- New York
- Nicotine & Tobacco Research
The most popular brands of smokeless tobacco have the highest levels of the most easily absorbed form of nicotine, according to a new study.
The three brands of moist snuff that have the largest market share also contain the highest levels of so-called unprotonated, or “free-base,” nicotine, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, report. This form of nicotine is rapidly absorbed through the mouth. The speed of nicotine absorption has a major impact on the odds of becoming addicted, according to the study’s authors, Drs. Patricia Richter and Francis W. Spierto.
“Consumers need to know that smokeless tobacco products, including loose-leaf and moist snuff, are not safe alternatives to smoking,” the authors state in the December issue of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
The researchers point out that in 2000 the U.S. surgeon general concluded that tobacco products should be not be any more harmful than necessary. “Regarding the health of consumers, and in light of the surgeon general’s response, smokeless tobacco manufacturers should take steps to reduce the addictiveness of their products,” Richter and Spierto conclude. Under a 1986 law, tobacco manufacturers must report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the amount of nicotine in their smokeless tobacco products. Because such information is considered a trade secret, however, it is not released to the public. But through a little bit of detective work, Richter and Spierto were able to determine how much nicotine — particularly the most easily absorbed kind — is found in smokeless tobacco.
Based on testing performed by a private, independent lab in Canada, the three brands of moist snuff that have the largest market share — Kodiak, Skoal and Copenhagen — also had the highest level of “free-base” nicotine. The number-one brand of loose-leaf smokeless tobacco, Levi Garrett, contained the most free-base nicotine in its category, but the levels of unprotonated nicotine did not correspond to market share in other brands of loose-leaf tobacco.
Using smokeless tobacco, including moist snuff and chewing tobacco, increases the risk of oral cancer and precancerous lesions in the mouth. Per dose, smokeless tobacco delivers more absorbable nicotine than a cigarette.