When you just can't quit: New forms of smokeless tobacco can help

When I quit smoking, almost three years ago, my main reason for doing so was the birth of my daughter. Both of my parents had died from smoking-related illnesses, and I decided that I wanted to be around when my kid graduated from high school. Beyond that, I also wasn't a big fan of the seasonal bouts of bronchitis that I had every year, the occasional coughing fits, the lack of stamina, and the assorted other health miseries. The final nail in the coffin was the price: because of the ever-increasing taxes levied on cigarettes, it had gotten to the point where I was spending over $5 a day on my habit.

It's hard to find that ultimate reason to quit, and I have numerous close friends who simply can't make the final step to nicotine independence. With that in mind, I've been getting excited about the array of smokeless tobacco options that are now entering the market.

By combating the smoke that causes most smoking-related health problems and the taxes that bankrupt smokers, these companies are finding ways to make nicotine addiction less expensive and more socially acceptable. Of course, quitting is still the ideal, but if smokers can't find that final reason to push them over the edge into nonsmoking, these are some other options:

Snus: Pronounced like the word "loose," snus is a form of packaged tobacco that is very popular in Scandinavia. Unlike American chewing tobacco or snuff, which is fermented, snus is pasteurized, which greatly reduces the risk of mouth cancer. Most brands are Swedish, but American cigarette companies, including Camel and Marlboro, are now entering the market.

Snus is perceived as a more upscale form of tobacco, and is popular with celebrities, including Colin Powell, Michael Richards, and Samuel L. Jackson. Snus does not cause lung cancer and doesn't seem to cause oral cancer, but there is some evidence to suggest that it can lead to pancreatic cancer. It also doesn't generate foul odors or secondhand smoke, and many areas tax snus at a far lower rate, which can make it more economical for users.

Ariva: The perfect nonsmoking option for the party girl wannabe in your family, Ariva gained popularity after Lindsay Lohan started carrying a box of them wherever she went. Basically compressed, powdered tobacco, Ariva and Stonewall (another pill-based nicotine product) both allow users to handle their nicotine cravings without lighting up. There isn't any information yet on the potential health effects of the pills, but the price hovers around $3 for a pack of 12 pills, well below the price of cigarettes (at least in New York!).

Creamy Snuff: If you like squeeze cheese and astronaut food, this might be the non-smoking option for you! is A pasty combination of tobacco, camphor, clove oil, glycerine, spearmint, and menthol, creamy snuff comes in a tube and is sold as a dentifrice, which means that it is intended to be spat out after use. Presumably, its lack of long-term contact with mucous membranes means that it is less likely to cause oral cancer, but there isn't really any available scientific analysis of the long-term health effects of the paste.

Crown 7: Far and away the coolest non-smoking option, the $79 Crown 7 machine looks like a 1940's-era cigarette holder. This is the smokeless option that Humphrey Bogart would choose, the nicotine delivery device most likely to be endorsed by Darth Vader. It uses a battery-powered heating source to vaporize nicotine-laced water, which the user inhales and exhales in much the same way that he or she would smoke a cigarette. Each cartridge carries the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes and five cartridges (a carton's worth of smokes) cost $10. In terms of nicotine usage, this works out to roughly $1 per pack, which places it far below the price of cigarettes. Crown 7 claims that there aren't any health risks associated with its product.

Once again, as a former 2-pack a day man, I'd argue that the best course of action is to quit smoking. That having been said, if smokeless options can reduce the negative health effects of tobacco usage, then they seem like a very good idea. If you know somebody who's struggling to cover a pack-a-day habit and isn't ready to give up the devil weed, you might want to let them know that there are other options out there!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. As cool as the Crown 7 is, he's still glad he quit.
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