A Safer Way to Chew

SafetyDippers are always looking for ways to reduce the health risks of chewing. Unfortunately, most techniques used to reduce the risk don’t work, and, in many cases, may actually increase the dangers of chewing.

Probably the most popular method of risk reduction is switching to low nicotine tobacco. If people only chewed to perpetuate a simple habit, low nicotine chews would probably reduce the dangers of chewing. Unfortunately, the necessity to chew is not continuance of a habit but rather maintenance of an addiction. Switching to a low nicotine chew makes it difficult for a chewer to reach and maintain his normal required level of nicotine. The chewer will probably develop some sort of compensatory chewing pattern. Compensatory behaviors include chewing more chew or chewing them longer.

By doing one or a combination of these behaviors, the chewer will reach similar levels of nicotine in his system as when he chewed his old brand, but, in the process, he may increase the amount of other potent poisons beyond what was delivered by his old tobacco. Low nicotine tobacco often has higher concentrations of other dangerous poisons. By increasing consumption, substantially greater amounts of these poisons are taken into the system, thereby increasing his risk of diseases associated with these chemicals. To give flavor to the low nicotine chew, many additional additives and flavor enhancers are used. Tobacco companies are not required to disclose what the chemical additives are, but the medical community suspects that many of these additives are carcinogenic (cancer producing) and may actually be increasing the chewer’s risk of tobacco-related cancers.

One last method of risk reduction worth mentioning is vitamin supplements. The body’s ability to utilize Vitamin C is impaired by chewing. When some chewers learn this, they start taking supplemental Vitamin C. But vitamin C acidifies the urine, resulting in the body accelerating the excretion rate of nicotine. In response, the chewer may chew extra chews. In the process, he will probably destroy the extra vitamin C and increase his exposure to all of the poisonous chemicals found in tobacco chew.

Almost every method of making chewing safer is a farce. There is only one way to totally reduce the deadly effects of chewing, and that is, simply, not to chew. Only then will your chances of diseases such as heart disease and cancer be reduced to the level of nonchewers.

© Joel Spitzer 1990
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.


  1. It is the addiction. I’ve tried tobacco free products and have quit for over a year. The problem is that even after a year, I still want it. As long as I’m doing it, I just want to use a product that causes the least amount of long term damage.

  2. There has to be a brand more pure than others. I’ve tried to quit many time unsuccessfully. I’d like to use a product safer than others, but I need the nicotine Any studies on this out there?

    1. When you say you “need” the nicotine… why? Is there a medical reason why you need it or do you feel that you need it? If it’s the latter, that’s your addiction talking. You don’t need it (regardless of what your body tells you). If you want to quit, desire your freedom, then you’re in the right place.

      To answer your other question, I’m not familiar with any studies about safety of alternatives that include nicotine.

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