When people think of smokeless tobacco, the image of a can of dip in the back pocket may come to mind. So much attention is given to the risks of smoking, but smokeless tobacco users face many risks using their products. That’s why the third week in February is dedicated to providing users health information on various forms of smokeless tobacco and encouraging them to be Through With Chew. Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms and has changed over the years but in the end, users all become addicted to the nicotine.
Various varieties of smokeless tobacco include chewing tobacco, Snus, a highly sweetened tobacco in a tea-bag-like pouch (you don’t spit out the juices),and Snuff, a finely ground tobacco inhaled (snuffed) into the nose. And then there are the dissolvable products, such as lozenges, orbs, strips, and sticks, which are finely ground tobacco held together with a binder to hold their shape. These products are not popular with the public.
The most recognizable of the smokeless tobacco products is the dry snuff that evolved into dipping tobacco. The tobacco in a can goes by names like dip, chew, snuff, rub and chaw. It is placed between lip and gum or cheek and gum and the chemicals are absorbed through the tissues of the mouth. The juices need to be spit. This tobacco is typically flavored and comes in various cut sizes and length of tobacco strands. It is the product that people associate with Major League ball players and the one that “almost half (46%) of new users under 18 try.” In 2015, “6 out of every 100 high school student reported use of smokeless tobacco,” according the the CDC. It is highly addictive and very habit forming.
Many teens believe that since the tobacco isn’t smoked, it is safe, but smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals which put users at a higher risk for oral cancer, as well as esophagus and pancreatic cancer, than non-users. It stains the teeth, and can cause receding gums and gum disease. A can of dip contains approximately 144 milligrams of nicotine, or the equivalent of about 80 cigarettes, or roughly four packs. Nicotine affects you by increasing your blood pressure as well as your risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to the 2015 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, the number of current youth smokeless tobacco users in our state had decreased in both middle school and high school by 73% and 29% respectively between 1998-2015. But grade level numbers show an increase in use as students move through school. Between middle school and high school, the number of male users more than triple with 2.4% and 7.9% respectively. The number of middle school and high school students who reported ever trying it is higher at 3.1% and 8.8% respectively. Smokeless tobacco use doubles alone between eighth grade (2.1%) and ninth grade (4.4%).
There is no proof that smokeless tobacco products can help you quit smoking, but it could get you hooked to another tobacco product. If you need help quitting spit tobacco, there are several websites below to check out and find the one that works for you. Good luck!
Tobacco Free Florida
NSTEP Resources for Quitting Spit Tobacco
Quit Tobacco: UCanQuit2.org – an educational campaign for the U.S. military, sponsored by the U.S. Dept of Defense.
Kill the Can – a site of former smokeless tobacco users helping users quit
Smokeless Tobacco: A Guide for Quitting – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health