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Crit Rev Toxicol. 2012 Apr;42(4):304-13. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2012.666660. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

The in vitro toxicology of Swedish snus.

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  • 1Carson Watts Consulting, King, NC, USA.


Three commercial brands of Swedish snus (SWS), an experimental SWS, and the 2S3 reference moist snuff were each tested in four in vitro toxicology assays. These assays were: Salmonella reverse mutation, mouse lymphoma, in vitro micronucleus, and cytotoxicity. Water extractions of each of the 5 products were tested using several different concentrations; the experimental SWS was also extracted using dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). Extraction procedures were verified by nicotine determinations. Results for SWS in the mutagenicity assays were broadly negative: there were occasional positive responses, but these were effectively at the highest concentration only (concentrations well above those suggested by regulatory guidelines), and were often associated with cytotoxicity. The 2S3 reference was unequivocally positive in one of the three conditions of the micronucleus assay (MNA), at the highest concentration only. Positive controls produced the expected responses in each assay. The SWS data are contrasted with data reported for combusted tobacco in the form of cigarettes, where strongly positive responses have been routinely reported for mutagenicity and cytotoxicity. These negative findings in a laboratory setting concur with the large amount of epidemiological data from Sweden, data showing that SWS are associated with considerably lower carcinogenic potential when compared with cigarettes.

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