Elemental and molecular profiling of licit, illicit, and niche tobacco

Quayle, Kim, Clemens, Graeme, Sorribes, Tamar, Kinvig, Hannah, Stevenson, Paul G, Conlan, Xavier A and Baker, Matthew orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2362-8581 (2016) Elemental and molecular profiling of licit, illicit, and niche tobacco. Forensic Science International, 266 . pp. 549-554. ISSN 0379-0738

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Official URL: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.07.023


The recognition of differences between regulated large-scale mass manufactured products and the uncontrolled cultivation of tobaccos for illicit purposes plays a significant role within identification of provenance. This research highlights X-ray fluorescence and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy as useful analytical techniques for the rapid identification of tobacco samples of unknown provenance. Identification of key discriminative features within each technique allowed for the development of typical characteristic profiles for each type of tobacco. Analysis using X-ray fluorescence highlights chlorine, potassium, calcium and iron as key elemental indicators of tobacco provenance. Significant levels of chlorine seen within Snüs samples prompted attempts to visualise chlorine containing regions and structures within the sample. Scanning electron microscopy images showed crystalline structures visible within the Snüs tobacco, structures which Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy qualitatively confirmed to contain chlorine. Chloride levels within Snüs samples were quantified using ion chromatography with levels found to range between 0.87 mg mL⿿1 and 1.28 mg. Additionally, FTIR indicated that absorbances attributed to carbonyl stretching at 1050⿿1150 cm⿿1, alkane bending at 1350⿿1480 cm⿿1 and amide I stretching at 1600⿿1700 cm⿿1 highlighting a spectral fingerprint region that allowed for the clear differentiation between different types of tobaccos using PCA analysis, but was limited by differentiation between provenance of cigarettes and hand rolled tobacco. X-ray fluorescence and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy yielded different information with regards tobacco discrimination and provenance, however both methods overall analysis time and cost reduced indicating usefulness as potential handheld analytical techniques in the field.

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