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Chewing Tobacco
(Smokeless Tobacco)

Chewing Tobacco (Smokeless Tobacco) Quick Overview

  • Chewing tobacco is sometimes known as smokeless tobacco or spitting tobacco. It is held in the mouth between the cheeks and gums instead of being smoked.
  • Snuff and chewing tobacco are the main forms of chewing tobacco. Snuff is a form of finely ground snuff that originated in Norway and Sweden.
  • Snuff and chewing tobacco are commonly sold in tins or pouches under brand names like Copenhagen or Skoal.
  • Snuff and chewing tobacco contain at least at least 28 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens).
  • The main carcinogens in chewing tobacco are called tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs).
  • Chewing tobacco and snuff contain nicotine, which causes addiction.
  • Although nicotine is absorbed more slowly from chewing tobacco than from cigarettes, 3 to 4 times more nicotine is absorbed from chewing tobacco than from a cigarette.
  • The nicotine from chewing tobacco stays longer in the bloodstream than nicotine from a cigarette.
  • Chewing tobacco is used worldwide in a number of different cultures.
  • Chewing tobacco is not the same thing as e-cigarettes, which are designed to provide nicotine in vapor form without burning tobacco.

Chewing Tobacco Health Risks

Studies have shown that the use of chewing tobacco increases the risk of developing a number of health problems and even potentially fatal conditions; including:

  • cancers of the oral cavity (including cancers of the cheek, gums, lips, tongue, and floor and roof of the mouth);
  • gingivitis and gum disease;
  • tooth decay and loss; and
  • leukoplakia (whitish patches inside the mouth that have the potential to become cancerous)

Some reports show an increased risk for cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, and stomach.

Some research studies have shown an association between chewing tobacco use and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (such as heart attacks and stroke). These risks do not seem to be as great as those of cigarette smokers. Further research is underway to determine whether or not chewing tobacco use presents a significant risk of heart disease and stroke.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/22/2015

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Chewing Tobacco (Smokeless Tobacco):

Smokeless Tobacco - Reducing Tobacco Use

What steps have you taken to reduce your use of smokeless tobacco?





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