Smokeless tobacco; understanding the risk and benefit.

Smokeless tobacco; understanding the risk and benefit.

The advanced and modern ways of tobacco consumption do not involve smoking and burning. Instead, individuals chew it under their cheeks or lower lip, sniff it, or inhale it through the nose. This new form of tobacco was introduced in 2002, and since then, a significant number of people have become addicted to it. According to the report, 6 percent of the young generation was involved in smokeless tobacco use in 2015.

However, the absence of smoke does not imply that smokeless tobacco is healthier and safer for you. On the contrary, it is filled with carcinogens and can cause various diseases in the mouth and body, including cardiovascular diseases. Given its influence on the youth, we have decided to provide you with a brief overview of smokeless tobacco. By the end of this article, you will be acquainted with the positive and negative aspects of using smokeless tobacco, its various types, and its associated regulatory factors. Additionally, we aim to provide precautionary measures and harm-reduction strategies for smokeless tobacco.

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Types of smokeless tobacco products:

There are four main types of smokeless tobacco that are well-known in the US:

  • Snuff tobacco
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Snus tobacco
  • Dip Tobacco

Now, let’s delve into each category and explore the consumption methods.

Snuff tobacco:

Snuff tobacco, also known as sniff tobacco, is available in powder form, which individuals inhale through the nasal cavity. Snuff tobacco comes in two forms:

  • Dry snuff tobacco is a finely ground powder made from tobacco leaves that individuals inhale through the nasal cavity.
  • Moist snuff tobacco is directly placed in the nostril by hand. Both types are highly addictive, and once a person becomes accustomed to using them, it becomes challenging to overcome the addiction.
Chewing tobacco:

Chewing tobacco also called spit tobacco, is used as an alternative to cigarette smoking. Users place a wad of tobacco inside the gum or cheek and then suck and ingest the chemical ingredients in it. These ingredients primarily include nicotine, flavors such as mint, wintergreen, fruit, and other chemical additives. Depending on individual preferences, chewing tobacco is available in various forms, including twist, leaf, prepackaged, or plugged. However, it is important to note that chewing tobacco can lead to multiple health issues.

Snus tobacco:

Snus tobacco originated in Sweden. Unlike sniffing and chewing tobacco, it is placed inside the upper lip and gum. The ingredients, including a high amount of nicotine and flavors, slowly dissolve with saliva. Experts consider it less harmful than cigarette smoking and a good alternative for quitting tobacco cigarettes. The available flavors include mint, tobacco, and fruit.

Notably, the sale and purchase of snus tobacco are restricted in the European Union, except in Sweden, where it is manufactured.

Dip tobacco:

Dip tobacco comes from finely crushed and chopped tobacco leaves with added flavors. Dip tobacco holds a prominent position in the tobacco world. The user places it inside the gum to use it, and the ingredients begin to dissolve with saliva automatically.

Addiction to dip tobacco is hazardous, and once a person becomes addicted, it is difficult to quit. The use of dip tobacco leads to frequent saliva generation in the mouth, requiring spitting. That’s why it is also referred to as spit tobacco.

Prevalence of Smokeless Tobacco Use

The prevalence of smokeless tobacco use varies from area to area and country to country. However, in countries with high cigarette smoking rates, smokeless tobacco use is also high. These countries are primarily located in the southern and western regions, where cigarette smoking is at its peak.

  • Global Trends:

Smokeless tobacco consumption is a significant cause of mouth cancer in Southeast Asia. Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have a notable number of individuals indulging in the use of this harmful substance. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, approximately 365 million people use smokeless tobacco, with 221 million users from India alone. Sweden and Scandinavia also have a substantial number of people involved in smokeless tobacco use.

Although the United States has a smaller population of smokeless tobacco users, it still presents significant statistics.

  • Demographic Factors:

Smokeless tobacco use is more prevalent among men compared to women in every region and state. Additionally, uneducated, low-income individuals are more curious about consuming this harmful substance.

Furthermore, the younger generation is more inclined to consume smokeless tobacco than the older generation.

Despite strict government actions against the use and supply of smokeless tobacco, many people still acquire it illegally, particularly within ethnic groups in Alaska, India, and the United States.

Health risks associated with smokeless tobacco:

Once a person becomes addicted to smokeless tobacco use, they develop multiple ailments that can lead them to their deathbed. Smokeless tobacco, with its numerous toxic chemicals, can transform a once healthy individual into a dizzy, fatigued patient with unstable physical and mental health. Here are the significant health risks associated with smokeless tobacco.

1.   Cancer risk:

The mouth absorbs the chemicals present in smokeless tobacco and causes cell mutations when they dissolve in the body. These chemicals are implicated in the development of esophageal cancer, pharyngeal cancer, kidney cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, these carcinogenic agents can potentially mutate brain cells, potentially leading to brain tumors.

2.  Cardiovascular risk:

The chemicals, along with the high levels of nicotine found in smokeless tobacco, pose certain risks to the heart. The high nicotine concentration raises blood pressure, placing additional stress on the heart and ultimately increasing the likelihood of a heart attack. Additionally, blood vessels may experience blockages, disrupting blood flow to the heart.

3.   Reproductive risks:

The harmful effects of smokeless tobacco are not limited to the user’s body; they also endanger the developing fetus if the individual continues using it. The chemicals present in smokeless tobacco can severely impact sperm quality in males and hormone levels in females. Excessive use may lead to infertility in both males and females. Furthermore, it is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.

