Heterogeneity of Harmful Constituent Profiles in Smokeless Tobacco Products from Five African Countries

Francisco Gomez, Olalekan Ayo-Yusuf, Katrina Yershova, Vipin Jain, Aleksandra Alcheva, Dorothy K. Hatsukami, Mark Parascandola, Irina Stepanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Addictive, toxic, and carcinogenic constituents present in smokeless tobacco (SLT) products are responsible for the harmful effects associated with SLT use. There are limited data on levels of such constituents in SLT products used in Africa, a region with high prevalence of SLT use and the associated morbidity and mortality. Manufactured and custom-made SLT products were purchased from five African countries (South Africa, Uganda, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Zambia) using a standard approach for sample collection, labeling, and storage. Moisture content, pH, total and unprotonated (biologically available) nicotine, five tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNA), 10 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), five metals and metalloids (As, Cd, Cr, Ni, and Pb), nitrate, and nitrite were analyzed. A total of 54 samples representing 15 varieties of manufactured SLT products and 13 varieties of custom-made SLT products were purchased and analyzed. In all samples, the total nicotine ranged from 1.6 to 20.5 mg/g product and unprotonated nicotine accounted for 5.3-99.6% of the total nicotine content. The sum of all five TSNA ranged from 1.6 to 100 μg/g product, with significant within-country variations observed across both the manufactured and custom-made varieties. Significant variations were also found for PAH, metals and metalloids, nitrates, and nitrites. This is the most comprehensive report on the chemical profiling of products from African countries. This is also the first study illustrating the variability of harmful constituents within the same types and brands of African SLT. Our findings emphasize the need for consumer education and interventions to reduce SLT use in Africa. The data reported here can be useful to regulators in considering measures to prevent the occurrence of high levels of known toxicants and carcinogens in manufactured products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1901-1911
Number of pages11
JournalChemical research in toxicology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 18 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Chemical Society.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


Dive into the research topics of 'Heterogeneity of Harmful Constituent Profiles in Smokeless Tobacco Products from Five African Countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this