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Environmental Pollen Trapped by Tobacco Leaf as Indicators of the Provenance of Counterfeit Cigarette Products: A Preliminary Investigation and Test of Concept

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The global trade in counterfeit tobacco products is increasingly taking market share from legal brands in many parts of the developed world, with attendant adverse economic, health, criminal, and other societal impacts. Knowing the geographical source is central to developing new strategies for curbing this illicit trade, and here, the potential of environmental pollen extracted from manufactured cigarettes is examined. Two samples representing U.S. and Chinese brands were investigated for their pollen content. Results indicate that tobacco leaf very efficiently captures environmental pollen (about 1800 and 12,600 grains per cigarette, respectively) with no detectable self-contamination by the tobacco plant. In both cases, the flora is typical of open space environments, but pollen type counts indicate very different distributions of species. This preliminary investigation indicates that palynology has the potential to constrain geographical source(s) of tobacco, particularly if regionally localized species can be recognized among the pollen.

Keywords: cigarette; counterfeit; forensic science; palynology; pollen; provenance; tobacco

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Geography & Geosciences, University of St Andrews, Irvine Building, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL, U.K.

Publication date: May 1, 2010

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