Safer alternatives to smokeless tobacco? Chew mint leaves?

Someone told me not to chew smokeless tobacco (this when I was a youngin’) because it would eventually eat a hole through your mouth.

Instead this guy told me to chew mint leaves because they taste better and won’t give you cancer 20 years later.

Is that true? Would chewing dried (or fresh?) mint leaves to get a minty buzz be healthy? Or at least not healthy? Why don’t more people do this? What else besides mint could be used?

And if tobacco leaves are without additives, but just plain dried leaves, are they bad for you?

Interesting question. Obviously, chewing tobacco yields nicotine, which is known to be addictive but doesn’t really cause cancer to my knowledge. Since you aren’t burning it, there isn’t any “tar”, is there?

I wonder too. What is it in tobacco leaves or processed chewing tobacco that causes cancer, and is that chemical in mint leaves too?

Nitrosamines are the most potent carcinogens in smokeless tobacco, they are formed during processing.

There are also traces of polonium-210 (from the fertilisers used) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, both of which are carcinogenic.

Do they exist in mint leaves? Possibly, but I doubt mint leaves have been studied in such detail. Mint leaves will have their own cocktail of benign and not so benign chemicals, some of which may possibly more potent than those found in tobacco.

Chewing tobacco definitely causes cancer. There are clear correlations. They have to put warnings on the labels. Inhaled tobacco (“snuff”) causes cancer, too.

There are lots things you CAN chew and that many people do. East Asian “betel nut” chewuing (actually Areca Leaf chewing) also causes cancer. It’s frequently mixed with tobacco, which some people claim is the rreal cause, but there’s evidence that the areca causes cancer on its own.
Or you could chew coca leaves. Illegal here in the US. People have done it for thousands of years. I’m surprised to find people actually touting it as having health advantages. The cocaine content is low, and it’s claimed to provide vitamins and the low dosage of druf has supposed benefits. I’m skeptical, myself, but it bears looking into.
As for mint leaves, most essentrial oils are harmful in large doses, but I don’t think that’s an issue with chewing leaves. When I was in Boy Scouts we learned about finding and chewing leaves of teaberry and other plants.
One plant that we used to use, but is now not used is sassafras, sadly. We used to make sassafras tea from the root (and leaves, sometimes), but it’s been found to be carcinogenic. So i wouldn’t chew its leaves.

Does ‘processing’ mean drying or whatever ‘they’ do to make Copenhagen & Red Man? If we just chew leaves off the tobacco plant, are we safe from Nitrosamines?

And if we get organic tobacco, are we safe from polonium?

It just seems if we could have safe tobacco, I could start to chew some myself.

Some of my relatives used to grow tobacco. “Drying” and “curing” just mean letting the leaves dry. it used to be done in a tobacco barn. It’s not as if they dry them in ovens. According to Wikipedia*:

“processing” here seems to be "adding stuff to it (flaviorings and binders) and chopping and shaping it to suize. I seriously doubt if they add anything that makles it carcinogenic – the carcingoens are inherent in the leaf. Nicotine is a poison, and I suspect the plant evolved the ability to make and/or concentrate it to get rid of insects. Not everything “natural” is Good for You.

*Despite your Doper Name

Nitrosamines are present in many foods - beer, fish, and nitrite processed foods.

Processing methods of the tobacco greatly affects the amount of nitrosamines. Swedish snus has approx. 1/60 the amount vs. American chew.

My understanding is that Snus is water cured while Chew is flue cured.

Are you looking to quit chew? I would look into snus and/or electronic cigarettes.

It looks like electronic cigarettes may have their own health risks:

Electronic Cigarettes Cause Damage to Lungs, Study Finds

So what’s the straight dope on nicotine and cancer?

I chew nicotine gum. Started when I gave up the smokes but can’t seem to kick the chewies…

There are only trace amounts of nitrosamines/carcinogens in nicotine gum. You’d probably get much more carcinogens from slightly burnt toast.

Based on my research and experience, the safest tobacco (not just nicotine) product there is is disolvable tobacco like Stonewall and Ariva - which I would highly recommend for those who just can’t seem to quit other forms of tobacco. Swedish snus in general are the next safest form after that. Anything else, and you’re going pretty far downhill as far as relatively safe forms of tobacco (again, not just nicotine) consumption.

Thanks Voltaire makes me feel a bit better, still want give up the chew though.

Look into Swedish match snus.

32 study subjects and 10 minute effects? I think I’ll keep waiting for something a little more definitively damning.

If you chew, and want to quit, I highly encourage you to check out Stonewall. (I recommend the Java flavor Stonewall, Ariva would probably be too weak for you.) As a chewer, and not a smoker, you’ll be a natural fit. I used Stonewalls and ecigs (and a little Swedish snus) to quit smoking, but Stonewalls and/or possibly snus would probably be perfect for you.

Look up the type of chew you use here, and compare the total nitrosamine levels between that and Stonewalls. (Everybody else should also check out that link if they want a cite for my previous assertions.)

If anybody needs help finding the best online sources to buy them, (or for any other questions) feel free to PM me. (No, I have no financial interests in this and am not trying to sell you anything.)

Me too. I’ve been chewing nicotine gum for about 6 years now. No plans on quitting since docs told me it’s harmless. Then again, who knows about the long term effects? I just hope they’re very long-term.

Nicotine by itself is more or less along the same level as caffeine. It slightly increases your pulse and raises blood pressure, but it is not a carcinogen. If you’re coping with just nicotine gum and no tobacco use, you should keep it that way and not be tempted with my talk of this Stonewall stuff.

Nicotine, and to a lesser degree, tobacco, aren’t nearly as bad, in and of themselves, as most people think. As previously mentioned, a big element is the way the tobacco is cured. Then, with smoking, the huge element is that you’re burning and inhaling smoke. Burning and inhaling anything is bad for you to varying degrees.

Thanks. The one drawback is that the gum is very expensive. I spend $250 or so per month on it.

Sorry, I just noticed that you were referring to chewing nicotine gum, and I responded thinking you were referring to chewing tobacco.

Disregard that post (other than maybe the cite, which also shows the trace levels of nitrosamines in nicotine gum) and refer to my last post in response to JJ, who is in the same boat as you.