Why Quitting is so Difficult
Whether you call it spit tobacco, chew, snuff, dip, pinch or snus, all smokeless tobacco products have one thing in common: they are not a safe alternative to smoking. All smokeless tobacco products contain chemicals that are known to cause cancer. They pose a wide variety of health risks, from gum disease to mouth cancer. And like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco causes addiction to nicotine.
What is Smokeless Tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco comes in two main forms: snuff and chewing tobacco. Snuff is finely ground tobacco that can be either dry or moist. Moist snuff, often called dip, is used by placing a "pinch" or "dip" between the lower lip or cheek and gum. Dry snuff is sold in a powdered form and is used by sniffing or inhaling the dry snuff powder up the nose.
Chewing tobacco comes in the form of long strands of loose leaves, plugs or twists of tobacco. Parts of this, commonly called "plugs," "wads" or "chew" are chewed or placed between the cheek and gum or teeth.
But if you want to know what smokeless tobacco really is, you should know what’s in it. Processed tobacco contains at least 3,000 chemical compounds, including at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals such as the following:
- Nitrosamines — the most powerful cancer-causing agents in smokeless tobacco. Only five parts per billion of nitrosamines are allowed in consumer products. Smokeless tobacco, which isn’t regulated in this way, contains 20 to 43,000 times more nitrosamines.
- Polonium 210 — radioactive particles that turn into radon.
- Formaldehyde — an embalming fluid.
- Cadmium — a metallic element that has poisonous salts.
- Arsenic — a metallic element which forms poisonous compounds.
When you dip or chew tobacco, these chemicals in the tobacco juice are absorbed directly into the tissues of your mouth. Ask yourself: are these things you want to be putting into your body?
Quitting Smokeless Tobacco
Quitting smokeless tobacco is a lot like quitting smoking. Both are tobacco products that contain nicotine. And both involve physical and psychological addiction. But there are a couple of things that are unique to quitting smokeless tobacco:
- There is often a stronger need for oral substitutes to take the place of chew, dip or snuff. Read more about how to quit smokeless tobacco.
- Some of the benefits of quitting, like the disappearance of mouth sores, are visible and happen very quickly.
Not a Safe Way to Quit Smoking
Smokeless tobacco can be deadly. It is not a safe alternative to smoking. An American Cancer Society (ACS) study found men who switched from smoking to snuff or chew had higher death rates from heart disease, stroke, cancer of the mouth and lung and all causes of death combined than former smokers who stopped using all tobacco products. It’s also been found that smokers who delay quitting by using smokeless products to replace cigarettes greatly increase their risk of lung cancer and set themselves up for new health problems caused by smokeless tobacco.
Learn more about the health risks of smokeless tobacco.
Find out about the benefits of quitting smokeless tobacco.
When you quit smoking, your risk of stroke decreases steadily. Former smokers have the same stroke risk as nonsmokers after 5 to 15 years.