Is using smokeless tobacco less hazardous than smoking cigarettes?

Because all tobacco products are harmful and cause cancer, the use of all of these products should be strongly discouraged. There is no safe level of tobacco use. People who use any type of tobacco product should be urged to quit.

As long ago as 1986, the advisory committee to the Surgeon General concluded that the use of smokeless tobacco “is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. It can cause cancer and a number of noncancerous oral conditions and can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence.”5


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Furthermore, a panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2006 stated that the “range of risks, including nicotine addiction, from smokeless tobacco products may vary extensively because of differing levels of nicotine, carcinogens, and other toxins in different products.”6

Should smokeless tobacco be used to help a person quit smoking?

No. There is no scientific evidence that using smokeless tobacco can help a person quit smoking.7 Because all tobacco products are harmful and cause cancer, the use of all tobacco products is strongly discouraged. There is no safe level of tobacco use. People who use any type of tobacco product should be urged to quit. For help with quitting, ask your doctor about individual or group counseling, telephone quitlines, or other methods.

How can I get help quitting smokeless tobacco?

NCI offers free information about quitting smokeless tobacco:

  • Call NCI’s Smoking Quitline at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1–877–448–7848). Talk with a smoking cessation counselor about quitting smokeless tobacco. You can call the quitline, within the United States, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern time.
  • Use LiveHelp online chat. You can have a confidential online text chat with an NCI smoking cessation counselor Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Eastern time.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the NIH agency that supports dental, oral, and craniofacial research, offers a guide for quitting called Smokeless Tobacco: A Guide for Quitting and other information about smokeless tobacco.

Selected References

  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Smokeless Tobacco and Some Tobacco-Specific N-Nitrosamines. Lyon, France: World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2007. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 89.
  2. National Cancer Institute. Smokeless Tobacco or Health: An International Perspective. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 1992. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 2.
  3. Richter P, Hodge K, Stanfill S, Zhang L, Watson C. Surveillance of moist snuff: total nicotine, moisture, pH, un-ionized nicotine, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines. Nicotine and Tobacco Research 2008; 10(11):1645–1652. [PubMed Abstract]
  4. Djordjevic MV, Doran KA. Nicotine content and delivery across tobacco products. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology 2009; 192:61–82. [PubMed Abstract]
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Using Smokeless Tobacco: A Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1986.
  6. NIH State-of-the-Science Panel. National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science conference statement: tobacco use: prevention, cessation, and control. Annals of Internal Medicine 2006; 145(11):839–844. [PubMed Abstract]
  7. The Clinical Practice Guideline Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence 2008 Update Panel, Liaisons, and Staff. A clinical practice guideline for treating tobacco use and dependence: 2008 update. A U.S. Public Health Service report. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2008; 35(2):158–176. [PubMed Abstract]

Source: National Cancer Institute