Chemical Profiling

Chemical Composition of Smokeless Tobacco Products

Chemical composition of the Smokeless Tobacco (SLT) products depends on a large number of factors including the tobacco plant species used, method of preparation, flavours added and pH. It is estimated that a tobacco leaf contains more than 6000 chemical compounds that undergo a lot of changes till the final product is formed. Broadly, these chemicals can be classified into various groups namely volatile and nonvolatile nitrosamines, Tobacco specific N Nitrosamines (TSNAs), N-Nitrosamino acids, Poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), aldehydes, heavy metals, and radioactive metals.

Some of the chemicals found in most of the SLT products are N’-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL), N’-nitrosoanatabine (NAT), and N’-nitrosoanabasine (NAB), arsenic, beryllium, chromium VI, cadmium, nickel compounds, polonium-210, benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), dibenz[a,h]anthracene,benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, dibenzo[a,i]pyrene, indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, 5-methylchrysene, naphthalene, and benz[a]anthracene.

SLT products are found to contain around 30 carcinogens including TSNAs which are found to cause tumors of lungs, nasal cavity, trachea, pancreas, liver and Oesophagus. Some SLT products also contain stimulants namely caffeine, ginseng, taurine, vitamins B and C, alkaline modifiers namely alkaline ash, slaked lime and flavoring agents such as saffron, clove and menthol.


National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smokeless Tobacco and Public Health: A Global Perspective. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. NIH Publication No. 14-7983; 2014. [PDF]