It is true and supported by research that smokeless tobacco may be less dangerous than cigarettes, but long-term use can cause serious health problems:
- Cancer. because these products can contain about 30 cancer-causing substances the risk of certain types of cancer increases. This includes esophageal cancer and various types of oral cancer, including the throat, cheek, gums, lips and tongue. You also face an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Cavities. Chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco cause tooth decay because chewing tobacco contains high amounts of sugar, which contributes to cavities.
- Tooth wear. Chewing tobacco contains coarse particles that can scratch away at the enamel on your teeth, wearing your teeth down and making them more vulnerable to cavities.
- Gum disease. The sugar, the abrasive particles and irritants cause your gums to pull away from your teeth in the area of your mouth where you place the chew. Over time it can be severe enough to destroy the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth (periodontitis) and lead to tooth loss.
- Precancerous mouth lesions. Smokeless tobacco increases your risk of developing small white patches called leukoplakia inside your mouth. These mouth lesions could one day become cancer.
Because smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, you can get addicted, just as you can with cigarettes and other tobacco products. Your body may actually absorb as much nicotine from chewing tobacco or snuff as it does from cigarettes. When you want to stop using it, withdrawal from smokeless tobacco causes symptoms such as intense cravings, increased appetite, irritability and depressed mood. This is why smokeless tobacco may not be the right way quit smoking since you may substitute one addiction for another.