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Needed: a cure for curing snuff.

Needed: A cure for curing snuff

Even when there's no smoke, tobacco can blacken human health. Smokeless tobacco, chiefly chewing plugs and snuff, has been linked to oral cancer, gum disease and nicotine addiction. In the United States, 12 million people were using it as of 1985.

Chemist William J. Chamberlain of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Athens, Ga., and his colleagues report that the amount of potent carcinogens called nitrosamines in smokeless tobacco hinges on a crucial step in the plant's growing and production process, namely curing. While the researchers detected, at most, trace amounts of nitrosamines in green tobacco plants, the compounds abound after curing. Moreover, they found that nitrosamine levels in five types of fire-cured black tobacco were nearly double those in air-cured samples. Nitrosamines, essentially the only known cancer-causing agents in smokeless tobacco, are formed when nitrites from nitrogen fertilizers react with the plants' nicotine alkaloids.

Chamberlain suggests that more air-cured tobaccos be used in smokeless tobacco blends, but he says he doubts that the industry will give up on fire-curing entirely since it is largely responsible for giving tobaccos their flavor. In a survey of products on the market, his group also found that snuff products have what he calls a high level of nitrosamines--17 micrograms per gram of tobacco--but he notes that this is lower than nitrosamine levels of four or five years ago. "So obviously, the tobacco companies are already doing something to lower these levels,' he says.
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Title Annotation:carcinogens in smokeless tobacco formed in curing process
Author:Weisburd, Stefi
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 12, 1987
Previous Article:Hunting for Legionnaire's bacteria.
Next Article:Radical dangers up in smoke.

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