Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chemical Analysis of Camel Dissolvables Reveals Tobacco, Flavors and Sweeteners

In 2009, R.J. Reynolds test-marketed dissolvable tobacco products in Indianapolis. Chemists at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, led by Christina Rainey, have just published the results of an extensive chemical analysis of Camel Orbs, Sticks and Strips in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (abstract here).

Using several extraction methods, Rainey et al. documented that Camel Orbs, Sticks and Strips contain tobacco, flavors and sweeteners:

1. Tobacco: Measuring the nicotine content of the products, the researchers findings were similar to those reported in Reynolds’ product literature: 1 mg. per Orb, 3.1 mg. per Stick and 0.6 mg. per Strip.

2. Flavors: Rainey et al. found menthol, ethyl citrate, cinnamaldehyde, coumarin, vanillin and carvone. Readers will immediately recognize menthol, cinnamon and vanilla flavors. Carvone is a flavor component of spearmint, caraway and dill, so it also has a long history of use in foods (more here). Ethyl citrate is a derivative of citric acid (lemons and limes); it is a food additive.

Rainey et al. claim that “coumarin is a harmful ingredient and causes liver damage in rodents…and has been banned as a flavor additive to food.” This statement is misleading, as it implies that coumarin is a dangerous chemical that has been added to the dissolvables.

It is true that coumarin is toxic to the liver of rats, but this is due to the fact that rats process this agent via an enzyme system that humans lack. Extrapolating rat liver damage to humans is specious.

It is true that the FDA prohibits adding coumarin to human food (here). Why was it found in Camel dissolvables? It is well known that coumarin is present in some varieties of cinnamon; Rainey et al. found coumarin only in an Orb flavored with cinnamon (more information about coumarin is available here). In 2008, scientists from Germany found coumarin in bakery products and breakfast cereals flavored with cinnamon (here). Should Orbs be considered as dangerous as cinnamon buns and breakfast cereal?

3. Sweeteners: Xylitol and/or sorbitol, non-caloric sweeteners used in many products, were found in all three Camel dissolvables.

4. Others: Rainey et al. note that Orbs contain palmitic and stearic acid, food-grade additives that probably aid in the physical properties of the product (e.g., shape and texture). Strips contain glycerin, a food additive that helps products retain moisture.

In summary, smokers who switch to Camel Dissolvables are consuming smoke-free tobacco products that are consistent with government standards for human foods.


Nick said...

If there was one thing I could say to these authors it would be: "Got literature review?"

I suppose the authors should caution against eating apples, pears, peaches, and prunes, fruits that contain sorbitol. Xylitol is found in a variety of berries as well as oats, mushrooms, and corn, and has no known human toxicity. According to the authors, however, "[x]ylitol has not shown any harmful effects to the oral cavity, but, contrary to public belief, it also has not been shown to be beneficial."

Really? A 40-month double-blind study (1) found a 100% xylitol pellet gum significantly reduced dental carry rates (RR=0.27, 95%CI 0.20-0.36, p = .0001). Another double-blind randomized controlled trial found that topical xylitol oral syrup administered two (RR=0.30, 95%CI 0.13-0.66, p = .003) or three (RR=0.50, 95%CI, 0.26-0.96, p = .04) times daily was effective in preventing early childhood caries (2).

"Cinnamaldehyde is also an oral irritant with desensitization recovery time of >10 min." Yet it's used as flavoring in numerous ice creams, candies, and beverages, as well as some perfumes. On top of preventing oral bacterial growth (3), it's even been found to "impair melanoma cell proliferation, invasiveness, and tumor growth (4)."

The authors state "[n]icotine also has adverse effects on the oral cavity, such as inhibited gingival fibroblast growth and collagen production." Fortunately, a five-year randomized controlled trial of nearly 4,000 smokers found nicotine replacement therapy was not a significant predictor of gastrointestinal or oral cancers (5).

As for dissolvables "harming children through unintentional poisoning," I suppose the authors scoff at the use of nicotine lozenges that come in a myriad of flavors, including mint and cherry. They also contain magnesium stearate, commonly known as soap scum.

Pretty selective citing going on here. If the literature suggests mixed findings, then it's imperative to say so.

1. Makinen KK et al. Xylitol chewing gums and caries rates: a 40-month cohort study. J Dent Res 1995;74(12):1904-13.

2. Milgrom P et al. Xyltiol pediatric topical oral syrup to prevent dental caries: a double-blind randomized clinical trial of efficacy. Arch Pediatr Adoles Med 2009;163(7):601-7.

3. Popular chewing gum eliminates bacteria that causes bad breath.

4. Cabello CM, et al. The cinnamon-derived Michael acceptor cinnamic aldehyde impairs melanoma proliferation, invasiveness, and tumor growth. Free Radic Biol Med 2009;46(2):220-31.

5. Murray RP et al. Does nicotine replacement therapy cause cancer? Evidence from the Lung Health Study. Nicotine Tob Res 2009;11(9):1076-82.

Anonymous said...

These disolvables were the only thing that got me to quit smoking smoking is deadly they saved my life