Snuff, a form of smokeless tobacco, has been around for centuries. Despite being less popular than smoking, it still has a significant number of users in the United States. Recently, the FDA authorized a brand of moist snuff to market its products as a safer alternative to smoking when it comes to the risk of lung cancer. But does this mean that snuff is a safe product?
While snuff may be a slightly safer alternative to smoking in terms of the risk of lung cancer, it is still a dangerous form of tobacco that can cause a range of health problems. The best way to protect yourself from the harmful effects of tobacco is to quit using it altogether.
What is Snuff?
Snuff is a finely ground tobacco that comes in two types: moist and dry snuff. Moist snuff is placed behind the upper or lower lips or between the cheek and gum, and users must repeatedly spit out or swallow the tobacco juice that accumulates.
After a few minutes, they remove or spit out the tobacco as well. Dry snuff is snorted (inhaled through the nose) and is less common in the US. Both types are available in an array of scents and flavors. Users absorb nicotine and other chemicals into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth. Blood levels of nicotine are similar between smokers and snuff users, but nicotine stays in the blood for a longer time with snuff users.
The FDA Authorization
The FDA recently authorized a brand of moist snuff, Copenhagen Classic Snuff, to market its products as a safer alternative to smoking when it comes to the risk of lung cancer. Here's the approved language:
"If you smoke, consider this: switching completely to this product from cigarettes reduces risk of lung cancer."
While this statement is true, it does not necessarily mean that snuff is a safe product. It is still harmful and has several health risks associated with it.
Snuff is not a safe product, and there are several health risks associated with its use. While it may be less harmful than smoking in terms of the risk of lung cancer, it still poses a range of health risks, including higher risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas, higher risk of heart disease and stroke, harm to the developing teenage brain, dental problems, higher risk of premature birth and stillbirth among pregnant users, addiction, and bad breath. The best way to protect yourself from the harmful effects of tobacco is to quit using it altogether.Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Harvard
Health Risks of Snuff
While the risk of lung cancer is lower compared with cigarettes, snuff has plenty of other health risks, including:
Higher Risk of Cancers of the Mouth, Esophagus, and Pancreas
Using snuff increases the risk of cancers of the mouth (such as the tongue, gums, and cheek), esophagus, and pancreas. According to the American Cancer Society, users of smokeless tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users.
Higher Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
Snuff use is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that smokeless tobacco use was associated with a 40% increased risk of fatal heart attacks and a 60% increased risk of fatal strokes.
Harm to the Developing Teenage Brain
Nicotine in snuff can harm the developing teenage brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nicotine use during adolescence can interfere with brain development and increase the risk of mood disorders and addiction.
Snuff use can cause dental problems, such as discoloration of teeth, gum disease, tooth damage, bone loss around the teeth, tooth loosening or loss.
Higher Risk of Premature Birth and Stillbirth among Pregnant Users
Using snuff during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth and stillbirth.
Nicotine in snuff is highly addictive, and using any tobacco product can quickly become a habit that's hard to break.
Other Health Risks
In addition to the above health risks, using snuff can also cause bad breath and the need to repeatedly spit out tobacco juice.
Popularity of Snuff
Despite the health risks associated with snuff, it is still popular among some people. According to CDC statistics, 5.7 million adults in the US regularly use smokeless tobacco products — that's about 2% of the adult population. A similar percentage (1.6%) of high school students use it as well. That's despite restrictions on youth marketing and sales. So, what accounts for the popularity of snuff?
One reason is that snuff may be allowed in places that prohibit smoking. Additionally, snuff tends to cost less than cigarettes, making it an appealing option for those looking to save money. Furthermore, snuff does not require inhaling smoke into the lungs or exposing others to secondhand smoke. Finally, snuff is safer than cigarettes in at least one way — it is less likely to cause lung cancer.
Could Snuff Help Smokers Quit?
The FDA's recent authorization of snuff as a safer alternative to smoking may lead some smokers to consider switching to snuff. However, while snuff may be less harmful in terms of the risk of lung cancer, it is still a dangerous product that can cause a range of health problems.
Moreover, it is not clear whether snuff is an effective way to help smokers quit. While some smokers may find that switching to snuff helps them quit smoking, others may become addicted to snuff and find it even harder to quit using tobacco altogether. Additionally, the health risks associated with snuff use may offset any benefits gained by quitting smoking.
While the FDA has authorized a brand of moist snuff to market its products as a safer alternative to smoking when it comes to the risk of lung cancer, it is important to remember that snuff is not a safe product. It is still harmful and has several health risks associated with it. The best way to reduce your risk of tobacco-related health problems is to quit using tobacco altogether.
If you are a smoker, there are many safe and effective ways to quit, including nicotine gum or patches, counseling, and medications. Committing to quit using these safer options can help you break the smoking habit and improve your health.
In conclusion, while the FDA's authorization of snuff may seem like a step in the right direction, it is important to remember that snuff is not a safe product. It is still a dangerous form of tobacco that can cause a range of health problems. The best way to protect yourself from the harmful effects of tobacco is to quit using it altogether.