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Tobacco leaves are now showing upin trendy desserts

From Paris to New York, tobacco has become a hot ingredient used by top chefs, who say it imparts a certain spiciness to desserts.

Public health officials, who have spent the past two decades trying to convince people not to smoke, are livid when they hear of sauces laced with cigar or pipe tobacco.

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The first Paris chef to use cigars tobacco in desserts was award-winning Michel Rostang in the 1980s. In Italy, custard is sometimes infused with tobacco.

Recently, several upscale New York restaurants have followed the Europeans' lead, offering desserts with tobacco-caramel sauce or sundaes with tobacco sauce.

But American restaurant critics and industry insiders say the fad will likely be short-lived on this side of the Atlantic, because of Americans' deep distaste for tobacco in all its forms.

"Because so many people don't smoke, it would be a turn-off," Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake bakery-cafe in San Francisco told the The San Diego Union-Tribune.

While it's unproven whether ingesting small amounts of infused or ground tobacco is harmful, critics warn nonsmokers that such substances may make them ill - and could renew tobacco cravings in people who have given up smoking.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor