Chewing Tobacco (Smokeless Tobacco, Snuff)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What are the health risks of chewing tobacco?

A number of significant health risks are associated with the use of chewing tobacco.

Cancer risk and chewing tobacco

Users of snuff and chewing tobacco are at an increased risk for certain types of cancer, most notably cancer of the oral cavity including cancers of the:

  • cheek,
  • gums,
  • lips,
  • tongue, and
  • floor and roof of the mouth.

Some studies have suggested a link between the use of chewing tobacco and the development of:

Other health risks of chewing tobacco

Those who use chewing tobacco have an increased risk of:

  • developing gum diseases and gum recession (pulling away of the gum tissue from the teeth);
  • leukoplakia (whitish patches inside the mouth that can become cancerous);
  • abrasion (wearing down) of teeth;
  • staining of teeth;
  • tooth decay; and
  • tooth loss.

All of the above have been linked to chewing tobacco use.

Some studies have shown a link between an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and stroke) in users of snuff and chewing tobacco, although these risks are not as great as those observed in smokers. Further research is needed to determine whether or not chewing tobacco use presents a significant risk of heart disease and stroke.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2015
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