Reviewed by Dr. Rajy Abulhosn MD, MRO
Just because you do not inhale or swallow anything doesn't mean there are no dangers associated with smokeless tobacco.
Smokeless tobacco, also called "chewing tobacco", "chew" or "snuff", comes as loose leaves or fine grains in pouches which users put inside the mouth and let it sit there for a while before they suck the tobacco juices and spit whenever saliva builds up. You do not have to swallow the leaves or the grains for tobacco to be inside your system; the chewing and sucking of juices would be enough.
There are two common types of smokeless tobacco:
Nicotine content varies from brand to brand, but it is safe to say that all varieties of chewing tobacco contain high amounts of nicotine. Nicotine content in smokeless tobacco products ranges anywhere from 4 - 24 mg/g of tobacco. These concentrations mirror the nicotine content found in the nation's top cigarette brands.
Studies show that users of smokeless tobacco products actually ingest 2-4x more nicotine than cigarette smokers. Nicotine is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucosal membranes of the mouth, which is the reason chewing tobacco products can be just as, if not more addictive than cigarettes.
Not only does smokeless tobacco contain nicotine concentrations on par with cigarettes; chew also contains 30-50 carcinogens not found in traditional smoking products.
The effects of chewing tobacco range from the immediate, less scary ones to the long-term, more frightening conditions. Someone who has been chewing tobacco may soon enough develop discoloration of the teeth and persistent bad breath. Also, about 70% of those who chew tobacco suffer from mouth sores.
Immediate effects of using chewing tobacco include:
It's safe to say the harm caused by prolonged smokeless tobacco use outweighs any positive side effects.
Chewing tobacco really is that bad for you. The serious effects of smokeless use are not limited to:
To quit this harmful habit, one must see a doctor to ask for the options available. It is important to be surrounded by family and close friends as one takes this challenging process. Possible strategies to break the practice are using nicotine patches or nicotine gums; chewing healthier substitutes like dried fruits, beef jerky, raisins, shredded coconut or sugarless gums; and getting busy with other activities like playing sports or involving in group exercises or group studies.