Primer: Smokeless Tobacco
Many people think using smokeless tobacco is safer than smoking. Just because there's
no smoke, doesn't mean it's safe.
A person who uses 8 to 10 dips or chews a day receives the same amount of nicotine
as a heavy smoker who smokes 30 to 40 cigarettes a day.
Spit tobacco is placed inside the mouth, which gives the user a constant high from
the nicotine. It's made with a mixture of tobacco, nicotine, sweeteners, abrasives,
salts and chemicals. It contains more than 3,000 chemicals, including 28 known carcinogens.
The most harmful carcinogens in smokeless tobacco are substances called tobacco-specific
nitrosamines (TSNAs), the National Cancer Institute says. TSNAs are formed during
the growing, curing, fermenting, and aging of tobacco. The amount of these substances
in smokeless tobacco can be very high.
These are some of the other harmful chemicals in smokeless tobacco:
Polonium 210 (a rare, naturally occurring element; some polonium 210 comes from
Lead 210 (a radioactive isotope of lead)
Cadmium (used in rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries)
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Spit tobacco is sold in 2 forms:
Chew. Chew comes in 2 main types. The first is the most popular and usually is simply
called "chew." This is a leafy form of tobacco usually sweetened with molasses or
similar substances and is sold in pouches. Users keep the chew between the cheek and
gums for several hours at a time. The second type is called a plug. A plug is chew
tobacco that has been pressed into a brick. Users usually bite off or cut a piece
of the plug off and place it between the gum and cheek.
Snuff. Snuff comes in 2 main types, moist and nasal (powdered). Moist snuff is usually
called dip. It's sold in a circular can called a "tin" and users place the tobacco
between their lip and gum. The tobacco is typically flavored. This process is known
as "dipping." Dry snuff is meant to be inhaled. A user typically places the powder
on the back of their hand in a natural space that is referred to as "the snuff box."
The user then snorts the powder up their nose. People also sniff it. Using snuff also
is called "dipping."
Smokeless tobacco, like cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, is addictive. The nicotine
in tobacco is mostly responsible for the addiction. A person using smokeless tobacco
gets 3 to 4 times the amount of nicotine as that in a cigarette. The nicotine in smokeless
tobacco is absorbed by the body more slowly than in smoking, but it remains in the
Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco affects the cardiovascular system and can cause
heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer of the lip, tongue, cheek, throat,
stomach, and esophagus.
Other results from using smokeless tobacco include cracking and bleeding lips and
gums, precancerous mouth sores called oral leukoplakia, tooth abrasion, gum recession,
gum and tooth disease, loss of teeth and bone in the jaw, and chronic bad breath.
How to quit
Quitting smokeless tobacco is hard, but it can be done. To break the habit:
Ask your health care provider where you can get support in your effort to
Think about nicotine replacement products like nicotine gum or a patch.
Try using substitutes like tobacco-free mint-leaf snuff, sugarless gum, hard
candy, beef jerky, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, raisins, or dried fruit.
Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit. Keep it with you and look at
Get involved in healthier activities like lifting weights, shooting baskets,