Carob Bean
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Carob Bean

Carob Bean extract and gum

Carob, which is also referred to as the carob pod or carob bean, is the fruit of the evergreen carob tree. Each carob pod contains seeds that sit in the pod’s pulp. The pulp is rich in sugars and therefore is naturally sweet and tastes and looks like chocolate. It can be ground into fine powder or used in the form of an extract. The seeds also provide a source of gum.

General uses

Carob bean extract and gum have many uses, especially in the food and flavouring industry where it is used as a chocolate or cocoa substitute, or as a thickener and food stabiliser. It is also used in non-food industries such as the textile, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industry.

Reported tobacco industry uses

Carob bean extract and gum are used as a flavouring material in commercial cigarettes. It imparts a sweet and nutty taste that enriches the smoke flavour. The extract and gum is applied to either the filter or the tobacco and makes up to 0.2% of the total weight of the tobacco used in one cigarette.

Harmful health effects

Carob bean is generally regarded as safe for use in food and cosmetics. However, this does not suggest it is safe when inhaled from smoking cigarettes. Almost the entire carob bean extract and gum that is added to the cigarette is burnt while smoking. This results in the formation of several harmful compounds, such as benzene. The sugars that are present in the extract can produce compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and formaldehyde. These breakdown products of sugars have been classified as human cancer-causing agents by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a leading expert cancer organisation).

The sugars also produce acidic compounds, which make it harder for the nicotine in the cigarette smoke to reach the brain. This forces smokers to inhale deeper, and consume more cigarettes to get their nicotine fix. Furthermore, the use of carob bean extract and gum may be indirectly harmful due to the formation of compounds called aldehydes (e.g. acetaldehyde), which can make cigarettes more addictive by enhancing the addictive potential of nicotine. Aldehydes are very reactive and produce other compounds such as the substance harman, which can also make cigarettes more addictive due to its mood-enhancing effect on the brain.

The addition of carob bean extract and gum to cigarettes help mask the naturally harsh and irritating nature of tobacco smoke by making it more pleasant and milder. In doing so, this essentially silences the body’s natural cough response, which would warn that the smoke is dangerous. The flavour and attractiveness of smoking is also enhanced by the caramel flavours that are produced when the sugars are burnt.

Overall, by adding more desirable flavours such as carob bean extract and gum to cigarettes, tobacco manufacturers make it easier for smokers to become addicted. This can ultimately lead to more cigarettes being smoked and thus greater exposure to the toxic substances in cigarette smoke.  

This text of the factsheet on the tobacco additive Carob bean extract and gum was written by the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ). You can find the original in English on the RIVM website   

This initiative has received funding from the European Union in the framework of the Health Programme.