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Determination of Nicotine, pH, and Moisture Content of Six U.S. Commercial Moist Snuff Products—Florida, January–February 1999

May 21, 1999 / Vol. 48 / No. 19


MMWR Highlights

  • Moist snuff products with low nicotine content and pH levels (Hawken Wintergreen, Skoal Bandits Straight, and Skoal Bandits Wintergreen) have a smaller proportion of unprotonated (free) nicotine. In contrast, moist snuff products with high nicotine content and pH levels (Copenhagen Snuff, Skoal Long Cut Wintergreen, and Kodiak Wintergreen) have a higher proportion of unprotonated (free) nicotine.
  • The pH level in moist snuff products varied from a low of 5.24 (Hawken Wintergreen) to a high of 8.35 (Kodiak Wintergreen). Increases in pH can increase the rate of absorption of nicotine from smokeless tobacco through the mouth into the bloodstream. Studies with nicotine and other addictive drugs suggest that the rate at which drugs are absorbed is an important determinant of their addiction potential.
  • The mean levels of unprotonated (free) nicotine varied from 0.01 milligram/gram (Hawken Wintergreen) to 6.23 milligram/gram (Copenhagen Snuff), while the percentage of unprotonated (free) nicotine varied from a low of 0.23% (Hawken Wintergreen) to a high of 68.14% (Kodiak Wintergreen). Unprotonated (free) nicotine is the chemical form of nicotine that is most readily absorbed through the mouth into the bloodstream.
  • The dose of nicotine that smokeless tobacco users receive can be controlled by adjusting the concentration of nicotine, altering the pH, and varying the size of the tobacco cuttings.
  • Smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff) represents a significant health risk and is not a safe alternative to smoking. It can cause oral cancer and leukoplakia, a precancerous lesion, as well as nicotine addiction.
  • On March 23, 1999, The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) published a Federal Register notice requiring the annual submission of the quantity of nicotine, total moisture, and pH contained in smokeless tobacco products, manufactured, imported, or packaged in the U.S. as prescribed under the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986 (CSTHEA/Public Law 99-252). DHHS will use the information to exercise its authority to conduct research on the health effects of smokeless tobacco products.
 
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