Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Quitting Smokeless Tobacco

Font Size

Topic Overview

What is smokeless tobacco?

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

  • 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.

The nicotine in snuff and chew is absorbed through tissues in the mouth.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you. Learn more.

Health Insurance Center

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.

Why is it so hard to quit?

It's just as hard to quit smokeless tobacco as it is to quit smoking. Quitting tobacco is hard because your body craves the nicotine. Giving it up is more than just kicking a bad habit. Your body has to stop the cravings. That's why you may feel grouchy, restless, or sad for the first 2 to 3 weeks after you quit. For some people, these feelings can last several weeks. Nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, and other medicines can help reduce the cravings.

But it's not just the nicotine that makes it hard to quit. It's the habit of chewing and dipping. It's part of your daily routine. You enjoy it. You may use it to deal with stress. And when you quit, you have to give all that up (or at least find something to replace it).

Quitting chew or snuff isn't easy, but you can do it. Just thinking about quitting is the first step.

How can you quit smokeless tobacco?

Quitting smokeless tobacco is a lot like quitting smoking. Both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products have nicotine and are addictive. And they are all tough to quit. The good news is that you don't have to do it alone.

Whether you're ready to quit today or just thinking about quitting, take a look at the topic Quitting Smoking. You can read stories from people who have quit smoking and identify your triggers and line up the support you need to quit for good.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 15, 2012
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.
Next Article:

Quitting Smokeless Tobacco Topics

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.