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Jul 09, 2014

Smokeless Tobacco Increases Risk of Death after Heart Attack

Using a form of smokeless tobacco called snuff is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking after a heart attack, according to study.

Using a form of smokeless tobacco called snuff is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking after a heart attack, according to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation.

Snuff is a finely cut or powdered tobacco that has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the United States consuming 1.7 billion cans of snuff annually. Although the dangers of cigarette smoking are well documented, less is known about the impact of smokeless tobacco on outcomes, especially following a heart attack.

In search of answers, Swedish researchers compared outcomes of heart attack survivors who quit snuff use following a heart attack vs. those who continued snuff use following their cardiac event. Sweden has the highest snuff use worldwide, with 20% of men and 3% of women using snuff on a daily basis.

Between 2005 and 2009, researchers identified nearly 2,500 heart attack patients who used snuff. After suffering a heart attack, less than one-third of patients quit using snuff, while the majority of patients continued use. After following patients for more than two years, researchers found that snuff users had twice the mortality risk of those who quit. In other words, quitting snuff cut heart attack survivors’ risk of death in half in the years following their event.

Findings suggest that smokeless tobacco may be just as harmful as cigarette smoking following a heart attack. As a result, doctors should discourage use of all tobacco products among heart attack survivors. Individuals with a history of heart attack are already at increased risk of serious complications and death, and avoiding all types of tobacco can help improve outcomes for heart attack survivors.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is smokeless tobacco?
  • Smokeless tobacco is tobacco that is not burned, and includes snuff, chewing and dipping tobacco. Smokeless tobacco contains cancer-causing agents, and users have an increased risk of developing oral cancer, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer. Smokeless tobacco is no safer than cigarettes and use of these products is strongly discouraged. For more information or help quitting, see our resource page.
  • Is smokeless tobacco harmful to health?
  • Yes. There is no safe form of tobacco and at least 28 chemicals in smokeless tobacco have been found to cause cancer. In addition to causing cancer, smokeless tobacco use may cause heart disease, gum disease and other potentially serious conditions.

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