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People are now using coffee grounds as a substitute for chewing tobacco

When people talk about new tobacco substitutes, the conversation revolves around e-cigarettes.

But for people who use dipping tobacco instead of cigarettes, there's a weird new substitute available: small pouches of ground coffee, made by a company called Grinds, that you just stick directly into your mouth.

coffee grinds

coffee grinds

Grinds brand coffee pouches, with the contents of an opened pouch shown. (Snubie.com)

The idea is that the caffeine gets absorbed through the blood vessels on the surface of your gums, just like nicotine would if you used tobacco. The benefit is substituting a relatively harmless drug (caffeine) for a worse one (nicotine), while still getting a burst of energy and a nice buzz.

The company says that each pouch has as much caffeine as about a quarter of a cup of coffee. (And in case you're wondering, caffeine can indeed be absorbed through your gums, as well as your skin.)

The product is clearly aimed at regular users of dipping tobacco who are looking to quit: it comes in a tin and pouches that closely resemble chew, and the website features tons of testimonials from baseball players (the group that stereotypically uses the most dipping tobacco). At least among pro athletes, it appears to be catching on: football writer Peter King recently noticed several players on the San Diego Chargers using it.

But maybe it could even take off among non-dippers. Sure, you might be turned off by the idea of packing coffee straight into your mouth. But to a coffee lover, there's something strangely appealing about the purity (and convenience) of it.

If only they made a plain old coffee flavor instead of this peppermint, mocha, and cinnamon roll business.