Skip Navigation Bar
NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Quit Smoking

Secondhand Smoke/"Light" Tobacco/ Smokeless Tobacco

Secondhand Smoke Kills

Research shows that even a little secondhand smoke exposure is dangerous. Secondhand smoke comes from a burning tobacco product and from the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke, involuntary smoking, and passive smoking. Secondhand smoke contains at least 250 toxic chemicals, including more than 50 that can cause cancer.

Nonsmokers who breathe secondhand smoke may:

  • Develop cancer or heart disease
  • Have breathing problems
  • Get colds and the flu more easily
  • Die younger than people who don't breathe secondhand smoke
  • Pregnant women who breathe secondhand smoke may give birth to low-weight babies and/or have babies who are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Children who breathe secondhand smoke may have breathing problems, such as asthma; get more ear infections; and develop more lung infections, such as pneumonia

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Light" Tobacco = Heavy Health Risks

Federal law restricts the words"light,""low," and"mild" from tobacco products in the U.S. market, and health officials continue to warn there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.

Under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a tobacco company can't use the words"light,""low," and"mild" on any cigarette products, unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an order allowing it–and that hasn't happened.

Manufacturers had until June 22, 2010, to stop labeling cigarettes then on the market as"light,""low," and"mild." Then, they had another month to distribute already produced cigarettes. Leftover stocks with the restricted words may be sold until they are depleted.

Corinne Husten, M.D., M.P.H., FDA senior medical advisor on tobacco issues, says that prohibiting the words"light,""low," and"mild" should help debunk the myth that low-tar cigarettes are less harmful than other cigarettes.

"These terms imply that the products are safer," says Husten."However, studies clearly show that the consumer can get just as much nicotine and tar from these cigarettes as 'regular' cigarettes."

Smokeless Tobacco:"Chew"and Snuff Are Killers, Too

A can of smokeless tobacco

What is Smokeless Tobacco?

Smokeless tobacco is tobacco that is not burned. It is also known as chewing tobacco, oral tobacco, spit or spitting tobacco, dip, chew, snuff, and snus. Most people chew or suck (dip) the tobacco in their mouths and spit out the tobacco juices that build up, although"spitless" smokeless tobacco has also been developed. Chewing tobacco comes as loose leaves of tobacco, as plug tobacco (brick form), or in a twist form. Snuff is finely ground (powdered) tobacco that is sold moist or dry, in tea bag-like pouches or sachets. No matter what it's called, smokeless tobacco is addictive and can harm your health.

Here's why: Smokeless tobacco is still tobacco. Tobacco contains cancer-causing chemicals, including nitrosamines, a family of chemicals that has been strongly linked to cancer.

  • Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco also contains nicotine–an addictive drug. Holding an average–size dip in the mouth for just 30 minutes can deliver as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes. Nicotine addiction can make quitting difficult.
  • Smokeless tobacco causes mouth cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other health problems, such as gum disease.

Tips for Quitting

Quitting smokeless tobacco is not easy. The most effective way to quit using smokeless tobacco is to have a quit date and a quitting plan. Successful quitters also include support teams in their plans–friends, family, and co–workers who can help during the difficult times when urges and temptations are strongest.

To learn more about smokeless tobacco and oral health, please see Smokeless Tobacco: A Guide for Quitting (

–Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Read More "Quit Smoking" Articles

You Can Quit Smoking: Here's How / 5 Steps to START / Keep Trying! / Secondhand Smoke/"Light" Tobacco/Smokeless Tobacco / 3 Tools to Help You Quit

/ Latest NIH Research

Winter 2011 Issue: Volume 5 Number 4 Page 7