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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine 1/2018

Spectrophotometric determination of ammonia levels in tobacco fillers of and sidestream smoke from different cigarette brands in Japan

Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine > Ausgabe 1/2018
Yohei Inaba, Shigehisa Uchiyama, Naoki Kunugita



The ammonia contained in tobacco fillers and mainstream and sidestream cigarette smoke accelerates nicotine dependence in cigarette smokers. Ammonia has been included in the non-exhaustive priority list of 39 tobacco components and emissions of cigarette published by the World Health Organization (WHO) Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation. The development of a simple ammonia detection method will contribute to the establishment of tobacco product regulation under tobacco control policies and allow surveys to be conducted, even by laboratories with small research budgets.


We developed a simple colorimetric method based on the salicylate-chlorine reaction and absorption spectrometry with two reagents (sodium nitroprusside and sodium dichloroisocyanurate). To compare this method to conventional ion chromatography, we analyzed the ammonia levels in tobacco fillers extracted from 35 Japanese commercially marketed cigarette brands manufactured by four tobacco companies (Japan Tobacco (JT) Inc., British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris Japan, and Natural American Spirit). We also analyzed the ammonia levels in the sidestream smoke from cigarettes of the brands that were found to contain high or low tobacco filler ammonia levels.


The ammonia levels in the reference cigarette (3R4F) measured by our method and ion chromatography were similar and comparable to previously reported levels. The ammonia levels in tobacco fillers extracted from 35 cigarette brands ranged from 0.25 to 1.58 mg/g. The mean ammonia level of JT cigarette brands was significantly higher (0.83 ± 0.28 mg/g) than that of Natural American Spirit cigarette brands (0.30 ± 0.08 mg/g) and lower than those in the other two cigarette brands (1.11 ± 0.19 mg/g for BAT and 1.24 ± 0.15 mg/g for Philip Morris) (p < 0.001 by Bonferroni test). The ammonia levels in the sidestream smoke of CABIN, Marlboro Black Menthol, American Spirit Light, and Seven Stars were 5.89 ± 0.28, 5.23 ± 0.12, 6.92 ± 0.56, and 4.14 ± 0.19 mg/cigarette, respectively. The ammonia levels were higher in sidestream smoke than in tobacco filler.


Our simple colorimetric could be used to analyze ammonia in tobacco fillers and sidestream smoke. There were significant differences between the ammonia levels of the 35 commercially marketed cigarette brands in Japan manufactured by four tobacco manufacturers. Over 90% of the ammonia in sidestream smoke was in gaseous phase.

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