Smokeless Tobacco

Smokeless Tobacco: Health Effects

Smokeless tobacco is associated with many health problems.

Using smokeless tobacco:

  • Can lead to nicotine addiction
  • Causes cancer of the mouth, esophagus (the passage that connects the throat to the stomach), and pancreas (a gland that helps with digestion and maintaining proper blood sugar levels)
  • Is associated with diseases of the mouth
  • Can increase risks for early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy
  • Can cause nicotine poisoning in children
  • May increase the risk for death from heart disease and stroke

Using smokeless products can cause serious health problems.

Protect your health; don’t start. If you do use them, quit.

Addiction to Smokeless Tobacco

  • Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive.
  • Because young people who use smokeless tobacco can become addicted to nicotine, they may be more likely to also become cigarette smokers.

Smokeless Tobacco and Cancer

  • Many smokeless tobacco products contain cancer-causing chemicals.
  • The most harmful chemicals are tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which form during the growing, curing, fermenting, and aging of tobacco. The amount of these chemicals varies by product.
  • The higher the levels of these chemicals, the greater the risk for cancer.
  • Other chemicals found in tobacco can also cause cancer. These include:
  • A radioactive element (polonium-210) found in tobacco fertilizer
  • Chemicals formed when tobacco is cured with heat (polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons—also known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)
  • Harmful metals (arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, nickel, mercury)
  • Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas.

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Smokeless tobacco, like chew and dip, can cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas.

Smokeless Tobacco and Oral Disease

  • Smokeless tobacco can cause white or gray patches inside the mouth (leukoplakia) that can lead to cancer.
  • Smokeless tobacco can cause gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

Reproductive and Developmental Risks

  • Using smokeless tobacco during pregnancy can increase the risk for early delivery and stillbirth.
  • Nicotine in smokeless tobacco products that are used during pregnancy can affect how a baby’s brain develops before birth.

Other Risks

  • Using smokeless tobacco increases the risk for death from heart disease and stroke.
  • Smokeless tobacco can cause nicotine poisoning in children.
  • Additional research is needed to examine long-term effects of newer smokeless tobacco products, such as dissolvables and U.S. snus.


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