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Home > Tobacco Use Cessation Program > Didactic Components > Smokeless Tobacco Facts

Smokeless Tobacco Facts

Types of Smokeless (Spit) Tobacco
The two types of smokeless tobacco (ST) are chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco is sold in loose leaf, twist and plug forms. Snuff comes in moist, dry and sachet forms. The most popular form of ST today is moist snuff.

Of the estimated 10 million users of ST, 3 million are under the age of 21.
Almost 25% of young users start by the 6th grade, and almost 75% start by the 9th grade. In 1970, young males ages 17-19 used ST the least of any age group. Today, usage by males of these ages is the highest of any age group.
More than 3% of adult American males, and less than 1% of females, use ST.
Among US youth in grades 9-12, 8% use ST at least once a month and 2-3% use daily.

Tobacco Industry Advertising and Promotion
The tobacco industry has targeted male adolescents with its aggressive advertising. Ads associate ST with rodeos, rock stars, and sports heroes. ST companies sponsor rock concerts, rodeos, auto racing and tractor pulls.

Risks of Smokeless Tobacco Use
Spit tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking. It can cause oral cancers and lead to addiction.
The major carcinogens in ST are nitrosamines, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and radioactive and metallic compounds. The nitrosamine content of ST exceeds beyond 1000X the nitrosamine content allowed by the FDA in products like beer and bacon.
ST is also associated with cancers of the esophagus, larynx, and stomach, and an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.
40-60% of ST users exhibit leukoplakia in the area where the quid is held, usually within a few months of beginning regular use.
Leukoplakia is regarded as precancerous with a malignant transformation rate of 2-6%.
Other oral side effects of ST include gingival recession, staining of teeth, loss of taste, and bad breath.
Chewing tobacco users have an increase in dental caries due to the higher sugar content in this ST product.
ST is dangerous...but Smoking is 2x more likely to cause oral cancer than smokeless tobacco.

The nicotine in ST is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and is addicting.
Spit tobacco users have similar, or even higher, levels of nicotine than smoker who use a pack or more a day.
Withdrawal from regular ST use results in the same withdrawal symptoms and discomfort seen in heavy smokers attempting to quit.
Manufacturers of ST products have altered the nicotine content and pH, added flavors, and packaged moist snuff in sachets as starter products. These products gradually move novice users on to higher levels of nicotine addiction as their tolerance increases.

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