Smokeless Tobacco

What are the forms of smokeless tobacco?

The two main types of smokeless tobacco in the United States are chewing tobacco and snuff.1,2

Chewing tobacco comes in the form of loose leaf, plug, or twist.2,3,4

Form Description Use Market Share*
Loose leaf Cured tobacco strips typically sweetened and packaged in foil pouches Piece taken from pouch and placed between cheek and gums 24.1%
Plug Cured tobacco leaves pressed together into a cake or "plug" form and wrapped in a tobacco leaf Piece taken from pouch and placed between cheek and gums 0.7%
Twist (or roll) Cured tobacco leaves (often flavored) twisted together to resemble rope Piece cut off from twist and placed between cheek and gums 0.4%
*Percentage of U.S. market for smokeless tobacco products5

Snuff is finely ground tobacco that can be dry, moist, or packaged in sachets.2,3,4

Form Description Use Market Share*
Moist Cured and fermented tobacco processed into fine particles and often packaged in round cans Pinch or "dip" is placed between cheek or lip and gums 73.2%
Dry Fire-cured tobacco processed into a powder Pinch of powder is taken orally or inhaled through the nostrils 1.5%
Sachets Moist snuff packaged in ready-to-use pouches that resemble small tea bags Sachet is placed between cheek or teeth and gums Data unavailable
*Percentage of U.S. market for smokeless tobacco products5

Although some forms of snuff can be used by sniffing or inhaling into the nose,2 most smokeless tobacco users place the product between their gum and cheek.3 Users suck or chew on the tobacco, and saliva can be spat out or swallowed.3,4 The tobacco industry has also developed newer smokeless tobacco products such as lozenges, tablets, tabs, strips, and sticks.4,6

What are the health effects of smokeless tobacco?

Smokeless Tobacco and Cancer

Smokeless Tobacco and Oral Health

  • Smokeless tobacco is also strongly associated with leukoplakia—a precancerous lesion of the soft tissue in the mouth that consists of a white patch or plaque that cannot be scraped off.3

  • Smokeless tobacco is associated with recession of the gums, gum disease, and tooth decay.3,6

Smokeless Tobacco and Reproductive Health

  • Smokeless tobacco use during pregnancy increases the risks for preeclampsia (i.e., a condition that may include high blood pressure, fluid retention, and swelling), premature birth, and low birth weight.4

  • Smokeless tobacco use by men causes reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm cells.4

Smokeless Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction

  • Smokeless tobacco use can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence.2,4

  • Adolescents who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers.

Smokeless tobacco is a significant health risk and is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes.2

Medical Dictionary