Though advertising campaigns constantly pitch smokeless tobacco as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, but scientists are divided in their opinion regarding the same.
It is opined that smokeless tobacco is less carcinogenic and harmful than cigarette smoking because it has lower concentration of carcinogens and toxins formed during combustion. It is suggested that in regular smoker the risk of death from lung cancer increases by more than 22 times while the risk of death from emphysema and bronchitis increases by more than 10 times.
Studies also show that adverse effects of smokeless tobacco can go beyond cancer of the oral cavity. Smokeless tobacco might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and other types of cancer. Also smokeless tobacco contains higher concentration of nicotine. This can cause more dependency, making it hard to quit tobacco. It is suggested the effect of nicotine in tobacco can increase heart rate 10-20 beats/minute. This can increase the blood pressure by 5-10 mmHg by constricting the blood vessels.
Research conducted by University of Minnesota, Minneapolis has found that smokeless tobacco produces similar exposure to tobacco-specific carcinogens as cigarette smoking. According to the study, urine of 120 smokeless tobacco users and 420 smokers were tested. It is found that urine of smokeless tobacco users contain higher 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) level and higher cotinine level than regular cigarette smokers. Powerful presence of cancer-causing agent, NNK, in both smokers and smokeless tobacco users suggests that smokeless tobacco may not be a good substitute for smoking cigarettes.
CDC advocates that no tobacco is safe whether smokeless or smoking tobacco.