Sara Bellum
January 26 2011

Smokeless tobacco is the latest nicotine-based product to drift into the marketplace and try to catch the attention of young people.

Snus pouches are a new version of snuff, or chewing tobacco laced with nicotine. Instead of putting a loose wad of tobacco inside the upper lip or between the cheek and gums, snus pouches look like small tea bags. These products are “spitless”, making their use easy to hide. Some tobacco companies even add flavors – like vanilla, peppermint, or spearmint – along with a sweetener.

These flavors are more likely to make the product appeal to young people.

Isn’t snus safer than cigarettes?

Snus has a similar effect on your brain, acting as a stimulant. Although it is marketed as an alternative to cigarettes, the little packets of wet tobacco are just as addictive. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies have determined that smokeless tobacco products:

  • Cause serious diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases of the mouth, gums, and teeth;
  • May increase the risk of serious diseases when used in combination with smoking;
  • Cause adverse reproductive effects and should not be used during pregnancy; and
  • Are not a safe alternative to smoking.

So don’t let a clever name, fun packaging, or candy flavors fool you. By the way, here’s the un-fun part of the package, but that’s because it’s required by law:

"Warning: This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes."

Who’s using snus?

According to NIDA’s 2009 Monitoring the Future survey of teens (PDF, 1.34 MB), the use of smokeless tobacco is increasing significantly among 10th and 12th graders. The percentage of 12th graders reporting past-month smokeless tobacco use increased from 6.1 percent in 2006 to 8.4 percent in 2009, a 38 percent increase, while the percentage of 10th graders reporting smokeless tobacco use increased from 4.9 percent in 2004 to 6.5 percent in 2009, a 33 percent increase.

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