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Open Access Feasibility of Manufacturing Tobacco with Very Low Nicotine Levels

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND licence.

Objective: In this paper, we evaluate the effectiveness of agricultural approaches and manufacturing techniques that can be applied to reduce nicotine content of tobacco to minimally addictive levels (< 0.4 mg/g). Methods: Using a semi-structured approach, we searched scientific and grey literature including patents and internal industry documents, using keywords like tobacco, nicotine, alkaloids, denic(otinized) tobacco, reduced nicotine content, very low nicotine tobacco. Results: Nicotine can be reduced via genetic modification or traditional breeding techniques. Contents and emissions are similar to regular cigarettes, but consumers rated them as less satisfactory. Extraction techniques yield less palatable tobacco too, due to co-extraction of favor components in tobacco. Microbial and enzymatic degradation lead to other, mostly undesirable, changes to tobacco. Supercritical extraction resulted in a taste most similar to regular cigarettes, but still failed in the marketplace. Conclusions: Most of the available techniques are successful in reducing nicotine levels, sometimes to levels lower than 0.4 mg/g. However, in almost all cases, the resulting tobacco leads to a less satisfactory smoking experience. Although reduction of nicotine to a non-addictive level is feasible from a technical perspective, it is not clear whether such measures could be successfully implemented.

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Keywords: addiction; nicotine reduction; plant technology; tobacco; tobacco product manufacturing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Scientific Advisor, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Center for Health Protection, Bilthoven, The Netherlands. 2: Elke Pieper, Senior Research Scientist, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Department of Chemical and Product Safety, Berlin, Germany. 3: Senior Researcher, German Federal Institute for Risk assessment (BfR), Department of Chemical and Product Safety, Berlin, Germany. 4: Senior Scientific Advisor, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Center for Health Protection, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.

Publication date: November 2020

More about this publication?
  • Tobacco Regulatory Science (Electronic ISSN 2333-9748) is a rigorously peer-reviewed online scientific journal for the dissemination of research relevant to the regulation of tobacco products. The journal content includes a broad array of research domains, including chemistry, biology, behavior, community, and population-level surveillance and epidemiology, as well as knowledge syntheses (eg, meta-analyses or state-of-the-art reviews) and analytic modeling. All articles describe the policy relevance of the research outcomes. Given the global nature of tobacco regulation, particularly as a result of international and national policies, Tobacco Regulatory Science publishes high quality research that is relevant to global regulatory needs and requirements. Tobacco Regulatory Science is published electronically 6 times per year.
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