cigarettes. The response due to tobacco smoke exposure was not distinguishable between the test and control cigarettes, indicating that the presence of the ingredients had made no discernable differences to the type and severity of the treatment-related changes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Carcinogenicity Tests
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Tobacco / chemistry*
  • Tobacco / toxicity*
  • Tobacco Industry
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Smoke