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Quitting Smokeless Tobacco
Tobacco products that you don't inhale are called smokeless tobacco. These products come in many forms, such as snuff and chewing tobacco.
- Snuff is finely cut or ground tobacco. It may be moist or dry. Moist snuff and snus may be sold loose in cans or portioned in packets that look like small tea bags. It's placed between the lip or cheek and the gum. Dry snuff may be sniffed or put in the mouth.
- Chewing tobacco is sold as loose leaves, plugs, or twists. It is chewed or placed between the cheek and the gum or teeth.
These products contain nicotine, which is addictive. The nicotine is absorbed through tissues in the mouth.
Why should you quit?
Smokeless tobacco products are addictive. They are not risk-free alternatives to smoking. And they are harmful to your body. They can lead to:
- White patches or red sores in your mouth, called leukoplakia. They 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 with 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.
Why is it so hard to quit?
Nicotine is addictive. Quitting is hard because your body depends on the nicotine in tobacco. It's also hard to quit because many things can trigger your desire to use tobacco, such as having a cup of coffee or finishing a meal. These routines can be very hard to give up.
How can you quit?
Having a plan and using medicines can help you quit. A quit plan helps you plan ahead. Before you quit, you identify the things that are likely to trigger tobacco use and how you'll manage them. You also think about what you need for support. Your doctor can suggest medicines to try.
One important part of quitting tobacco is getting help from people around you. Your doctor, family, friends, and community groups all can help you. Support comes in many forms. It can include positive words and actions, helpful tips, and gentle reminders to stay on track.
Current as of: November 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine
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