Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

Last Modified: March 22, 2012

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Question

My son uses "chew" (smokeless tobacco), is this harmful even though there is no smoking involved?

Answer

Gloria DiLullo, MSN, CRNP, OncoLink Content Specialist, responds:

Chew as well as dip, spit, oral/spitless tobacco and dry/moist snuff (snus) are all still tobacco products. Many people mistakenly think smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to cigarettes and may not realize that it is just as addictive as cigarette smoking. One can of snuff contains the same amount of nicotine as 4 packs of cigarettes and dipping 8 to 10 times, a day introduces as much nicotine into the body as smoking 30-40 cigarettes. The amount of nicotine in the bloodstream after using smokeless tobacco may be higher than that of a cigarette smoker because nicotine is easily and quickly absorbed through the lining of the mouth. In addition, nicotine stays in the bloodstream longer with smokeless tobacco than with cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco also contains many of the carcinogens found in cigarettes.

People who use smokeless tobacco have a higher risk of cancers of the lung, mouth, throat (pharynx), esophagus (swallowing tube from the throat to the stomach), stomach, and pancreas. Other effects of using spit tobacco include chronic bad breath, stained teeth and fillings, gum disease, tooth decay and loss, and break-down of bone in the jaw. Studies show that users of smokeless tobacco also have an increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Cancer Risk & Prevention Webchat transcript.