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  • Author: RFMJ Cleven x
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The Relation Between the Quantity of Ammonium Compounds in Tobacco and the Nitrogen Monoxide (NO) Levels in the Smoke of Cigarettes Marketed in the Netherlands


It has been suggested that ammonium compounds in tobacco generate nitrogen monoxide (NO) in cigarette smoke. This causes the smoke to retain the broncho-dilatory properties of the tobacco, which leads to an increased uptake of nicotine and thus to a potentially higher addiction to tobacco. The objective of this study was to ascertain putative correlations among the concentration of ammonium compounds in whole tobacco and the concentration of NO in mainstream smoke.

In 98 different cigarette brands marketed in the Netherlands, positive correlations were found between ‘tar’ and nicotine values (coefficient of variation, R2 = 0.95), and between ‘tar’ and NO concentration (R2 = 0.47). The quantity of ammonium compounds in tobacco (expressed as the amount of NH4+ present) varied, however, from 0.1 to 3.3 mg per gram of tobacco and was not associated with any of the parameters investigated here. In addition, five cigarette types were compared with respect to the levels of ammonium-compounds in the tobacco, the concentration of NO in the smoke and ‘tar’/nicotine ratio. The concentration of NO in the smoke from light menthol and light cigarettes (‘tar’ content < 9 mg/cig) was significantly lower than that from their regular equivalents (‘tar’ content > 9 mg/cig). As expected, the ‘tar’/nicotine ratio of regular cigarettes was significantly higher than the ratio in light cigarettes.

This study shows that the whole tobacco in the various cigarette brands differed in the amount of ammonium compounds it contained, but these amounts bore no relation to the level of NO and the level of nicotine and ‘tar’ in the smoke. Other factors that affect the burning process, such as nitrate content and product design may have made the association between ammonium compounds in tobacco and the level of NO in mainstream smoke less clear.

Open access