New statistics are out on smokeless tobacco and the report shows there hasn’t been much change between 2005 when about 2.7% of working adults used the product to about 3.0% in 2010. The report tracked smokeless users by age, education, geographical location, and by industry worked. The report also measured whether the respondents were dual users of both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Those who used “chewing tobacco or snuff more than 20 times in their lifetime” and used “chewing tobacco or snuff everyday or some days” were considered current users. A current cigarette user was someone who smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoked every day or some days.
In 2005 the survey found the smokeless tobacco numbers were highest among working adults in the 18-24 year old age group, male, non-Hispanic whites, high school educated, and living in the Midwest or South. By the 2010 survey the smokeless tobacco users had aged and taken their habit with them as the 25-44 year old group was the highest users. Males, non-Hispanic whites, high school education, and living in the Midwest and South were still dominant factors. It should be noted that the number of smokeless tobacco users living in the Midwest did drop by 0.5% between the 2005 and 2010 survey. Percentages were also given by industry and by occupation.
While cigarette smoking for adults (older than 18) had dropped between 2005 (22.2%) and 2010 (19.1%), dual users of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco increased slightly from 4.1% in 2005 to 4.2% in 2010. In 2010, 5.6% of males reported using smokeless tobacco, but 7.3% reported being a dual user. In the category “with no more than a high school education,” 3.9% reported using smokeless, but 4.5% reported dual use. While smokeless use went down in the Midwest in 2010 (3.3%), dual use increased to 5.3%. It also showed that dual users smoked more cigarettes (15.5) “compared with those who used cigarettes only (12.1).”
Our Florida Youth Tobacco Survey provides us with statistics for our middle school and high school populations. and some of those numbers for smokeless tobacco users appear higher than for the adults in the MMWR. In 2005 3.9% of middle school and 4.9% of high school students said they considered themselves current smokeless tobacco users meaning they used the products at least once during the past 30 days. In 2010 those numbers were down for middle school students, at 3.0%, but up for high school students at 6.4%. The numbers were higher still for those students who reported “ever tried” smokeless in 2005 at 7.0% for middle school students and 12.2% for high school students. Those numbers were down in 2010 at 5.7% and 11.9% respectively. There were no figures given for dual tobacco use.
The MMWR report suggests that the “lack in reduction” in the smokeless tobacco rates could be due to “novel smokeless tobacco products,” tobacco industry advertising encouraging cigarette smokers to use smokeless tobacco as an alternative when they can’t smoke, switching to smokeless for “purposes of harm reduction or smoking cessation,” and increases of tobacco industry marketing in the smokeless tobacco area.
Smokeless used to mean using your fingers to dig into a can to put loose tobacco into your mouth and spitting out the juices. Now some smokeless brands have individual pouches to make that part of smokeless tobacco easier, and no spitting means you can use it anyplace. Smokeless has also changed their image from working men, like the Copenhagen cowboy image (2004 ad at the top) riding the range to a more youthful image (2007 ad) having fun riding a motorcycle. Removing flavors, adding larger warning labels, and increasing taxes on the products could be a good start to decreasing use. But unless you educate students early and often about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, you won’t deter them from ever picking up the habit.