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4.   Oral health risks:

Excessive use of smokeless tobacco can lead to various oral diseases. Users may experience gum diseases, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Oral soreness and gum acne can also occur, worsening and potentially developing into oral cancer if left untreated.

5.   Addiction and dependency risks:

The primary psychoactive compound in smokeless tobacco is nicotine, which, upon entering the brain, triggers the release of dopamine, resulting in feelings of pleasure and joy. Over time, the craving for dopamine intensifies, leading to physical and mental instability during withdrawal. In addition to nicotine dependency, individuals can become addicted to the physical act of using smokeless tobacco, such as placing it in the nasal cavity or chewing it inside the gums. Both behavioral and nicotine dependencies present significant barriers for individuals attempting to quit. Withdrawal smokeless tobacco symptoms include craving more tobacco, increased appetite, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and insomnia.

Considering the detrimental consequences mentioned above, we strongly encourage individuals to overcome their addiction to smokeless tobacco. Raising awareness about the severe impacts of smokeless tobacco is crucial. Furthermore, the government should play a vital role in addressing this issue.

Health Benefits of Smokeless Tobacco Use

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While we are well aware of the hazardous impacts of smokeless tobacco, many people still utilize it as a tool for cigarette cessation. Different opinions exist regarding its appropriateness, as some researchers do not consider it an appropriate method but rather a switch from one form of nicotine consumption to another.

However, one thing is clear: smokeless tobacco does not pose a risk of passive smoking, as individuals near smokeless tobacco users are safe from smoke inhalation. This makes it environmentally friendly as well. Nevertheless, we do not recommend choosing this alternative method, as multiple therapies and digital devices like nicotine-free vapes are available in the market to help avoid nicotine dependency.

Factors Affecting Smokeless Tobacco Use:

“There is always a reason behind every occurrence.” Individuals who consume smokeless tobacco are often influenced by trauma, problems, or issues they face. In this regard, we will highlight some of the significant factors.

  • Social and cultural factors: Smokeless tobacco is considered a notorious and dangerous act by society, so such groups automatically influence its consumption, leading to regular dependency.
  • Availability and access: If a substance is easily purchasable, there is a 90 percent chance that many people will try it at least once. This is also the case with smokeless tobacco. Due to its easy availability, people can access it without any barriers and fall prey to addiction.
  • Social company: The company you keep matters a lot. If your friends use smokeless tobacco, there is a higher chance that you will try it as well, and once you start, you may become addicted to its use and strength.
  • Marketing and sponsorship: When various marketing platforms promote smokeless tobacco as a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, it is more likely that people will indulge in it and start using it. Even those not addicted to cigarette smoking may try it, considering it a safe addiction.
  • Stress and abuse: Lastly, physically and emotionally stressed individuals are likelier to engage in smokeless tobacco addiction. This mainly occurs during adolescence when someone faces mental trauma and tries to alleviate the resulting mental stress through smokeless tobacco consumption.

Harm Reduction Strategies for Smokeless Tobacco:

Quitting tobacco consumption altogether is an excellent option, but many people find it challenging due to high dependency and lack of willpower. Therefore, we propose a better alternative: utilizing harm reduction strategies to minimize health risks. Here are the following measures that a smokeless tobacco addict should consider:

  • Less harmful smokeless tobacco: If you cannot quit entirely, opt for a less hazardous form of smokeless tobacco to minimize the damage to your body. One such option is snus tobacco, which is comparatively less injurious. However, it is crucial to note that all smokeless tobacco products harm your health.
  • Reduce the frequency: The second strategy is to gradually decrease the smokeless tobacco you consume daily. This approach will help minimize the harm and facilitate quitting altogether.
  • Avoid other tobacco products: If you already use smokeless tobacco, refrain from using other tobacco products such as hookah, cigars, and cigarettes. Doing so will reduce the dopamine demand in your brain.
  • Counseling and support: Seeking counseling and support is a highly effective strategy for addressing smokeless tobacco addiction. Even if you consume a negligible amount of smokeless tobacco, staying in touch with your counselor is essential. Regular therapy and consulting a psychiatrist are also excellent approaches for achieving irreversible positive change.
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Frequently asked questions:

Is smokeless tobacco safer than traditional tobacco products?

Although chewing and snus smokeless tobacco are advertised as safer options than cigarette smoking due to their prevention of lung cancer, they still share 90 percent of the same health concerns as cigarette smoking.

Can smokeless tobacco products help with smoking cessation?

While manufacturing companies claim that smokeless tobacco aids in smoking cessation, there is no definitive evidence to support this claim since both smokeless tobacco and cigarettes contain nicotine. Switching from one nicotine consumption method to another means replacing inhalation with a different form of nicotine consumption.

What are the health risks of smokeless tobacco use?

Regular use of smokeless tobacco can lead to tooth decay, gum diseases, and tooth loss. In severe cases, individuals may develop leukoplakia, which refers to the formation of white and grey patches inside the mouth that can ultimately progress to oral cancer.


The popularity of smokeless tobacco among the younger generation is increasing due to its ease of access and the absence of passive smoking. To protect our youth, we must raise awareness about the drastic impacts of smokeless tobacco. This article provides the ultimate guide, including the pros and cons of smokeless tobacco, its types, and methods to overcome addiction. It is a valuable resource for those deeply involved with this addiction. Therefore, please share it with individuals in your society who are affected. We also encourage you to share your experiences and ideas in the comment section.

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