Smokeless Tobacco

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Smokeless tobacco facts

  • Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine as well as many known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
  • More nicotine is absorbed by smokeless tobacco use that by smoking a cigarette.
  • Smokeless tobacco use is a risk factor for the development of oral cancers and precancers.
  • Other health risks of smokeless tobacco include gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss, and possible links to other cancers and cardiovascular disease.
  • Products that are designed to help smokers quit can also be used to help quit smokeless tobacco use.

What is smokeless tobacco?

Smokeless tobacco is sometimes known as chewing tobacco or spitting tobacco. It is available in two forms, snuff and chewing tobacco. Both types of smokeless tobacco are held in the mouth inside the cheek or between the cheek and gum.

Smokeless tobacco is known to contain at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals, medically known as carcinogens. The main carcinogens in smokeless tobacco are the tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). Some of the other cancer-causing agents found in smokeless tobacco are formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, arsenic, benzopyrene, nickel, and cadmium.

Nicotine is also found in smokeless tobacco, like all tobacco products. Although nicotine is absorbed more slowly from smokeless tobacco than from cigarettes, 3 to 4 times more nicotine is absorbed from smokeless tobacco than from a cigarette, and the nicotine from smokeless tobacco remains longer in the bloodstream. Nicotine is the substance responsible for tobacco addiction.

Smokeless tobacco is not the same thing as smokeless cigarettes. Smokeless cigarettes (also termed e-cigarettes) are designed to provide nicotine in vapor to the user without burning tobacco. However, the smokeless cigarettes still provide addictive nicotine to the user and secondhand nicotine to others.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2014

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