THURSDAY, Nov. 3, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Smokers who switch to smokeless tobacco products, such as moist snuff and hard snuff lozenges, in an effort to wean themselves from the habit may be making a mistake, researchers say.
The University of Minnesota researchers found that these products are not good alternatives for people trying to quit smoking. They found that medicinal anti-smoking products such as a nicotine patch are a much better aid in helping people kick the habit.
"Collectively, these results indicate that most smokeless tobacco products are not necessarily a safe alternative to smoking and are inferior to medicinal nicotine products with respect to carcinogen exposure," lead author Stephen Hecht of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center said in a prepared statement.
"Smokeless tobacco products should not be considered an acceptable substitute for cigarette smoking, especially when relatively harmless medicinal nicotine products are available," Hecht said.
The findings were to be presented Wednesday at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting, in Baltimore.
Hecht and his team evaluated carcinogen levels in smokeless tobacco and medicinal nicotine products and also looked at carcinogen biomarker levels present in people who used the products.
They found that several types of oral tobacco products made in the United States have carcinogen levels at least 100 times that of other products designed for oral use. Hard snuff lozenges have the lowest carcinogen levels among the smokeless tobacco products while medicinal nicotine products have only trace amounts of carcinogens, the researchers said.
A second study, by researchers at the University of Florida, concluded that the use of smokeless tobacco did not increase smoking-cessation success rates. In fact, smokeless tobacco may encourage some teens to start smoking, the researchers said.
Recent studies also suggest that U.S. men are more likely to switch from smokeless tobacco to cigarettes, rather than the other way around.
"Based on this evidence, we feel that the use of smokeless tobacco is rarely a successful strategy for smoking cessation in the U.S. and may actually be a risk factor for starting to smoke," study lead author Scott Tomar said in a prepared statement. "There is insufficient evidence that using smokeless tobacco is effective, feasible or acceptable as a smoking-cessation strategy in most populations."
The American Lung Association offers a quit smoking action plan.