Smokeless Tobacco May Not Help Smokers Quit

THURSDAY Feb. 12, 2009 -- Cultural factors appear to influence whether smokeless tobacco can help smokers quit cigarettes, contends a new study.

In Sweden, many smokers try to quit smoking by using snus, a form of moist, powdered tobacco that's placed under the lip. In Sweden, snus is more popular among male smokers, and Swedish men have higher smoking cessation rates than women.

Some people have suggested that public health officials in the United States and other countries should promote smokeless tobacco as a way to help smokers quit cigarettes.

However, University of California, San Diego, researchers examined data collected from more than 15,000 people in the United States and found that smokeless tobacco does not increase American smokers' quit rates.

"With an ongoing tobacco control effort, men in the U.S. seem to be quitting smoking at higher rates than men in Sweden. And U.S. women are quitting at the same rate, unlike their counterparts in Sweden," study author Shu-Hong Zhu, a professor of family and preventive medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

The study found that:

  • Among American men, less than 1 percent of current smokers switched to smokeless tobacco during the 12-month study.
  • Only 1.7 percent of former smokers turned to smokeless tobacco.
  • Men's quit rate for smokeless tobacco was three times higher than for cigarettes.
  • Men were far more likely than women to use smokeless tobacco products, but smoking cessation rates were similar among men (11.7 percent) and women (12.4 percent).

"Many public health officials and scientists have cautioned that the Swedish results may be unique to Sweden," Zhu said. "This research confirms that."

The study was published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.

Posted: February 2009


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