Associations Between Sugar Levels in Tobacco Filler and Harmful Constituents in the Smoke of Popular U.S. Cigarettes

Eleanore Hansen

PhD, Environmental Health

Eleanore Hansen, Katrina Yershova,  Caroline Pauls, Xianghua Luo, Irina Stepanov 

Irina Stepanov

Tobacco research, regulation, cigarettes, chemistry, sugars, toxicology, carcinogenicity, etc.


Significance: Sugar levels in cigarette tobacco filler play an important role in the sensory appeal and palatability of cigarette smoke, and may also contribute to its toxicity. Previously, we determined that levels of fructose, glucose, and sucrose vary greatly in the tobacco filler of popular U.S. cigarettes. In this study, we investigated the associations between sugar levels in tobacco filler and levels of several harmful smoke constituents in the same cigarette brands. Methods: We analyzed cigarette brands/sub-brands reported as usual cigarettes smoked by Wave 1 of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study. Tobacco-specific nitrosamines NNK and NNN, nicotine, and a panel of volatile organic compounds (VOC) were analyzed in the smoke. Associations were explored using Pearson correlation coefficients. Results: Total sugar level was positively correlated with propionaldehyde, NNK, formaldehyde, butyraldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, crotonaldehyde, and total measured VOC. Sucrose levels had positive correlations with NNK, NNN, propionaldehyde, crotonaldehyde, butyraldehyde, acrolein, acetaldehyde, and total measured VOC. There were negative correlations between both total sugars and sucrose with nicotine level.  Fructose and glucose had negative correlations with acetone, butanone, and fructose was negatively associated with crotonaldehyde Conclusions: Our data show that sugar levels in tobacco filler are associated with the levels of important toxicants and carcinogens in the smoke of popular U.S. cigarettes. Further research should be undertaken to better characterize the impact of sugars in tobacco filler on cigarette smoke chemistry, pertinent exposures and effects in cigarette users, and the potential regulation sugar levels in cigarette filler.

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