Smokeless tobacco and cardiovascular disease

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2003 Mar-Apr;45(5):383-94. doi: 10.1053/pcad.2003.00102.


Various forms of smokeless tobacco (mainly snuff and chewing tobacco) cause an immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure, but regular users of smokeless tobacco do not have permanent changes of heart rate or blood pressure when not exposed to tobacco. Cardiac output during workload and maximal working capacity are unaffected. Users of smokeless tobacco usually do not have the biochemical stigmata that regular smokers have. Thus, the scientific literature suggests that they are similar to non-tobacco users in terms of levels of hemoglobin/hematocrit, leukocytes, antioxidant vitamins, fibrinogen, components of the fibrinolytic system, C-reactive protein, and thromboxane A2 production. Two studies have found that snuff users, as opposed to smokers, do not have increased intima-media thickness or atherosclerotic lesions when investigated by ultrasound. Results on the risk for myocardial infarction have provided conflicting evidence, 2 case-control studies showing the same risks as in non-tobacco users and one cohort study showing an increased risk for cardiovascular death. In all, the use of smokeless tobacco (with snuff being the most studied variant) involves a much lower risk for adverse cardiovascular effects than smoking does. Whether or not the apparent risk reduction is a useful strategy to help inveterate smokers to quit is a matter of debate, as are the public health effects of a high prevalence of snuff use in some populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arteriosclerosis / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / complications*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / physiopathology
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / adverse effects*
  • United States / epidemiology