Health Risks Related to Smokeless Tobacco

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Topic Overview

Smokeless tobacco products include chewing tobacco and snuff. These products are less harmful than smoking cigarettes. But they are just as addictive as cigarettes and do have serious health risks.

Smokeless tobacco causes the following health risks:footnote 1

  • White, leathery patches (leukoplakia) that 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.
  • Dental problems, such as abrasion of teeth, gum recessions, and periodontal bone loss.
  • An increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Nicotine from smokeless tobacco can lead to nicotine dependence. This can make quitting smokeless tobacco just as hard as quitting cigarettes.

A type of smokeless tobacco called "snus" seems to have much less risk of harm. But it is not clear whether using snus causes no harm or risk.

Related Information



  1. Fiore MC, et al. (2000). Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also available online:


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine

Specialist Medical ReviewerJohn Hughes, MD - Psychiatry

Current as ofSeptember 9, 2014

Current as of: September 9, 2014