Smokeless tobacco exists in two main forms: chewing tobacco or snuff/snus.
Chewing tobacco is shredded, twisted, or bricked loose leaf tobacco which is sold as-is or in little bags. Chewing tobacco is placed in the mouth, between the cheek and the lower-lip, and chewed occasionally. The resulting tobacco juice and saliva can be spit out or swallowed.2,3
Snuff/snus is fine-grain tobacco that comes in tins or tea-bag like pouches. Like chewing tobacco, snuff can be placed between the gum and cheek or lower-lip, while snus is often placed between the gum and the upper-lip. Unlike chewing tobacco, snuff/snus does not need to be spit out.2,3
Smokeless tobacco does not need burned. Instead of inhalation, tobacco and nicotine enter the body and into the bloodstreams through the tissues and linings in the mouth.2,3
Smokeless tobacco is harmful, but less harmful than smoking cigarettes Consider the pros and cons below and YOU be the judge.
- Because there is no smoke, there are no chemicals and tar from lighting up.
- There may be lower risk of cardiovascular and lung cancer and diseases associated with smokeless tobacco use than regular cigarette use.4
- It comes in smaller tins with attractive packaging and fun, fruity flavours, which can make smokeless tobacco more appealing.
NOTE: If you currently smoke cigarettes, using smokeless tobacco may be considered a less harmful choice (but using both at the same time will not do you any good).
- Even without lighting it, smokeless tobacco still contains harsh chemicals and can cause cancer.5
- Smokeless tobacco has been linked with various forms of cancer and diseases including mouth cancer, throat cancer, pancreatic cancer and heart diseases.5 The risk of developing these cancers and diseases is even higher if you use smokeless tobacco and smoke cigarettes.
- Smokeless tobacco still contains nicotine and it can be just as addictive as smoking cigarettes.2
- Smokeless tobacco is not a proven, effective strategy for smoking cessation. On the contrary, its use may lead to cigarette smoking.2
The verdict? Don’t be misled by its name. Smokeless tobacco still contains nicotine and harmful ingredients and should be avoided, especially among non-smokers and individuals trying to quit.
- Canadian Cancer Society. (2014). Canadian Tobacco Statistics. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/what-is-a-risk-factor/tobacco/canadian-tobacco-statistics/?region=on.
- Mayo Clinic. (2011). Chewing tobacco: Not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/quit-smoking/in-depth/chewing-tobacco/art-20047428.
- National Cancer Institute. (2010). Smokeless Tobacco and Cancer. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/smokeless.
- Benowitz, N.L. (2011). Smokeless Tobacco as a Nicotine Delivery Device: Harm or Harm Reduction. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 90, 491-493.
- Mejia, A.B., Ling, P.M., & Glantz, S.A. (2010). Quantifying the effects of promotion smokeless tobacco as a harm reduction strategy in the USA. Tobacco Control, 19 (4), 297-305.