Chewing tobacco, "dip", smokeless tobacco, spit tobacco, snuff, snus, and tobacco lozenges, are all names for tobacco that is used in the mouth. As people become more aware of the dangers from cigarette smoke and laws are put in place to protect non-smokers from secondhand and tertiary smoking, Big Tobacco is aggressively marketing oral tobacco products as a substitute for smoking.
One reason "Big Tobacco" is promoting smokeless tobacco is to keep smokers addicted to tobacco despite not being able to smoke in many places. Ad campaigns that state "Anytime Anywhere" or "No Smoking, No Problem" let the smoker know that they can switch back and forth to keep their tobacco dependence satisfied. Smokeless tobacco is also being marketed as a way to stop smoking and as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco Has Not been shown to help smokers stop smoking cigarettes. A search of the internet for "quit smoking" will produce many advertisements for smokeless tobacco. According to a recent large study by Dr. Shu-Hong Zhu, switching to smokeless did not help current smokers in the United States to stop smoking. Smokeless tobacco advertisements also put children at risk by "normalizing" tobacco use and encouraging young people to start using this form of tobacco.
While it causes less harm than cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is not safe. Smokeless tobacco is unregulated, addictive and contains a number of cancer causing compounds. Smokeless tobacco use is associated with oral (mouth) cancer, kidney cancer, and pancreatic cancer. It causes dental and periodontal disease, bad breath, and has variety of reproductive health effects such as decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, and preterm delivery. Stopping all tobacco products, not just cigarettes, is the healthy thing to do.
People who use smokeless tobacco can use the same methods for stopping as people who successfully stop smoking cigarettes. The seven medications used in helping smokers can help in treating dependence upon smokeless tobacco. Develop a plan to manage cravings and urges to use tobacco. Tell your friends and loved ones that you are planning to stop and recruit their help in your efforts. Get help from your health care provider, your local tobacco quitline, or a local Tobacco Treatment Specialist. Keep at it until you succeed in being tobacco free.
Dr. Richard D. Hurt is an internationally recognized expert on tobacco dependence. A native of Murray, Kentucky, he joined Mayo Clinic in 1976 and is now a Professor of Medicine at its College of Medicine. In 1988, he founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and since then its staff has treated over 33,000 patients for tobacco dependence. Send your questions directly to Dr. Hurt at AskTheExpert@becomeanex.org