Snuff is a tobacco product that people put into their noses or mouths. Even though it is smokeless, snuff and snus carry the same adverse health risks as smoking cigarettes.

Some people believe the health risks of snuff and snus are less than regular cigarettes and may help them quit smoking. However, leading experts advise otherwise.

Read on to learn more about snuff, including its health effects, how to quit, and the benefits this may have.

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About 5.2 million adults in the United States used smokeless tobacco products in 2021. As well as e-cigarettes, smokeless products, such as snus, have become more prevalent in the country.

Snuff is a type of smokeless tobacco. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that manufacturers have traditionally marketed two types of smokeless tobacco in the United States: chewing tobacco and snuff, including snus.

People can buy snuff in a dry or moist form. Dry snuff is available as either finely cut tobacco or a powder form of loose tobacco that a person sniffs or inhales through the nostrils. Moist snuff and snus are tobacco products that people put in their mouths.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) explains that moist snuff is available in small teabag-like pouches that a person places in between the lower lip or cheek and gum. The body absorbs nicotine in the bags through the tissues of the mouth, and people swallow the juices the snuff creates. Manufacturers may add flavorings to dry and moist snuff.

People first used snus in Sweden and Norway, but it is now available in the United States. A loose form of snus is also available.

Much of the available research for snuff and snus is on Swedish populations because the product was initially more available in Sweden. Evidence suggests there are several health risks.

Cancer and other serious health risks

The ACS advises that smokeless tobacco causes cancer. The organization notes that people who dip or chew tobacco get roughly the same dose of nicotine as those who smoke cigarettes regularly. Additionally, snuff and snus users receive exposure to more than 25 chemicals that scientists know cause cancer. One of the most harmful chemicals is tobacco-specific nitrosamines.

The ACS states that the following types of cancer have associations with using smokeless tobacco products such as snuff:

A 2021 study suggests that the increasing use of snuff by older Swedish men has links to bladder cancer. The study notes that average users receive exposure to at least three times higher levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines than someone who smokes a daily pack of cigarettes. Another 2021 study indicates an increased risk of stroke for older Swedish snus users who have never smoked.

Additionally, a 2023 study suggests that those who use snuff have lower health-related quality of life, including bodily pain and less vitality. The authors suggest that snuff is a continuous health hazard.

Finally, research in 2021 indicates there are higher concentrations of toxic metals in snuff than studies previously suggested. The authors note that it is not advisable to assume that snuff is a safer alternative to tobacco smoking.

Mouth and tooth problems

According to the ACS, studies show high rates of leukoplakia in the mouth where people place their snus. Leukoplakia is a grayish-white patch in the mouth that someone cannot scrape off. These usually painless patches may become cancerous.

Additionally, tobacco stains the teeth and can irritate or harm gum tissue, causing swelling and tooth decay. This may eventually cause the teeth to fall out. Lastly, using tobacco products can cause issues with the smell of breath, which people also call halitosis.

Additional concerns

The ACS notes an increased risk of early delivery and stillbirth if someone uses smokeless tobacco when pregnant. Additionally, they highlight that children or pets may mistake snus for candy, which could poison or kill them.

Furthermore, the ACS advises that nicotine can harm parts of the teenage brain that control learning, impulse control, and mood, and teenagers may become addicted.

The ACS notes that quitting tobacco takes a strong commitment over a long time. To give up using snuff or snus, a person can talk with their doctor, who can help them make a plan to manage the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of addiction.

A doctor or pharmacist may recommend prescription and over-the-counter medicines to help an individual quit smokeless tobacco. Support is a vital part of a plan to quit, and behavioral therapies, such as counseling, may also help.

Read on to learn more about how to quit smoking.

Some people may use snuff to try and quit cigarettes. However, the ACS explains that no smokeless tobacco products are beneficial to help people quit smoking. Even if a product helps someone give up cigarettes, they are still at risk for cancer and other health problems if they are still using nicotine.

Quitting nicotine from cigarettes or smokeless products can reduce the risk of these health problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that the benefits of quitting smoking and tobacco products include:

  • improving general health and enhancing quality of life
  • adding years to a person’s life expectancy
  • reducing the risk of numerous adverse health effects
  • benefiting those with certain health conditions, such as those affecting the heart or lungs
  • benefiting the health of pregnant people
  • reducing the financial burden that tobacco products place on individuals, healthcare systems, and society

Read on to learn more about what happens when a person quits smoking.

Snuff is a smokeless tobacco product available in different forms, including snus. Snus contains nicotine and other harmful chemicals that can cause addiction, cancer, and other adverse effects. A person may consider snuff a safer alternative to smoking or a way to help quit smoking. However, evidence suggests this is not true.

People who use snuff may have problems with their teeth, gums, and halitosis. To quit, someone can speak with their doctor, who can help them plan and manage the mental and physical effects of addiction and advise on quitting strategies.