Fingerprinting tech can detect illicit cigarettes

Researchers in China have developed a method of analysing cigarettes, based on their profile of stable isotopes of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen, that can be used to check their authenticity.

Variations in stable isotopes, which provide an indication of where the tobacco used in cigarettes was cultivated, could be used as a screening technology ahead of current, more labour-intensive lab methods that rely on authenticity testing based on distinctive patterns of chemical compounds.

It is not an entirely new concept, as previous studies have used stable isotope fingerprinting to identify foreign counterfeits of Canadian cigarettes. However, the latest paper is thought to be the first to use the technology to distinguish counterfeit cigarettes produced in the same country.

The team sourced 64 counterfeit cigarette samples seized by China’s National Monopoly Bureau, mimicking four brands, which were analysed and compared to 64 genuine samples provided by the brand owners.

They found that nitrogen and hydrogen isotopes in particular could be used to not only distinguish real from fake with almost 97% accuracy but also tell one genuine brand from another using unsupervised principal component analysis (PCA).

The scientists behind the work – from China’s National Tobacco Quality Supervision and Test Centre, Beijing Life Science Academy and Hunan University – said that counterfeiting of cigarettes has become rampant in recent years, in part due to tax rises designed to counter the significant morbidity and public health problems caused by smoking.

Counterfeit cigarettes in particular can pose health risks for consumers, exposing them to unknown levels of toxic substances, they added.

“Due to these concerns, developing methods for determining the authenticity of cigarettes is crucially important for the government to have analytical services for the administration of taxation, border and trade policy, as well as customer health and safety,” they write in the paper, which is published in the Microchemical Journal.

Related articles:

     Want our news sent directly to your inbox?

Yes please 2


Home  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Advertise  |  Links  |  Partners  |  Privacy Policy  |   |  RSS feed   |  back to top