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.

Is chewing tobacco safer than cigarette smoking?

Chewing tobacco has been widely marketed as a way for cigarette smokers to use tobacco in smoke-free areas, so it is safer for other people because they are not exposed to secondhand smoke. However, in 1986, a statement from the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that users of chewing tobacco should know that chewing tobacco "is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes." Chewing tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive, as well as a number of known cancer-causing chemicals. Any form of tobacco use poses an increased risk of developing cancer, and no level is considered safe.

While the risks of getting cancer from chewing tobacco are lower than those associated with smoking cigarettes, the health risks of chewing tobacco are very real and potentially fatal. Chewing tobacco use also has not been shown to be helpful for smokers who want to quit smoking.

What is being done to reduce the use of chewing tobacco?

Parents are encouraged by health care givers, school authorities, and public health officials to include the topic of chewing tobacco use when they discuss the hazards of any tobacco use with their children, especially teen aged children. It is better never to start than try to stop the addictive tobacco (nicotine) habit in any form.

Legislation has been enacted to help reduce the number of people who use tobacco products and reduce adverse health risks associated with tobacco use. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate tobacco products in the U.S., which will allow for increased regulation of marketing and advertising of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco.

In 2015, San Francisco became the first US city to ban the use of smokeless tobacco at sporting events, including AT&T Park, home of the city's Major League Baseball team, the Giants.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/22/2016

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