The dangers of cigarette smoking are well-known in both public and professional circles. People frequently express that they want to stop smoking to take better care of their lungs or to avoid getting cancer. In their attempt to stop smoking some people choose to begin using smokeless tobacco. This decision is sometimes driven by the idea that using a different form of tobacco will be safer or healthier for them than smoking, and that replacing cigarettes with chew will help them to feel more comfortable as they quit smoking.
First, let’s talk about feeling comfortable. Using an alternate form of tobacco may indeed help smokers feel more comfortable as they attempt to stop smoking. The nicotine delivered from the chew may reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings to smoke. This is why some smokers use chew on long plane rides or at other times that they can’t smoke. However, the second point is critical! Using chewing tobacco or snuff to try to stop smoking has not been shown to be effective or safe. Risks from using chewing tobacco include developing cavities, gum recession, and oral cancer. In addition, chewers are at higher risk than non-chewers for kidney and pancreatic cancer and other serious health issues. Many smokers who start using chew end up continuing to smoke and chew.
The good news is that there are five nicotine medications and two non-nicotine medications that are approved by the FDA as safe and effective ways to stop smoking.
As always, check with your doctor or health care provider when quitting tobacco use or considering using any medications. Click here to learn more about the different NRT's.
You can do it!
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 more than 50,000 patients for tobacco dependence. Send your questions directly to Dr. Hurt at AskTheExpert@becomeanex.org