Smokeless Tobacco

An alternative to smoking tobacco, smokeless tobacco products consist of tobacco or a tobacco blend that is chewed, sucked on, or sniffed. There are many different types of smokeless tobacco, however the the main types are:

  • Chewing tobacco - Sweetened, loose tobacco leaves are placed between the user's cheek and gum, held there, sometimes for hours at a time, to usually spit out or sometimes swallow the tobacco juices.
  • E-cigarette - Electronic cigarette or personal vaporizer, a battery powered device, which orally delivers smokeless nicotine vapor, flavor, and physical sensation similar to conventional cigarettes. Even though e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, the FDA has found cancer-causing chemicals in the vapors.
  • Snuff - Snuff is finely ground or shredded tobacco leaves, packaged in tins or tea bag-like pouches. A pinch is placed between the lower lip and gum or cheek and gum. Dry forms of snuff can be sniffed into the nose. The process of using snuff is also called dipping.
  • Snus - Snus (pronounced snoos) is a spitless tobacco product. It comes in a pouch and users stick it between their upper lip and gums.
  • Dissolvable tobacco - These are pieces of compressed powdered tobacco, similar to small hard candies. They dissolve in your mouth, requiring no spitting of tobacco juices. They're sometimes called tobacco lozenges, but they are not the same as the nicotine lozenges used to help you quit smoking.

Health risks

  • Addiction - Because smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, the user can get addicted, just as they can with cigarettes and other tobacco products. The body may actually absorb more nicotine from chewing tobacco or snuff than it does from a cigarette.
  • Cancer - Chewing tobacco and snuff contain 28 cancer-causing agents. The user's risk of esophageal, mouth, throat, lips, tongue, gum, and chin cancer increases if they use smokeless tobacco products.
  • Cavities - Chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco cause tooth decay. Chewing tobacco contains high amounts of sugar and coarse particles that make the user's teeth more vulnerable to cavities.
    Gum Disease - The sugar and irritants in smokeless tobacco can cause the user's gums to pull away from their teeth in the area of their mouth where they place the chew.
  • Heart Disease - Smokeless tobacco use increases the user's heart rate and blood pressure. Repeated nicotine exposure through smokeless products contributes to accelerated coronary heart disease, hypertension and increases the risk of fatal heart attack and stroke.
  • Precancerous Mouth Lesions - Smokeless tobacco increases the user's risk of developing small white patches called leukoplakia, which are precancerous lesions, are inside their mouth where the chew is most often placed.

Does smokeless tobacco help you quit smoking?

Smokeless tobacco is NOT safe or an effective alternative for people who want to quit smoking. Nicotine gum or patch is a much safer treatment to quit smoking cigarettes. Learn more about Nicotine Replacement Therapy at the Resources Page of the ATOD website (scroll down to "Resources to Help You Quit Smoking/Tobacco/Vaping").