The Pros and Cons of Smokeless Tobacco Products

60 Minutes: Will New Smokeless Tobacco Products Cut or Boost the Smoking Rate?

With cigarette sales falling, the smoking industry is going smokeless. Companies like R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris are introducing new smokeless tobacco products that are nothing like your granddaddy's messy chew or dip.

The companies say these new products - one is called "snus" - help tide smokers over when they go to places where they can't light up any more because of smoking bans, like restaurants and offices.

Since the bans started going into effect 25 years ago, more and more people have given up cigarettes. Today, the smoking rate is half what it was 40 years ago.

And so the companies are investing heavily in developing smokeless, and in changing its image from hillbilly to hip.

Full Segment: Going Smokeless
Web Extra: Quitting Smoking -
The Patch, Gum of Snus?


Web Extra: Tobacco and Cigarettes
Web Extra: Quitting Cigarettes
with Smokeless Tobacco


Think smokeless tobacco, and you probably conjure up something distinctly unappealing: a bulging mouthful of wet, brown goo that is smelly and spitty, brown and drooly.

Not anymore: now there's snus.

"There's no spitting or anything so no one knows you're doing it," Justin Billings, who uses snus, told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl.

When he uses it, Billings tucks it - a tiny tea bag-like pouch filled with tobacco - discretely under his upper lip. There's no lump in his cheek, and no juice.

He uses snus in class and told Stahl it's great. "I can be in class and instead of looking like, 'Oh, there's 40 minutes left in this class. I just want a cigarette,' I can put the snus in and continue to pay attention and don't have to focus on the tobacco craving."

Snus curbs the craving as the nicotine absorbs into his gums.

Billings is 31, a musician and college student in Los Angeles, who has smoked since he was 16.

"Kind of grassy," Stahl remarked taking a whiff of snus.

Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have been selling their brands of Marlboro and Camel snus for about a year. At $4 a can, about half what a pack of cigarettes usually costs, the companies say sales show snus is catching on.

"I have a cigarette when I get up in the morning," Billings told Stahl.

He used to dread being stuck someplace where he couldn't feed his habit. Now he's buzzed on nicotine practically 24/7. As he heads off to the gym, he pops in a snus.

"I'll put the snus in. And instead of walking, I can jog to the gym because I'm not carrying a cigarette. You can't jog carrying a cigarette," Billings said. "I jog with the snus in."

And at the gym, he "snusses" while he's working out. "And I'd feel really good and healthy and in shape," he told Stahl.

Later at school, he lights up before class and uses snus during class. At night there's more "snussing" when he's out with friends at a bar. And unbeknownst to Stahl, he was snussing throughout the interview at a smoke-free restaurant. All in all, he uses about 10 pouches of snus and 20 cigarettes a day.

In the business, Billings they consider him a dual user. "Sometimes I have a snus in and I'll smoke," he told Stahl.

Asked why he'd do that, Billings replied by saying, "You seem disappointed in me?"

"I am," she replied, laughing. "Because I think you're doubling the harm."

"But I don't understand snus to be that bad," he argued.

Asked if he has a feeling that snus is not harmful, Billings said, "I've done as much as read the Wikipedia on snus. What little I know is it's better for you than smoking by quite a bit."

  • CBSNews

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes

Comments