Learn something new every day More Info... by email
In the world of smokeless tobacco products, there are several different forms available for consumption. Snuff is cured tobacco that has been chopped into loose leaf form, while plug tobacco has been combined with sweeteners such as molasses and pressed into blocks. Both forms end up between the user's lower cheek and bottom gum, but snuff is packed or "dipped" by hand while plug tobacco is cut or bitten off a larger square or "plug" first.
The sweetness of this form of tobacco can make it more appealing to first-time users than the harsher flavors of snuff or tobacco bits. Once a suitable piece of tobacco has been cut or bitten off the plug, the user allows the cured tobacco to dissolve slowly in his or her mouth, periodically expectorating to remove any build-up of saliva. The point of using this form of tobacco is to receive the stimulating effects of nicotine without inhaling the smoke of a traditional cigarette.
Plug tobacco is typically sold in pouches in order to preserve its natural moisture and flavor. Some manufacturers dry their tobacco in the sun before packaging it for retail sale. A pouch of high quality plug tobacco can be much higher in price than a comparable carton of traditional cigarettes, similar to the higher costs of premium pipe tobacco or handmade cigars.
Perhaps because of a misconception about the relatively safety of "smokeless tobacco," many younger people use snuff or plug tobacco as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. In reality, products such as snuff, tobacco bits, plug, and twist tobacco deliver even more nicotine, a highly addictive stimulant, into the user's bloodstream than most traditional cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco users are also more prone to develop cancers of the jaw, tongue, and esophagus after years of habitual use.
Smokeless tobacco products are regulated in the same manner as traditional cigarettes and cigars, with strict age limits and restrictions on public use. Plug tobacco users cannot swallow the juice generated during chewing, so they must spit into a container periodically. This practice is often viewed as disturbing to others, which is one reason why some users feel compelled to break the habit over time. Ending an addiction to smokeless tobacco products, however, can be just as difficult as quitting traditional cigarettes, so there may be a difficult period of nicotine withdrawal soon after the decision to quit has been made.
You have to admit though, that smokeless tobacco is far less popular than cigarette smoking.
There is more data about the effects of cigarette smoking than there is about smokeless tobacco. So the cigarette data will be more accurate because of a better sample size.
Therefore, you can't say that (1) it is much safer than smoking, (2) that smoking causes more mouth cancer than smokeless, nor can you say (3) that it's healthier. You just don't have the same margin of error with the smokeless set of data that you do with cigarettes.
I thought this would be obvious. Guess not.
Couple of errors here.
1. It is not a misconception that smokeless tobacco is relatively safer. The evidence is that it has about 1 percent of the harm of smoking (maybe it is not entirely safe but it is much safer than smoking).
2. Switching from smoking to smokeless tobacco will reduce your likelihood of all cancers. The main cause of oral cancer remains smoking.
3. You don't want to start using smokeless if you are not a tobacco user but if you smoke, it's a much healthier way of getting your nicotine.