March 17, 2004 at 6:01 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 6:18 PM
When it comes to tobacco, the smoking kind gets the most visibility. But, just because there's no smoke doesn't mean there's no fire. Smokeless tobacco, which includes both chewing tobacco and snuff, has recently been found to be more addictive than cigarettes.
Dr. Ellen Remenchik of UT Health Center at Tyler says there are two reasons it's so addictive.
"One is the nicotine. It has a higher concentration of nicotine than cigarettes. The other factor is the fact of putting it in your mouth is very addictive. It is an oral process that many people become dependent on," she says.
One pinch held between the cheeks and gums in 30 minutes can deliver as much nicotine as three to four cigarettes. Dr. Remenchik says that's why it's so bad for your health. She showed pictures of what smokeless tobacco can do to your mouth.
"It's difficult to get a surgery to remove it that is not deforming," she says.
Dr. Remenchik says another concern is that people start using it at a young age. The CDC says teenage boys use smokeless tobacco more than anyone else, followed by men 75-plus. In all, almost five million people use it and become addicted. Dr. Remenchik admits it's difficult to stop.
"It's been compared to cocaine, heroine, and other hard drugs," she says.
If you are trying to quit, you can see your doctor to see if any of the nicotine cessation drugs might work for you. They are the main tools used to help people quit using smokeless tobacco.
Dr. Remenchik also recommends going to a support group. UT Health Center holds free support group meetings every Wednesday at noon. Call 903-877-7262 for more information.