Health Risks Related to Spit Tobacco (Chewing Tobacco or Snuff)

Topic Overview

Spit, or smokeless, tobacco products include chewing tobacco and snuff. Some people use spit tobacco because they believe it is less harmful than smoking. Although spit tobacco is less harmful, these products are just as addictive as cigarettes and do have severe health risks.

  • Spit tobacco causes white, leathery patches (leukoplakia) to form on the inside of the cheek or on the gum. These patches can turn into cancer of the mouth (oral cancer), involving the lip, tongue, or cheek.
  • People who use spit tobacco have 2 to 3 times more cases of gum disease than people who do not smoke. This can cause tooth loss. Other severe dental problems can also develop.

Nicotine levels from smokeless tobacco are just as high as in cigarettes. This can lead to addiction to the nicotine in smokeless tobacco, making it just as hard to quit as if you were smoking cigarettes.

Related Information


Author Bets Davis, MFA
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry
Last Updated July 22, 2009

Last Updated: July 22, 2009

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