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Tob Control. 2004 Jun;13(2):186-9.

Nicotine delivery capabilities of smokeless tobacco products and implications for control of tobacco dependence in South Africa.

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  • 1Department of Community Dentistry, University of Pretoria, South Africa. <>



Smokeless tobacco (SLT) use is popular among black South African women and children. The study sought to determine the nicotine delivery capability of popular industrialised and traditional SLT brands in South Africa, and to provide information for policy action by regulatory authorities.


Laboratory chemical analysis of four industrialised and one traditional SLT products commercially available, using previously published analytical methods. Potential for dependence was inferred from nicotine delivery capabilities determined by the percentage free base nicotine.


Moisture, pH, total nicotine, and percentage free base nicotine.


Total nicotine content was between 6-16 mg/g. The pH varied between 7-10 and this correlated with percentage free base nicotine, which ranged between 10-99%. The nicotine delivery capability of the traditional product was lower than that of the industrialised products except for the recently introduced portion bag snus, which had comparable total nicotine but the lowest pH and percentage free base nicotine. The most popular SLT brands showed the highest percentage free base nicotine ever reported for any industrialised SLT or cigarette brands. Small cans contained higher nicotine than the large cans of the same brand tested. Findings from the study support a potential for limited "product graduation" by users.


South African SLT users are mostly exposed to potentially very highly addictive levels of nicotine that may favour tobacco dependence and its consequent health risks. The increasing use of SLT by women of childbearing age support the need for intensified policy action to control its use.

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