Smokeless Tobacco: Get the Facts

The more you know about smokeless tobacco, the more you’ll understand the risks.

What Is Smokeless Tobacco?

Smokeless tobacco is tobacco that’s not burned. It’s also known as chewing tobacco, oral tobacco, spit or spitting tobacco, dip, chew, and snuff.

Most people chew or suck (dip) the tobacco in their mouth and spit out the tobacco juices that build up. There’s also “spitless” smokeless tobacco.

There are two main types:

  • Chewing tobacco. This is available as loose leaves, plugs (bricks), or twists of rope. A piece of tobacco is placed between the cheek and lower lip, typically near the back of the mouth. It’s either chewed or held in place. Saliva is spit out or swallowed.
  • Snuff. This can be finely cut or powdered tobacco. It may be sold in different scents and flavors. It’s packaged moist or dry—most American snuff is moist. It’s available loose or in small pouches similar to tea bags. People take a pinch or pouch of moist snuff and put it between the cheek and gums—or behind the lips. In the U.S., dip or dipping tobacco and snus are common forms of moist snuff.

Is It Addictive?

Yes. Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, which is addictive. People who use smokeless tobacco and people who smoke have similar levels of nicotine in their blood.

With smokeless tobacco, nicotine is absorbed through the mouth and gets into the blood. Then it goes to the brain.

Even after people take tobacco out of their mouths, nicotine is still being absorbed into their blood. Research shows that nicotine stays in the blood longer for people who use smokeless tobacco than for smokers.

Is It Harmful?

Yes. Smokeless tobacco has high levels of chemicals and other substances that can cause cancer. People who use smokeless tobacco have a high risk of mouth and throat cancer.

People who use smokeless tobacco have more dental problems than people who smoke or people who don’t use tobacco products. The sugar in smokeless tobacco can cause decay and painful mouth sores. Dip and chew can cause people’s gums to pull away from their teeth. This leads to loose teeth. Smokeless tobacco can also cause leathery white patches that can turn into cancer.

How Much Does It Cost?

Smokeless tobacco is expensive. The cost adds up. Each can of dip costs an average of $3. Someone who uses two cans a week could spend about $300 a year. Using a can per day could cost almost $1,100 a year.

Chewing tobacco costs about $2 a pouch. Someone who uses a pouch every day could spend over $700 a year. 

How to Quit

Quitting smokeless tobacco is a lot like quitting smoking, but it’s also a little different. Get tips to quit smokeless tobacco.