Surveillance of moist snuff: total nicotine, moisture, pH, un-ionized nicotine, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines

Nicotine Tob Res. 2008 Nov;10(11):1645-52. doi: 10.1080/14622200802412937.


In 2005, approximately 2.3% of U.S. adults used smokeless tobacco. Moist snuff leads all types of smokeless tobacco in revenues and marketing expenditures. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that smokeless tobacco use can lead to nicotine addiction. The National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health has classified smokeless tobacco as a human carcinogen. Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are potent carcinogens in smokeless tobacco products, and the pH of the product influences the content of un-ionized nicotine which is the form of nicotine most rapidly absorbed in the mouth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 40 top-selling brands of moist snuff to measure nicotine, moisture, pH, un-ionized nicotine, and TSNAs, including 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL). The study findings indicate that moist snuff brands varied widely in content of rapidly absorbed, addictive un-ionized nicotine (500-fold range) and of carcinogenic TSNAs (18-fold range). Product characteristics such as packaging and moisture content appeared to be correlated with concentrations of un-ionized nicotine, and flavor characteristics of low-priced brands may correlate with TSNA concentrations. These findings warrant further study in light of (a) the marketing of smokeless tobacco for use in places where smoking is prohibited, (b) the promotion of smokeless tobacco as a harm-reduction product, and (c) the ever-expanding number of highly flavored smokeless varieties brought to the market.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / analysis*
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Nicotine / chemistry
  • Nitrosamines / analysis*
  • Reference Values
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / chemistry*
  • United States
  • Water / analysis


  • Carcinogens
  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Nitrosamines
  • Smoke
  • Water
  • Nicotine