Health & Safety

July 11, 2014

Smokeless tobacco is not the safer alternative

Official U.S. Army photo

There are two popular types of smokeless tobacco, they are known as snuff and chewing tobacco.

Snuff is ground or shredded tobacco, and it comes dry or moist, usually in small pouches and a pinch or dip is placed between the cheek and gum. Chewing tobacco comes in loose leaf, plug-firm, plug-moist or twist forms and the user puts a wad of tobacco inside the cheek.

Some people call smokeless tobacco “spit” or “spitting tobacco” because users spit out the juices and saliva that build up in the mouth…really attractive, right? Other names for chewing tobacco are dip, packing a lipper, packing a dip, lip dirt and chaw. People who get a boost or feel good when they use smokeless tobacco are experiencing the effects of the addictive drug nicotine.

Nicotine provides an almost immediate kick of adrenaline and a sudden release of glucose which will eventually lead to depression and fatigue, which stinks, of course, so the user chews more to get more feel-good nicotine. With regular use, nicotine stays in the body overnight. Daily tobacco users are exposed to the effects of nicotine 24 hours a day. Nicotine is very addictive and that’s why it’s so hard to stop. Smokeless tobacco hooks users on nicotine, just like cigarettes do, so it’s a myth that using snuff or chew is a good way to help you quit smoking.

Smokeless Tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco contains more nicotine than cigarettes and if you use snuff or chewing tobacco, you’ll absorb three to four times as much nicotine as you would from smoking a cigarette. The nicotine stays in the bloodstream longer and if you use two cans a week, you’ll get the same amount of nicotine as smoking a pack and a half a day.

Cancer

Chewing tobacco and snuff contain 28 cancer-causing agents and users are 50 times more likely than nonusers to get cancer of the mouth, cheek, gums, and inner surface of the lips, and these cancers can form within five years of regular use. Leathery white patches and red sores common in smokeless tobacco users’ mouths can turn into cancer while tobacco juice can lead to cancer of the tongue, esophagus, larynx, stomach, pancreas and prostate.

Other serious health problems

Smokeless tobacco users have a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and heart attacks due to the high concentration of salt in smokeless tobacco. They are also at greater risk for high cholesterol than people who don’t use tobacco. Smokeless tobacco does not improve athletic performance, the initial buzz caused by smokeless tobacco raises your pulse and blood pressure, putting extra stress on your heart.

Smile while you still have teeth

Smokeless tobacco can cause your gums to pull away from the teeth where tobacco is held and the gums do not grow back. Chewing tobacco users are four times more likely than nonusers to have serious dental problems, including gum disease (gingivitis), which can lead to bone and tooth loss. This should come as no surprise, but the smell of chewing tobacco breath is disgusting and other people will notice. While it may be the least of a smokeless tobacco user’s worries, the sugar added to smokeless tobacco during processing increases the risk of cavities. Brush and floss as much as you want, but there’s no way it will undo the harm that smokeless tobacco causes.

Not everyone is doing it

Only 19 percent of males aged 18-24 who are in the military use smokeless tobacco, according to the 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel. Almost 83 percent of guys in this age range don’t chew, so while it might seem like everybody’s doing it, they really aren’t.




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