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Harm Reduct J. 2019 Apr 11;16(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s12954-019-0294-6.

Smokeless tobacco mortality risks: an analysis of two contemporary nationally representative longitudinal mortality studies.

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Regulatory Affairs, Altria Client Services LLC, 601 East Jackson Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, USA.
Quality, Altria Client Services LLC, 601 East Jackson Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, USA.
Kozmin Consulting, LLC, 103 Barclay Ct, Flat Rock, NC, 28732, USA.
Regulatory Affairs, Altria Client Services LLC, 601 East Jackson Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, USA.



Assessments supporting smokeless tobacco (SLT) disease risk are generally decades old. Newer epidemiological data may more accurately represent the health risks associated with contemporary US-based SLT products, many of which contain lower levels of hazardous and potentially hazardous chemicals compared to previously available SLT products.


Data from two longitudinal datasets (National Longitudinal Mortality Study-NLMS, and the National Health Interview Survey-NHIS) were analyzed to determine potential associations between SLT use and/or cigarette smoking and all-cause and disease-specific mortality. Mortality hazard ratios (HR) were estimated using a Cox proportional hazards regression model applied to various groups, including never users of any tobacco or SLT product, and current and former SLT users and/or cigarette smokers.


The two datasets yielded consistent findings with similar patterns evident for the specific causes of death measured. All-cause mortality risk for exclusive SLT users was significantly lower than that observed for exclusive cigarette smokers and dual SLT/cigarette users. Similar trends were found for mortality from diseases of the heart, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and malignant neoplasms. Mortality risk for lung cancer in exclusive cigarette smokers was increased by about 12-fold over never-tobacco users but was rarely present in exclusive SLT users in either survey (NHIS, <‚ÄČ5 cases/1,563 observations; NLMS, 3 cases/1,863 observations). While the data in the surveys are limited, SLT use by former cigarette smokers was not associated with an increase in the lung cancer risk HR compared to that by former cigarette smokers who never used SLT.


Emerging epidemiological data provides a new perspective on the health risks of SLT use compared to risks associated with cigarette smoking. HR estimates derived from two current US datasets, which include data on contemporary tobacco products, demonstrate a clear mortality risk differential between modern SLT products and cigarettes. Cigarette smokers had an increased overall mortality risk and risk for several disease-specific causes of death, while SLT users consistently had lower mortality risks.


Cigarettes; Epidemiology; Mortality hazard ratio; Smokeless tobacco

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