• Decrease font size
  • Return font size to normal
  • Increase font size
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Scientific Publications by FDA Staff

  • Print
  • Share
  • E-mail

Search Publications



Starting Date

Ending Date

Order by

Entry Details

Nicotine Tob Res 2013 Jul;15(7):1283-8

Chemical Analysis of Alaskan Iqmik Smokeless Tobacco

Hearn BA, Renner CC, Ding YS, Vaughan-Watson C, Stanfill SB, Zhang LQ, Polzin GM, Ashley DL, Watson CH


Iqmik, a form of smokeless tobacco (ST), is traditionally used by Cupik and Yupik Eskimo people of western Alaska. Iqmik is sometimes incorrectly considered to be a healthier alternative to smoking because its ingredients are perceived as natural. Our chemical characterization of iqmik shows that iqmik is not a safe alternative to smoking or other ST use. We measured nicotine and pH levels of tobacco and ash used to prepare iqmik. We also characterized levels of toxins which are known to be present in ST including tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) using chromatographic separations coupled with isotope dilution mass spectrometry. Nicotine content in the iqmik tobacco was very high, ranging from 35 to 43mg/g, with a mean of 39mg/g. The pH of the iqmik tobaccoash mixture was 11, an extremely high level compared with most ST products. High levels of PAHs were seen in the fire-cured tobacco samples with a benzo[a]pyrene level of 87ng/g. Average TSNA levels in the tobacco were 34, 2,700, and 340ng/g for 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL), N-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), respectively. Iqmik contains high levels of the more easily absorbed unionized nicotine as well as known carcinogenic TSNAs and PAHs. The perception that iqmik is less hazardous than other tobacco products due to the use of natural ingredients is not warranted. This chemical characterization of iqmik gives a better understanding of the risk of possible adverse health effects of its use.

Category: Journal Article
DOI: 10.1093/ntr/nts270
Includes FDA Authors from Scientific Area(s): Tobacco
Entry Created: 2013-07-21