Smokeless tobacco is a range of tobacco products that are not smoked like cigarettes, instead they are used in different ways. Smokeless tobacco can include chewing tobacco and snuff as well as dissolvable and dipping tobacco.
While not smoked, these smokeless tobacco products still contain nicotine, making them just as addictive as cigarettes. Research suggests that smokeless tobacco is often an entry point into smoking with many users also going on to take up cigarettes.
Smokeless tobacco might lack some of the hazardous chemicals created when tobacco is combusted for smoking, but it still carries high health risks. Smokeless tobacco is linked to a variety of illnesses including cancer and dental disease as well as reproductive problems. Among the harmful chemicals found in smokeless tobacco there are approximately twenty-eight that are proven to cause cancer.
Types Of Smokeless Tobacco
Smokeless tobacco is the broad category of tobacco that includes snuff, chewing tobacco, dissolvable tobacco and other products not designed to be smoked. Some of the most common varieties include:
Chewing tobacco which is exactly what it sounds like, tobacco designed to be chewed.
Dipping tobacco which is placed between the upper or lower lip and gums.
Snuff, a tobacco product that is inhaled into the nasal cavity.
Tobacco gum, chewing gum that contains tobacco.
Dissolvable tobacco, a variation of chewing tobacco that is designed to dissolve in the mouth.
Tobacco paste, a skin cream containing tobacco that is applied to the skin and absorbed through the dermis.
Smokeless tobacco is associated with a wide range of health risks. Some of these dangers are similar to those of cigarettes but some are unique or especially common among users of smokeless tobacco.
As you can imagine, dipping and chewing tobacco are linked to many health problems in the mouth, including dental disease and tooth decay as well as various forms of mouth cancer. These smokeless tobaccos can also cause permanent gum recession and leukoplakia. Smokeless tobacco has also been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. This means that using smokeless tobacco products increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
The health risks associated with pregnancy are perhaps the most distressing. Smokeless tobacco can have serious negative effects on reproduction, including deformities in the female reproductive system. There is also increased risk of premature birth, stillbirth and low birth weight.
In addition to these health risks, smokeless tobacco is highly addictive and linked with cigarette initiation. So, many people who start using smokeless tobacco will go on to take up cigarettes and all their associated dangers.
One of the many health risks associated with smokeless tobacco, leukoplakia is particularly common in people who use chewing or dipping tobacco.
Leukoplakia takes the form of grey-white patches in the mouth that can develop into cancer over time. Usually painless, these patches are sometimes mistaken for sores.
The risk of developing leukoplakia raises the longer someone is using smokeless tobacco. Quitting tobacco can lead to these patches fading away but it is recommended that anyone with leukoplakia seek a doctor regardless of quitting as they are a possible indicator of cancer.
Smokeless Tobacco and Cancer
We already know that tobacco contains carcinogenic chemicals and smokeless tobacco is no different. Although the amount of these cancer causing chemicals varies, 28 carcinogens have been identified across a wide range of smokeless tobacco products.
Research has identified TSNAs, or tobacco-specific nitrosamines, as the most abundant and most carcinogenic chemical found in smokeless tobacco. TSNAs have been proven to cause cancer in humans and are associated with various forms of cancer, including lung cancer.
Smokeless tobacco has also been linked with cancer of the mouth, gums, tongue and cheek as well as the oesophagus and pancreatic cancer.
Nicotine And Smokeless Tobacco
Many varieties of smokeless tobacco, particularly chewing and dipping tobacco, contain more nicotine than cigarettes. The levels of nicotine can be up to twice as high and as the nicotine from chewing and dipping tobacco is absorbed through the lining of the mouth making it is just as addictive as cigarettes.
Smokeless tobacco could be thought of as a nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine patches or e-liquids. As a result, some people see smokeless tobacco as a way of fulfilling their nicotine craving without the same health risks as smoking.
Despite the misconceptions and what some manufacturers imply, smokeless tobacco has not been proven to help quit smoking.
There has not been the same level of research into quitting with smokeless tobacco as other nicotine replacement systems. But there is currently is no evidence to suggest that smokeless tobacco helps people quit at all. And as an alternative source of nicotine, smokeless tobacco is still linked to a wide range of health problems, including cancer. So, if quitting is your goal there are better and safer ways to do it.
Comparing Smokeless Tobacco to Smoking
Some of the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke are only created when tobacco is burned. This means that smokeless tobacco generally contains less carcinogenic and damaging chemicals than tobacco that is smoked. But, while smoking is the more harmful way to take tobacco, that doesn’t make smokeless tobacco a safe alternative.
There is a big difference between being less harmful and being safe. The health risks associated with smokeless tobacco are just as serious, including heart disease cancer, stroke and death. While the risks might not be as high as smoking cigarettes, smokeless tobacco still greatly increases the chance of disease and death for anyone using it.
Despite what some may think, smokeless tobacco is far from harmless. These products contain a high risk of gum and tooth decay as well as cancer, heart disease, reproductive problems, stroke and even death.
Smokeless tobacco is dangerous as an alternative source of nicotine to help quit smoking. The high levels of nicotine make it just as addictive as smoking and the health risks are still significant, especially compared to products like nicotine patches or e-liquids.