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Just like electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is one of the most popular-yet-controversial smoking alternatives on the market today, so we though a comparison between the two, to see which is safer, would be very interesting.
As most of you probably already know, the most dangerous things about cigarette smoking are carbon dioxide and tar, both of which are residue of burnt tobacco. Carbon dioxide affects the heart, while cigarette tar contains a high number of carcinogenic toxins, accumulating in the lungs and slowly damaging them through various biochemical and mechanical processes. It’s also linked to mouth and throat cancer and is responsible for rotting and blackening teeth and damaging the gums and tongue. All this would have us believe that tobacco is only dangerous when ignited, so why all this controversy around smokeless tobacco?
Scientific research shows that, like e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is considerably less dangerous than smoking cigarettes, but also that in the long run it can cause serious health problems. Smokeless tobacco has been around way longer than electronic cigarettes and can be found in various forms:
- Snuff: finely ground or shredded tobacco, available in dry or moist form. A pinch of snuff can either be placed between the lower gum and the cheek, or sniffed through the nose;
- Snus (pronounced snoos): this newer form of smokeless tobacco originated in Sweden, where it’s also most popular. Snus is usually placed between the upper lip and gum, where it’s left for a half an hour, and then removed. It’s worth noting that spitting isn’t necessary when using snus;
- Dissolvable Tobacco: similar to candy, dissolvable tobacco is compressed powdered tobacco that comes in the form of lozenges. It simply dissolves in your mouth, requiring no spitting. It’s important to know dissolvable tobacco lozenges are not the same as nicotine lozenges;
- Chewable Tobbaco: sweetened tobacco leaves that are packaged in small pouches. Also known as chew and chaw, this variety of smokeless tobacco is placed between the cheek and gum, where it can remain for hours at a time. Most chewing tobacco users tend to spit the juices periodically, but those more addicted to it swallow some of that tobacco juice.
Like analog cigs and some e-cigarette liquid, smokeless tobacco contains nicotine and is aimed at people who can’t beat nicotine addiction but are looking for a less dangerous alternative to smoking. Still, according to some studies, there are certain risks that come with using the stuff listed above. You may not be exposing yourself to hundreds or thousands of carcinogenic substances, like with smoking, but smokeless tobacco is known to contain about 30 toxins associated with cancer.
Among the most frequent types of cancer associated with the use of smokeless tobacco are esophageal cancer and various types of cancer of the mouth, including throat, cheek, gums, lips and tongue. Chewing tobacco in particular causes tooth decay, because of the high amounts of sugar it contains. The coarse particles in chewing tobacco can also irritate the gums and damage the enamel on the teeth, making them more vulnerable. In severe cases, the sugar and irritants in smokeless tobacco can cause the gum to pull away from the teeth in the area where the piece of smokeless tobacco was placed, causing gum diseases like periodontitis, which leads to tooth loss.
Precancerous mouth lesions, described as small white patches called leukoplakia, are also associated with using
smokeless tobacco. These lesions may one day become cancer. Because of the nicotine in smokeless tobacco, it has also been known to cause heart conditions, but there is little evidence to back this up, considering there are many other cardiac stimulants that are free to use in our daily lives.
Despite all the potential risks linked to smokeless tobacco, it remains a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, and Sweden is the best example of that. The northern country where snus is considerably more popular than tobacco cigarettes has the lowest rate of lung cancer in all of Europe. Still, considering the problems you’re exposing yourself to every time you choose to use this stuff, wouldn’t you rather use something less dangerous, like electronic cigarettes?
Despite pressures from the FDA and other health organizations to have e-cigarettes banned, there is no real proof regarding any risks of using these innovative devices. There have been studies, some conducted by reputable sources, like the Harvard School of Public Health that tried to make e-cigarettes appear even more dangerous than analogs, but they’ve been described as amateur propaganda, by professional doctors who actually have the people’s interest in mind, and not some other agenda. In truth, most tests have shown the benefits of using electronic cigarettes, like the fact that they improve work efficiency and boost our memory.
It’s true that e-cigarettes have been around for too short a time to asses their long-term effects on the human body, but initial data shows they are the least harmful and most effective way to quit smoking, and that’s saying a lot.