Chemical Consumption: Smokeless Tobacco and Flavorant Levels

Jim Pankow, PhD, published his investigation on flavor­ants in smokeless tobacco in Food and Chem­ical Toxicology. He concluded that the level of flavorants in smokeless toba­cco pro­ducts averages 50% higher than in some well-known candy products. He also discussed measurements of methyl salicylate (wintergreen) and menthol flavor­ants in a large number of smokeless tobacco products. Dr. Pankow said, “The bottom line for our paper is that the flavorant levels in the smokeless products are in general markedly higher than in popular wintergreen and menthol flavored tobacco products. Moreover, the amount of wintergreen flavorant could by itself pose serious health risks to some consumers.” 

Chemicals such as methyl salicylate are often used as flavorants by manufacturers of smokeless tobacco and candy. This study notes that for a typical user of smokeless to­bacco, the levels of wintergreen flavorant in numerous brands of smokeless tobacco lead to chemical consumption rates that exceed the maximum acceptable daily intake established by the United Nations Food and Agri­­culture Association and the World Health Organ­ization. 

After the concern was ex­pressed within the public health community that add­ing flavorant compounds made smokeless tobacco pro­ducts more “candy like” and thus more appealing to youth, Dr. Pankow decided, “that someone should make some direct comparisons between the levels of such flavorant compounds in major smokeless tobacco products and popular brand-name candy products.” At a committee hearing in the 1990s, Oregon US Senator Ron Wyden asked the CEOs of the major tobacco companies if they believed nicotine was addictive. He stated, “Before Congress and the American people they denied the addictiveness of their product. This report in­dicates that the to­bacco companies are still ...deceiv­ing the public by us­ing smokeless to­bacco fla­vorants to appeal to underage users. Dr. Pankow’s study is an im­portant addition to the scientific oversight of the tobacco industry and will be incredibly helpful in safeguarding the health of Ameri­cans.”


 (Source: Portland State University news release, January 12, 2010)



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