Tobacco is Changing: Smokeless Tobacco

Smokeless containers and flavors

Talk to Your Teen About Dip, Snus, and Chew

Every year, half a million kids in the U.S.—mostly boys and young men—try smokeless tobacco for the first time. Whether they’re tucking a pinch, or a pouch, of flavored tobacco behind their lip, or chewing on a wad of shredded tobacco leaves, the results are the same. Nicotine and other dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals are released into the bloodstream, increasing the user’s risk of addiction, illness, and even death, usually for less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

The number of Wisconsin kids who’ve tried smokeless products rises quickly as children get older, from just 2 percent of middle schoolers, to 9 percent of high schoolers. Similarly, about 1 percent of middle schoolers, and 4 percent of high schoolers, are current users.

What to Look For

Smokeless tobacco products like dip, snus, and chew don’t look much alike, but they all contain nicotine, an addictive additive that can change the way a young brain develops, especially the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.

Smokeless tobacco

Smokeless tobacco

 

Smokeless tobacco

Nicotine toothpicks


  • Dip (loose ground tobacco) is usually packaged in round, brightly-colored tins.
  • Snus (pouches of ground tobacco) comes in small tins and plastic dispensers, like mints, and gum.
  • Nicotine pouches and lozenges come in a variety of flavors and contain only nicotine. They are packaged similar to Snus. 
  • Chewing tobacco (shredded tobacco leaf) is sold in paper pouches.
  • Nicotine toothpicks are designed to disguise tobacco use
  • Dip and chew users may keep other containers around to spit their tobacco juice into.

Some of the Health Risks

We all know how dangerous cigarettes and secondhand smoke can be, so it’s easy to assume that smokeless products are safe, but dip, snus, and chew contain many of the same toxic chemicals found in cigarettes, including arsenic, lead, formaldehyde, and 30 known cancer causers. Other risks include:

  • Addiction
  • Tooth loss and decay
  • Mouth sores, leathery patches, and gum disease
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Cancers of the mouth, throat, stomach, and pancreas

Share What You've Learned

Research shows that kids are more likely to avoid risky behaviors when they have an open, trusting relationship with parents and other caregivers, so talk to your kids about e-cigarettes and share what you know with parents, teachers, and others.

You Can Tell Your Kids:

Smokeless products are not okay, even if some athletes use them. Athletes may do extraordinary things, but they’re still just people. Which means they’re vulnerable to addiction and unhealthy choices just like the rest of us. Smokeless products are addictive, carcinogenic, and deadly—even for athletes.

Flavored smokeless tobacco isn’t “better for you.” Flavors like mint, cherry, vanilla, and sour apple can give the impression that flavored dip, chew, and snus are safe, or mild version of conventional tobacco, but those flavors just help mask the harsh taste of tobacco and the thousands of chemicals in dip, snus, and chew.

Smokeless doesn’t make it harmless. No tobacco product is safe. Dip contains more than 4,000 chemicals and at least 30 of them can cause cancer. Don’t forget, the addictive nicotine in smokeless products can change the way a young brain grows and may harm a child’s impulse control and ability to learn.

Most kids don’t use smokeless tobacco products. Kids may see the variety of dip, snus, and chew in stores, around their community, and assume using smokeless tobacco is a popular choice. Remind your child that most Wisconsin youth choose to live tobacco free. In fact, 96 percent of Wisconsin high schoolers aren’t using dip, chew, or snus.

Make Sure Others Know

Smokeless tobacco products can contain up to 4,000 chemicals     Nicotine may cause memory and attention problems


Resources

Learn more about cigars, little cigars, cigarillos and the harm they can do:

More Products, More Risks

Tobacco keeps changing. Learn more about the other addictive tobacco products that are endangering the health of Wisconsin’s youth.

 

Four teens watching a cell phone

Support Tobacco Free Environments and Prevention Policies

We can react to Wisconsin’s tobacco problems, or we can use best practices, and proactive policies, that work together to prevent youth tobacco use and other statewide challenges. You can help make that happen. Find out how you can support comprehensive tobacco policies for a healthier state and take action in your own community.

Take the Next Step

Knowledge is power. Find out how the tobacco industry creates, packages, and markets its dangerous products to hook young people in your community.

 
 
Last Revised: August 26, 2021