What Is The Difference Between Chewing Tobacco and Smoking?

September 17, 2021 | Written By: Nurul Afiqah

What Is The Difference Between Chewing Tobacco and Smoking?

The tobacco plant, also known as Nicotiana, is believed to have caused more deaths than any other herb plant. Although tobacco is a legal substance permitted by the law, it is addictive and can cause death.  Cigarettes have caused more than 3 million deaths per year worldwide, and if this trend continues, annual deaths will exceed 10 million by 2030. Dried tobacco leaves that are mainly used for smoking in cigarettes and cigars contain more than 4,000 chemical substances, most notably is nicotine.

Never assume that tobacco is only contained in cigarettes. Have you ever heard about chewing tobacco? In fact, there are many tobacco products other than cigarettes that are also widely used in society, just not as popular as cigarettes.

What Is Chewing Tobacco?

What chewing tobacco actually is? Chewing tobacco is a type of smokeless tobacco product that is typically added with certain flavours such as mint. The way to use chewing tobacco is by sticking it between the cheeks and gums before chewing. Other than chewing tobacco, there are many types of smokeless tobacco products such as snuff, snus and dissolvable tobacco. In general, the form or availability of each of these products varies.

  • Loose-leaf: Cured (aged) and loose tobacco leaves, typically sweetened and packaged in foil pouches.

  • Twist: Cured tobacco leaves that are compressed and available in a rope-like shape

  • Plug: Cured tobacco leaves that are pressed together into “plug” forms and wrapped in tobacco leaf. 

For snuff and snus, both are available in dry, moist or packaged form.  Besides, dissolvable tobacco products are pieces of compressed powdered tobacco, sold as a lozenge (not the same as the nicotine lozenge used to help people quit smoking). For dry snuff, this type of smokeless tobacco can also be sniffed into the nose.

Is Chewing Tobacco Safe?

Chewing tobacco actually carries the same risk as smoking. In fact, there are additional risks associated with this habit. In other words, chewing tobacco does not save you from the adverse effects of smoking because no tobacco product is harmless. Chewing tobacco is one of the forms of tobacco that does not produce smoke. Whether you inhale or chew the tobacco, they still can be addictive and may lead to serious health problems. According to the American Cancer Society, another common misconception is when smokeless tobacco is said to be an alternative and can help you quit smoking. However, there is no evidence to suggest the truth of this statement.  

  • Chewing Tobacco Addiction

You can become addicted once you try to chew tobacco. Believe it or not? This is due to the nicotine content in chewing tobacco in it. Once you are addicted to nicotine, you also tend to start smoking. Find out if you're dependent on nicotine with this quiz! The assumption that chewing tobacco is an alternative way to replace cigarettes is wrong. Furthermore, chewing tobacco contains many chemicals that are known to cause cancer and can affect your health in other aspects. There are various types of harmful chemicals in chewing tobacco, including:

  • Harmful metals, including arsenic, mercury, lead, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, mercury and nickel.

  • Nitrosamine, which is produced when tobacco is grown and processed.

  • Polonium-210 is a radioactive element in tobacco fertilizer.

  • Hydrocarbons, which are produced when tobacco is heated during processing. 

The Health Effect of Chewing Tobacco 

Chewing tobacco can be harmful to the health of your body. There are more than 30 types of chemicals and harmful substances contained in chewing tobacco. Health problems related to chewing tobacco include the following.

  • Cancer

Most smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, snuff, snus and dissolvable tobacco contain carcinogens. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of oral cancer, as well as oesophagus and pancreas. 

  • Precancerous Mouth Lesions

The habit of chewing tobacco will cause its users to be prone to leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is a type of turbid white plaque in the mouth, they are not painful but can not be washed off. This plaque will appear if you chew tobacco every day and it can happen as early as 6 months if you regularly do the habit. The bad news is, leukoplakia can develop into mouth cancer.

  • Effects to Teeth and Gums

Chewing tobacco also causes damage to teeth and gums. Sugar and chemicals found in smokeless tobacco products can cause cavities, tooth decay, yellowing of the teeth, bad breath, gum disease, and you could even lose your tooth! The bad appearance of teeth and gums would affect a person's image and confidence. No more beautiful smiles!

  • Heart Disease

Chewing tobacco can increase the risk of death from heart problems. This may include the risk of getting high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. 

  • Premature Birth

Chewing tobacco is very dangerous for pregnant women. This is because chewing tobacco increases the risk of premature birth. In fact, this habit can also lead to the death of the unborn baby. 

  • Poison Risk for Children

Chewing tobacco is also dangerous for children. It is something that is very worrying because the packaging of this product resembles sweets and the taste of smokeless tobacco products makes it attractive for children. If children try this product, it can cause nicotine poisoning. Nicotine poisoning on children will cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, seizures, respiratory problems and even death! 

How To Stop Chewing Tobacco? 

There are several ways to stop chewing tobacco. Just like smoking, various support systems, programs, and even medications are available to help a person stop using chewing tobacco. Nicotine Replacement Therapy products can be used to treat nicotine addiction from chewing tobacco. It is available in the form of:

  • Nicotine chewing gum (Nicorette),

  • Nicotine patch (Habitrol, Nicoderm CQ, Nicotrol)

  • Nicotine Lozenges

  • Medications such as varenicline tartrate are effective in some people who are trying to stop nicotine addiction.

If you want to quit smoking, you are advised to quit completely without taking alternatives to other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco. Tobacco can adversely affect your health whether in the short-term or long term. Ideally, if you have trouble quitting smoking, consult a doctor or specialist. Therapeutic treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural therapy are available with a doctor's advice if necessary. Practice a healthy lifestyle for your own wellbeing.  

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