Does Tobacco Increase Stomach Acid?

Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2022

6 effects of cigarette smoking or chewing tobacco on stomach acid

tobacco increase stomach acid
Tobacco use, whether smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco, causes the stomach to make more acid, which increases the risk of acid reflux.

Tobacco seems to increase stomach acid secretion in the following ways:

  1. Relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter
    • Nicotine relaxes smooth muscles inside the body. The lower esophageal sphincter is one of the body's primary defenses against gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). As nicotine relaxes the sphincter, there is a higher chance for the acid to trickle back into the esophagus and damage it.
  2. Increases acid secretion in the stomach
    • Smoking triggers more acid production inside the stomach, increasing the risk of acid reflux into the esophagus. Smoking promotes the transfer of bile salts from the intestines into the stomach, thereby concentrating the stomach acids.
  3. Reduces salivation
    • The bicarbonate in the saliva is responsible for neutralizing acid reflux, preventing GERD. Swallowing the saliva helps alleviate the acid damage caused by reflux. Smokers produce less saliva, hence, have less ability to neutralize refluxed acid.
  4. Damages the esophageal lining
    • Smoking can damage the mucus membrane located inside the esophagus. These mucus membranes help protect the esophagus from acid damage.
  5. Worsens heartburns
    • Chewing tobacco can further worsen heartburn because it constantly releases nicotine. Chewing tobacco for 30 minutes may deliver as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes.
  6. Interferes with the esophageal muscles
    • Nicotine relaxes the muscle that propels the food down the esophagus. These muscles are essential for numbing the damaging effects of acid reflux. As nicotine relaxes these esophageal muscles, they fail to exert their function efficiently, thereby preventing the damage caused by acid reflux.

5 effects of tobacco on the digestive system

Tobacco can affect the digestive system in the following ways:

  1. Tobacco and peptic ulcers
    • Consuming or smoking tobacco can increase the risk of peptic ulcer formation. Ulcers are painful sores that originate in the stomach lining or at the beginning of the small intestine. It is essential to quit smoking or chewing tobacco to alleviate ulcers. Tobacco increases the risk for Helicobacter pylori infection, commonly found in ulcers.
  2. Tobacco and Crohn’s disease
    • Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the digestive tract. It is still unclear how tobacco causes Crohn’s disease. However, smoking can make it difficult to control the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease. However, there are many ways to manage the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
  3. Tobacco and diseases of the colon
    • Smoking tobacco is the major risk factor for developing colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second largest cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Nicotine is the major carcinogen known to develop different types of cancers. Routine screening, such as colonoscopy, is the foolproof way to identify small precancerous tumors in the colon lining.
  4. Tobacco and gallstones
    • Gall stones occur when the liquid in the gall bladder turns into a hard substance that resembles stones. Some studies have concluded that smoking tobacco can increase the chances of developing gall stones that can range from a size of a sand grain to a pebble.
  5. Tobacco and cancer of the digestive system

How can you combat the effects of tobacco on the digestive system?

Quitting tobacco use is the only solution to prevent these adverse effects. Systematic planning is essential to quit tobacco use before it causes significant health problems.

Here are some tips to gradually reduce and eventually quit tobacco:

  • Try using nicotine patches or gums because they help prevent tobacco use
  • Seek support from friends and families
  • Engage yourself in different activities to avoid the temptation
  • Do not put yourself in a situation that would prompt you to use tobacco


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Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Wait M. Why Tobacco Use May Make Heartburn Worse. WebMD.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Smoking and the Digestive System.