It seems smokeless tobacco, commonly known as dip or chew, has taken a back seat since the vaping craze took over, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t being used. During Through With Chew Week, it’s important to remind students and adults that spit tobacco is not harmless tobacco as it contains cancer-causing chemicals and the addictive drug nicotine.
For those who aren’t familiar with smokeless tobacco, there are several types such as plug, twist, or chewing tobacco, all of which are placed in the mouth between cheek and gum and the juices need to be spit out. The most recognizable smokeless tobacco product is dipping tobacco, or dip, which originally started out as dry snuff and evolved into the moist tobacco in the can. Dry snuff is a ground tobacco that is inhaled in the nose. Moist snuff tobacco comes in a can in a variety of cut sizes (the length of the strands of dip) and flavors. Users place it between cheek and gum or lip and gum, and while the nicotine and chemicals are absorbed through the tissues in the mouth, the juices have to be spit out. It’s the type of tobacco most associated with baseball players, is highly addictive and very habit forming. There are also tea-bag like pouches, called Snus, that are highly sweetened and also placed in the mouth like dip, but the juices are typically swallowed.
According to NSTEP (National Spit Tobacco Education Project), “almost half (46%) of new (smokeless tobacco) users are under 18 when they first try” smokeless tobacco. National current use of smokeless tobacco is at 6.0% overall with more males (10.0%) using than females (1.8%). Current use means using smokeless tobacco products on 1 or more of the 30 days before participation in the survey. Here in Florida the state numbers for current use of smokeless tobacco dipped from 3.0% in 2012 to 2.2% in 2016 among youth 11-17 according to the 2016 Florida Tobacco Youth Survey. However, some rural counties in Florida are more than 5 times the state average for smokeless tobacco use by teens.
Many teens believe that since smokeless 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 increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Some websites have suggested using smokeless tobacco to quit smoking, but why use another tobacco product when you want to quit using tobacco? If you need help quitting, talk with your doctor and check out some of the websites below. Find the one that works for you. Good luck.
Tobacco Free Florida
Kill The Can – a site of former smokeless tobacco users helping users quit
Smoke Free Vet – the mission to is help veterans who get their health care through VA become tobacco-free (smoking, chew or dip, or any other tobacco products).
Quit Smokeless – another site of former smokeless tobacco users helping each other stay tobacco free