Spit Tobacco

Spit Tobacco is an unsafe alternative to smoking which has been linked to multiple adverse health effects. Two main types of Spit Tobacco are:

  • Moist Snuff (examples: Snus, plug, loose, leaf, and twist): Moist snuff is finely cut and placed in the cheek and gum, and releases nicotine into the mouth's membranes going straight into the bloodstream - this process is 4 times faster than smoking.
  • Dry Snuff is packaged in a quarter-sized round tin and is usually inhaled or sniffed through nose.

Spit tobacco contains more than 4,000 chemicals with 28 of these being carcinogens or cancer causing chemicals. Some of these include:

  • Cadmium - Used in car batteries
  • Formaldehyde - Used for embalming biological specimens
  • Nicotine - Known to be an addictive drug
  • Polonium - Found in nuclear waste
  • Uranium 235 - Radioactive material used in nuclear fission

The use of spit tobacco can lead to health problems such as:

  • Bone loss
  • Halitosis
  • Nicotine addiction
  • Oral cancer
  • Receding gums
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: the most common, and fastest growing, oral cancer
  • Tooth loss

One can of spit tobacco is equal to 60 cigarettes in nicotine content. Nicotine is delivered into the blood which supplies not only the heart, lungs and brain, but also all areas of the body. The nicotine blocks the flow of information in the nerve cells of the user's brain, causing a pleasurable feeling which most tobacco users reach when they attain a tolerance level.

Who Uses Smokeless Tobacco

In Montana, 15% of high school aged boys, including an alarming 22% of senior boys use spit tobacco - this is almost twice the national average. 12% of Montana men use spit tobacco.

Montana has the third largest consumption rate of spit tobacco in the nation!

Smokeless tobacco has been an accepted tradition in many male oriented areas: baseball, the rodeo circuit, fishing, hunting, and other sports enthusiasts have all been introduced to spit tobacco. Young people may start because of a family member, friend, and others have offered them to take a dip.

The tobacco companies spend billions of dollars in advertising every year, with ads geared towards young replacement tobacco users. Some factors that may determine whether or not a youth may use tobacco are: 

  • Economic conditions
  • Examples set forth by adults
  • General attitudes toward authority
  • Peer pressure

It's Hard to Quit

Nicotine is a natural compound found in tobacco and is highly addictive. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nicotine is more addictive than heroin or cocaine. This addiction is enhanced by other chemicals that are found in commercial tobacco. Because of this, users are physically and psychologically dependent on nicotine - so in order to quit, they must overcome both dependencies. This is easier said than done!

How to Quit

Surveys show that most people who use spit tobacco would like to quit. Reasons for quitting vary from cost, to social acceptance, to setting a good example. One of the first steps in quitting is to contact your health provider and talk about your decision to quit. They are trained to provide you with answers to your questions on how to start your particular cessation program.

You may decide to seek help from a tobacco quit line such as the Montana Quit Line. This is a free service to all Montana adults at 800-Quit-Now (784-8669).

Your doctor may also advise that you use medication, hypnosis, or acupuncture along with counseling to treat both the physical and psychologically dependencies. If you know of someone else who is trying to quit you can partner with them, and compare and encourage one another's efforts. If you should slip, do not let this discourage you as it may take several tries to succeed.

Why You Should Quit

The benefits of quitting are numerous and may include having a healthier lifestyle, spending money on useful things, being a positive role model to others, and not having to be dependent upon tobacco.