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Information for Youth: Tobacco

Spit Tobacco

​​Some youth believe that spit tobacco (chew, snuff, dip) is safe. The truth is that spit tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive drug. It also has over 4,000 chemicals, including at least 30​ that cause cancer. Spit tobacco contains substances such as formaldehyde (preservative of body tissues), arsenic (rat poison), nickel, and cadmium.

Some athletes use spit tobacco because they think it gives them a performance boost. This is not true. In fact, nicotine constricts the blood vessels, which can slow reaction time and cause dizziness. This is a disadvantage if you’re playing sports or working in a dangerous environment.

Spit tobacco does a lot of damage to the inside of your mouth. Leukoplakia (white leathery patches that can develop into cancer), worn and yellow teeth, lost teeth, cavities, receding gums, gum disease, and bad breath are all health consequences of using spit tobacco.

Worse yet, spit tobacco causes cancer of the mouth, throat, and voice box. The earlier you start and the longer you chew, the more at risk you are for cancer. On average, half of all people who get oral cancer die within 5 years.

Quick Facts

  • Spit tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking.
  • ​People who use spit tobacco and people who smoke cigarettes have comparable levels of nicotine in their blood.
  • White patches inside the mouth, known as leukoplakia, may develop into cancer.
  • Spit tobacco yellows, scratches and wears your teeth, gives you cavities, eats away at your gums, and gives you bad breath.
  • Spit tobacco causes cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus.
  • People who use spit tobacco increase the risk of developing many serious health problems, including cancer of the mouth (lip, tongue, cheek, floor and roof of the mouth) and throat.
  • Spit tobacco users are 50 times more likely to get oral cancer than non-users.
  • Spit tobacco affects the heart and blood vessels. It may cause heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Spit tobacco is more popular in the prairies, including Alberta, than in the rest of Canada.
  • Many people start using spit tobacco at a very young age (around 9 or 10 years). ​

Current as of: May 16, 2017

Author: Tobacco Reduction Program, Alberta Health Services