Smokeless Tobacco May Be More Harmful Than Cigarettes, Study Shows

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Smokeless Tobacco A new study recently published online in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention has revealed that smokeless tobacco products can pose just as much, if not more, of a health risk than cigarettes.

Researchers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included 23,684 adults between 1999 and 2012. They specifically looked at tobacco exposure by analyzing certain markers, including those found in participants’ urine and blood samples.

The findings showed that adults who used smokeless tobacco products exclusively had higher concentrations of nicotine and other tobacco-related nitrosamines—both of which are linked to an increased cancer risk—in their system, compared to people who only smoked cigarettes. In other words, the concentration of carcinogenic constituents from smokeless tobacco may be more harmful than those that come from cigarettes.

Furthermore, smokeless tobacco users also appeared to have a higher concentration of lead in their blood, compared to participants who didn’t use tobacco.

Although smokeless tobacco isn’t as commonly used as cigarettes, the study’s authors hope that these findings will encourage further study into the serious health risks of alternative tobacco products, which can include snus, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, or dissolvable tobacco. And although smoking rates have declined in recent years, smokeless tobacco rates have remained relatively stagnant, especially among American youth.

Interestingly, the results of this latest study come just eight days after the FDA announced that they had authorized, for the first time ever, the marketing plans for eight smokeless tobacco products through their “premarket tobacco application pathway.”

However, although the products will be available for purchase in the U.S. market, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are deemed “FDA approved.” These companies will be required to provide to the FDA regular updates on their sales data, advertising, and any other relevant information, and can have their marketing order revoked if it’s found that the products are no longer safe for public health.

Despite these new products entering the market, the FDA is still investigating the adverse health effects of smokeless tobacco, and are said to be collaborating with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on a large-scale study—the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH).
Unlike the current study, which doesn’t necessarily cover details about the types of products used, how much, or for how long, the PATH study will enable researchers to look more closely at specific factors related to tobacco use and the harm it can cause.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Rostron, B.L., et al., “Nicotine and Toxicant Exposure among U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Users: Results from 1999 to 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data,” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 2015; doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0376.
Brazier, Y., “Cancer risk for smokeless tobacco users,” Medical News Today web site, November 18, 2015;