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Quitting Smokeless Tobacco

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Topic Overview

What is smokeless tobacco?

Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms, such as snuff, chewing tobacco, and snus .

  • Snuff is finely ground tobacco sold in cans or pouches. Most of the time, snuff is used by putting a "pinch" or "dip" between the lower lip or cheek and the gum.
  • Chewing tobacco is sold as loose leaves, plugs, or twists. It is chewed or placed between the cheek and the gum or teeth.
  • Snus is tobacco in a small pouch that you put between your upper or lower gums and teeth. It appears to be safer than other forms of smokeless tobacco, but more study is needed to see if it is risk-free.

The nicotine in smokeless tobacco is absorbed through tissues in the mouth.

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Why should you quit?

There are plenty of reasons to quit. Smokeless tobacco products are harmful. They are not risk-free alternatives to smoking. They're addictive. Although they are safer than cigarettes, they can cause serious health problems.

Using smokeless tobacco can lead to:

  • White patches or red sores in your mouth, called leukoplakia. These can turn into mouth cancer (oral cancer) involving the lip, tongue, or cheek. In fact, you have a 50% greater risk of getting mouth cancer if you use smokeless tobacco, compared to people who don't use it.
  • An increased risk for pancreatic cancer.
  • Tooth loss and other dental problems.
  • Gum disease. Your gums may pull away from your teeth and not grow back.

Quitting smokeless tobacco has benefits you can see. Your mouth sores will slowly start to go away. Your gums will begin to look healthier. Seeing these changes may motivate you to stay tobacco-free.

You probably have your own reasons to quit. Maybe you want to set a good example for your family. Or maybe you want to avoid other health problems. You might want to quit because you feel ashamed of your habit. Whatever the reason, make sure it is meaningful to you.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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