File this one under the “What were they thinking?” category. A cancer center in Kentucky is suggesting that smokers switch to smokeless tobacco through their “Switch and Quit” program if they really want to quit. They say the smokers who switch are more likely to give up cigarettes than if they try nicotine patches. According to the director of the program, smokeless tobacco carries less risk of disease than cigarettes. Switching to smokeless tobacco may help some people quit smoking. However, their billboard message: “Cancel your date with lung cancer. Switch to smoke-free,” sends a dangerous message to kids who will think smokeless tobacco is safer than smoking since a cancer center appears to support the switch.
Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, is director of the Switch and Quit” program. Some of the research money includes grants from the tobacco industry. Rodu says Americans are misinformed about the risks of smokeless tobacco. If you switch to smokeless tobacco, you give up cigarettes. That much is true. And it does carry less risk than smoking, because you are not inhaling harmful smoke into your body.
But smokeless tobacco does contain nicotine which is highly addictive and absorbed into the bloodstream through the mouth. An average can of snuff holds a lethal amount of nicotine, 40-60mg for an adult human, about the equivalent of 30-40 cigarettes. One average size dip or chew in your mouth contains as much nicotine as smoking four cigarettes. Nicotine increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and increases your blood sugar by blocking the release of insulin. The nicotine in just one cigarette is enough to make a toddler severely ill.
Smokeless tobacco also contains 28 cancer-causing carcinogens, such as nitrosamines, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and radioactive and metallic compounds. According to a University of Minnesota, Division of Periodontology website, the nitrosamine content alone exceeds over 1000x allowed by the FDA in products like bacon. Smokeless tobacco is known to cause human cancer, especially of the oral cavity. It is also associated with cancers of the esophagus, larynx, pancreas, and stomach. It can cause recession of the gums and cavities in teeth because of the added sweeteners, and lesions of the soft tissue in the mouth where it is held in place.
The “Switch and Quit” program run by The James Graham Brown Cancer Center runs counter to every thing the National Cancer Institute states on its site about smokeless tobacco; however, this year the NCI at the National Institutes of Health approved funding for a study that might provide evidence that smokeless tobacco can help a person quit smoking.
While the cancer center needs to promote their service, it needs to be done in a way that sends the message to kids that the use of any form of tobacco can be damaging to your health. Kids don’t check for health information before they try their first mouthful of smokeless tobacco or take that first cigarette. Kids will remember the message on the billboards.
The tobacco industry advertises their products in such a way that kids are familiar with the brands before they begin using them. Kids don’t see the small warning labels and don’t understand the dangers that tobacco can have on their health. The Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention and Intervention Teacher Training Course helps teach students about tobacco and helps them with refusal skills. This free, on-line course is available to Florida educators with a current DOE certification. It provides up to 60 teacher in-service credits as approved by your district. Check out our site at: www.tobaccopreventiontraining.org
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