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Smokeless tobacco, which is also referred to as spitting tobacco is available in two forms, namely, tobacco that is chewed and snuff. These types of tobacco are either held in the mouth inside the cheek or between the cheek and gum.

Chewing tobacco is known to contain around 28 cancer-causing chemicals that are known as carcinogens with the main ones being the tobacco-specific nitrosamines. Other carcinogens in chewing tobacco include acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, nickel, arsenic, cadmium, and benzopyrene.   

There are numerous health risks associated with the use of chewing tobacco and these will be discussed further.

Various Types of Cancers

The use of chewing tobacco increases the risk of cancers involving the lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, and roof and floor of the mouth.

There are some studies that have linked the use of chewing tobacco with cancers involving the esophagus, pancreas, and stomach.

Conditions Affecting the Oral Cavity

Chewing tobacco can lead to issues such as gum disease and recession, wearing down of the enamel of the teeth, staining of the teeth, tooth decay which can lead to tooth loss, and leukoplakia which is the development of white patches inside the mouth and these may become cancerous.

Cardiovascular Disease 

Some studies have demonstrated that the use of chewing tobacco and snuff can lead to cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks and strokes. Although the risk of such problems is not as high as in individuals who smoke tobacco, the risk is still elevated.

Chewing Tobacco Versus Smoking

Chewing tobacco has been marketed as a product to help smokers use tobacco in areas where smoking is prohibited. The idea of stopping people from smoking is to prevent second-hand smoke inhalation by individuals who are not smokers but in the vicinity of someone using such a product.

However, the U.S. Surgeon General came to the conclusion that chewing tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking tobacco products.

Using any form of tobacco poses a health risk to the user due to the presence of cancer-causing substances and no level is considered a safe one to use at all.

Helping Tobacco Users Quit

The point of preventing young teenagers from using tobacco products rather than trying to stop them from performing an addictive behaviour is emphasized to parents by healthcare professionals.

Legislation on tobacco use has become very strict lately and stadiums such as AT&T Park in San Francisco in the United States has banned the use of chewing tobacco and snuff at their sports ground.

One can try going "cold turkey" where the use of the tobacco product is ceased immediately. The individual may experience mild withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of nicotine in the body from the tobacco product but this is a short-lived situation.

Individuals who would like to quit using tobacco products should discuss doing so with their primary care doctor if they find it difficult to do so themselves.

Regarding medications that can help one quit using tobacco products, there are some that have been noted to be effective in those who want to stop smoking or using chewing tobacco. These include medicines such as bupropion and varenicline. 


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