Chemical characterization of domestic oral tobacco products: total nicotine, pH, unprotonated nicotine and tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines

Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jul;57:380-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.03.011. Epub 2013 Mar 19.


In the United States, moist snuff has been studied more widely than other distinct categories of oral tobacco. In this study, we measured pH, moisture, nicotine (total and unprotonated), and tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNAs) for other established (twist, loose leaf, plug, and dry snuff without pouch) and emerging oral tobacco products (dry snuff pouch, US-made snus, and dissolvable tobacco). Among the seven product categories, product pH ranged from 4.7 to 7.9, and total nicotine concentration spanned from 3.9 to 40.1 mg/g. The most readily absorbable form of nicotine (unprotonated nicotine) varied more than 350-fold, ranging from 0.01 to 3.7 mg/g. While the highest total nicotine concentrations were observed in twist products, snus and dissolvable tobacco had the highest unprotonated nicotine levels. Among all products, total TSNA concentrations ranged from 313 to 76,500 ng/g with dry snuff having the highest total TSNA concentrations. This study demonstrates the diversity among oral tobacco products and highlights the potential of these products to deliver a wide range of nicotine and carcinogenic TSNAs. Characterizing the chemical content of these products may be helpful in further understanding the risk of marketing these products to oral tobacco users and smokers as an alternative and discrete form of tobacco.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Nitrosamines / analysis*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / analysis*
  • United States


  • Nitrosamines
  • Nicotine