Guide to Quitting Smokeless Tobacco

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Other ways to quit smokeless tobacco

Other tobacco-related and nicotine-containing products have appeared in the past few years. Because they are not marketed to treat nicotine addiction, the FDA doesn’t consider them drugs and doesn’t regulate them. Some may be helpful, but none of these products have been proven to work to help people quit using tobacco.

Methods without nicotine

Non-tobacco snuff products

These are sold in grocery and convenience stores, online, or by mail order. They are packaged like moist snuff in a tin and come in different flavors. They are made from plants or herbs such as tea, clover, mint leaves, kudzu, or alfalfa. Some have added flavors and moisteners like glycerin. At least one contains an herb called guarana, which has quite a bit of caffeine in it.

Non-tobacco snuffs can be used alone or mixed with regular snuff as a person is trying to cut down on tobacco. They are generally considered safe as long as you’re not allergic to anything in them, but they have not been reviewed by the FDA and there’s not much research on whether they help people quit. One study that used mint snuff as a substitute found that it helped reduce cravings in smokeless tobacco users who were trying to quit. But those who used the mint snuff were no more likely to quit tobacco than those who didn’t. If you choose to try a non-tobacco snuff, check the ingredient list to see what you are getting.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis methods vary a great deal, which makes hypnosis hard to study as a way to quit tobacco. For the most part, reviews that looked at controlled studies of hypnosis to help people quit smoking have not supported it as a quitting method that works. As a way to quit using smokeless tobacco, hypnosis has been studied even less. Still, it might be useful for some people. If you’d like to try it, ask your doctor to recommend a good licensed therapist who does hypnotherapy.

Acupuncture

This method has been used for quitting tobacco, but there’s little evidence to show that it works. It involves putting small needles into the skin, usually around the ears. (For more information on acupuncture, see our document Acupuncture.) For a list of local doctors who do acupuncture, contact the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture online at www.medicalacupuncture.org, or call 323-937-5514.

Low-level laser therapy

This technique, also called cold laser therapy, is related to acupuncture. Despite claims of success by some cold laser therapy providers, there’s no scientific evidence that this helps people stop using tobacco. (See our document called Cold Laser Therapy for more information.)

Tobacco deterrents

These include over-the-counter products that change the taste of tobacco, “quitting diets” that are supposed to curb nicotine cravings, and combinations of vitamins. There’s little scientific evidence to support claims that any of these methods work.

Herbs and supplements

There’s little scientific evidence to support the use of homeopathic aids and herbal supplements as methods to help a person quit tobacco. Because they are marketed as dietary supplements (not drugs), these products don’t need FDA approval to be sold. This means that the manufacturers don’t have to prove they work, or even that they’re safe.

Be sure to look closely at the label of any product that claims it can help you quit tobacco. Dietary supplements and homeopathic remedies have no proven track record of helping people quit tobacco (see our document Homeopathy).

Other nicotine and tobacco products not reviewed or approved by the FDA

Nicotine lollipops and lip balms

In the past, some pharmacies made a product called a nicotine lollipop. These lollipops often contained a product called nicotine salicylate, which is not approved by the FDA for pharmacy use. The FDA has warned pharmacies to stop selling nicotine lollipops and lip balm, calling the products “illegal.” The FDA also said “the candy-like products present a risk of accidental use by children.”

Other tobacco cessation products like these that do not use nicotine salicylate may be legal if they are prescribed by a doctor. But they still pose a risk for children and pets if they are not well-labeled, stored safely, and disposed of where children and pets cannot get them.

Tobacco lozenges, strips, and pills

Lozenges, sticks, strips, and pills that contain tobacco are now being marketed as other ways for smokers to get nicotine in places where smoking is not allowed. They are not sold as ways to quit tobacco. The FDA has ruled that these are types of smokeless tobacco, not aids to quit smoking or wean off tobacco. There’s no reason to think these products would have fewer health risks than more common forms of smokeless tobacco.

Snus

Swedish snus has been touted by some people as a safer way to use tobacco, and even as a way to quit smoking cigarettes. Snus made in Sweden is a type of moist snuff that is reported to have lower levels of tobacco-associated nitrosamines (TSNAs), a potent cancer-causing agent in tobacco products. Lower TSNA levels may mean less risk of cancer, but there are still TSNAs and other carcinogens in Swedish snus.

American versions of snus contain varying amounts of TSNAs depending on brand and region of the United States. Levels of TSNAs are not regulated in American snus, nor is there a requirement for labeling about this carcinogen. And, as with Swedish snus, there are other carcinogens besides TSNAs. To date, snus has not been tested in controlled clinical trials as a way to stop smoking. Snus contains tobacco, so it’s not helpful if your goal is to quit; it’s as addictive as any other form of tobacco. American snus has not been proven safer than the more common forms of smokeless tobacco.

For more on snus, see our document called Smokeless Tobacco.


Last Medical Review: 02/20/2014
Last Revised: 02/20/2014