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Smokeless Tobacco

There are two main types of smokeless tobacco: chewing and snuff.

Chewing Tobacco

Chewing tobacco comes in leaf tobacco (packaged in a pouch) or plug tobacco (in brick form) and both are put between the cheek and gum. Users keep smokeless tobacco in their mouths for several hours to get continuous nicotine in the tobacco.



Snuff is a powdered or finely ground tobacco (usually sold in cans) that is put between the lower lip and the gum. Just a pinch is all that's needed to release the nicotine, which is then swiftly absorbed in the bloodstream, resulting in a quick high.


Smokeless Tobacco and Health Risks

  • The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that the use of spit tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking.
  • Smokel ess tobacco causes cancers, oral conditions and nicotine addition. Some are listed below.
    • Cancer of the mouth and pharynx
    • Cancer of tongue –removal of the tongue if cancerous
    • Cancer of jaw or bone loss
    • Leukoplakia (white sores in the mouth that can lead to cancer)
    • Gum recession, or peeling back of gums
    • Bone loss around the teeth
    • Abrasion of teeth
    • Bad breath


Smokeless Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction

Smokeless tobacco delivers a high dose of nicotine – an average does for snuff is 3.6 mg and 4,5 mg for chewing tobacco, compared with 1-2 mg for cigarettes.


Quitting Smokeless Tobacco

Quitting smokeless tobacco is a lot like quitting smoking.Both contain nicotine and both involve the physical and psychological components of addiction.

Two elements are unique for smokeless users, however:

  • There is often a stronger need for oral substitutes to take the place of the chew or snuff.
  • Because spit tobacco often causes sores in the mouth and gum problems, the disappearance of these after quitting provides a readily visible benefit.

Quitting smoking medicines have not been approved for smokeless tobacco, however, clinical evidence shows that there are quit medications that can help with quitting.



U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, Smoking and Tobacco Use: Data and Statistics: Fact Sheets.

Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008.


This information has been approved by Amy Lukowski, PsyD (August 2015).