Beitr. Tabakforsch. Int./Contrib. Tob. Research, 2005-21-6, p. 305–20., ISSN.0173-783X

Factors influencing the formation of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in French air-cured tobaccos in trials and at the farm level

DE ROTON C.; WIERNIK A.; WAHLBERG I.; VIDAL B.
Altadis - Institut du Tabac, Bergerac, France
Several trials the results of which are compiled in this paper, were carried out at the Tobacco Institute of Bergerac (ITB) and in the area nearby from 1996 to 2003. The objective was to study the formation of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNA) in dark air-cured and burley tobaccos during curing and post-curing treatment under the conditions of cultivation, curing and storage commonly applied by the growers in the south-western part of France. For experimental purposes special treatments were performed in certain trials. The results showed that the main genetic trait involved in the formation of TSNA is the propensity of a variety to convert nicotine to nornicotine (NN). In addition, the ability of a variety to lose water rapidly limits the formation of nitrite and hence also the formation of TSNA. Furthermore, agricultural practices that led to an increase of alkaloid concentrations in the tobacco leaves also led to an increase of TSNA concentration. Priming, a mode of harvest which speeds up the cure, as compared to stalk-cutting, as well as low temperatures during curing, limit the formation of TSNA, but do not yield tobaccos of the best quality. Ventilation in the barn plays a major role, and the leaves cured in well ventilated curing structures, such as plastic sheds, generally contained smaller amounts of TSNA than leaves cured in a conventional curing barn. The results also indicated that the TSNA concentrations may increase after the end of cure, if the cured tobaccos were kept hanging in the barn under humid conditions. The concentration of TSNA may also continue to increase, whereas nitrite concentrations tend to decrease, when the leaves are kept in bales. It can be concluded that the French climatic conditions with moderate temperatures and low relative humidity at the time of curing, are favourable for the production of air-cured tobaccos with a good quality and low TSNA concentrations (1.5-3.5 µg/g), provided that the variety has low NN content, the nitrogen fertilization is moderate, the curing is performed in a well ventilated environment, the tobacco is taken down and stripped as soon as it is cured, and the bales are stored as briefly as possible before the leaves are threshed and stabilized.