High-Intensity Sweeteners in Alternative Tobacco Products

Nicotine Tob Res. 2016 Nov;18(11):2169-2173. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntw141. Epub 2016 May 23.


Introduction: Sweeteners in tobacco products may influence use initiation and reinforcement, with special appeal to adolescents. Recent analytical studies of smokeless tobacco products (snuff, snus, dissolvables) detected flavorants identical to those added to confectionary products such as hard candy and chewing gum. However, these studies did not determine the levels of sweeteners. The objective of the present study was to quantify added sweeteners in smokeless tobacco products, a dissolvable product, electronic cigarette liquids and to compare with sweetener levels in confectionary products.

Methods: Sweetener content of US-sourced smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarette liquid, and confectionary product samples was analyzed by liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS).

Results: All smokeless products contained synthetic high intensity sweeteners, with snus and dissolvables exceeding levels in confectionary products (as much as 25-fold). All snus samples contained sucralose and most also aspartame, but no saccharin. In contrast, all moist snuff samples contained saccharin. The dissolvable sample contained sucralose and sorbitol. Ethyl maltol was the most common sweet-associated component in electronic cigarette liquids.

Discussion: Sweetener content was dependent on product category, with saccharin in moist snuff, an older category, sucralose added at high levels to more recently introduced products (snus, dissolvable) and ethyl maltol in electronic cigarette liquid. The very high sweetener concentrations may be necessary for the consumer to tolerate the otherwise aversive flavors of tobacco ingredients. Regulation of sweetener levels in smokeless tobacco products may be an effective measure to modify product attractiveness, initiation and use patterns.

Implications: Dissolvables, snus and electronic cigarettes have been promoted as risk-mitigation products due to their relatively low content of nitrosamines and other tobacco toxicants. This study is the first to quantify high intensity sweeteners in snus and dissolvable products. Snus and dissolvables contain the high intensity sweetener, sucralose, at levels higher than in confectionary products. The high sweetness of alternative tobacco products makes these products attractive to adolescents. Regulation of sweetener content in non-cigarette products is suggested as an efficient means to control product palatability and to reduce initiation in adolescents.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Behavior, Addictive
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Connecticut
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Nitrosamines / analysis*
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners / analysis*
  • Tobacco Products / analysis*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / analysis*


  • Nitrosamines
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners