Young Men's Health

Smokeless Tobacco

 

Have you ever seen a professional baseball player, or even a teammate chewing and spitting in the dugout or on the field? Wonder what they were up to? Despite the lack of actual smoke, smokeless tobacco is just as bad for your health as cigarettes.

 

What is smokeless tobacco?

The most common types of smokeless tobacco in the US are chewing tobacco, "plug", "twist", "snuff", "snus", and dissolvable tobacco products. All of these products are made from tobacco leaves, but they can be used in different ways, have different packaging, and may have added flavoring.

How is smokeless tobacco used?

The various forms of smokeless tobacco are used in different ways.

 

Depending on the product, users may:

Who uses it?

Smokeless tobacco isn't only used by baseball players. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as many as 12% of high school age guys and 2.2% of high school age girls use smokeless tobacco (as of 2011). The American Cancer Society found that about 8.2 million people in the United States aged 12 and above use it, and about 44% started before age 18.

 

What can using smokeless tobacco do to me?

In the short term, you'll have:

Over a longer period of time:

Below are some additional reasons why using smokeless tobacco isn't a good habit:

What if I only chew once in a while? Can't I just stop whenever I want?

Many people donít realize theyíre addicted, and they think that they can quit using smokeless tobacco anytime they want. Unfortunately, nicotine (the drug in smokeless tobacco and cigarettes) is addictive. There is actually 3-4 times more nicotine absorbed in the body using smokeless tobacco versus cigarettes. So even if you only chew once in a while, youíre at risk of becoming addicted.

 

What can help me quit using smokeless tobacco?

What else should I know about quitting?

Using smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. It may be challenging to quit but YOU CAN DO IT! Expect to have cravings when you first quit. However, If you donít succeed on the first or second try, try again. Remember, withdrawal symptoms will get better every day you donít use tobacco, and the worst will be over after 2 weeks.

 

If you're concerned about smokeless tobacco, here's a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: Do you know a good way to stop dipping?

 

Written by the YMH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital

 

Updated: 8/22/2013

 

Related Guides:

Information About Smoking

You might know that people who have smoked for awhile can eventually get lung cancer, emphysema and other serious illnesses, but do you know about the bad things that smoking can do to you right now?...

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