This is Through With Chew Week and it gives us an opportunity to educate people about the dangers of smokeless and encourage people to quit. The campaign began in 1989 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, Inc. as a way to educate the public. In 1994 Oral Health American’s National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) partnered with TWC to break the connection between baseball and smokeless tobacco.
There are many forms of smokeless tobacco, but most use chew or snuff. Chewing tobacco comes in loose leaves, plugs or twists of dried tobacco. A piece is taken from the pouch or cut off the twist and is placed between the cheek and gum. And like the name implies, the user may chew it to get the flavor out of the tobacco. The juices may or may not be spit out. According to the CDC website, the most popular of these is loose leaf with 17.5% of the market share.
Snuff is a finely ground tobacco that can come in moist, dry or Snus. Moist snuff is the most recognizable and widely used with a market share of 80.7%. It comes in a can, is usually highly flavored, and is refereed to as a pinch or “dip” placed between cheek or lip and gums. Most people spit out the juices. Dry snuff is a powder-like tobacco that can be put in the mouth or inhaled in the nose. Snus is a moist teabag-like pouch that is placed between the cheek or the teeth and gums and does not require spitting.
There is also flavored dissolvable tobacco forms such as lozenges, orbs, melt-away strips and toothpick-sized sticks. Many of these products haven’t been popular, but are still available through websites. Many smokeless users turn to a smokeless form of tobacco because they feel it is safer than smoking, but no form of smokeless is safe.
Whether you dip or chew, you are still getting nicotine from your product. You are also getting about 28 chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are the most harmful and most potent cancer-causing chemicals that you are putting directly into your mouth. Other chemicals include formaldehyde, arsenic, cadmium and radioactive polonium-210. Dip and chew users are increasing their risk of “oral cancer by 50% compared to those who don’t use these products.” Cancers of the lip, tongue, cheek, roof and floor of the mouth, and cancer of the larynx are the most command cancers. And users also have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Other problems include permanent gum recession and bone loss at the site of the dip like in the picture above left. And since dip also contains sugar, tooth decay is common. Benign or precancerous lesions on the tongue or inside of cheeks, called leukoplakia, is common like the picture on the right.
While these oral issues are easy to see, other health issues from using smokeless tobacco aren’t as easy to spot. “There is evidence that long-term ST product use may be associated with a greater risk of fatal myocardial infarction (heart attack) and fatal stroke.” Ignoring health problems won’t make them go away. Quitting smokeless products will improve your overall health and put money back into your pocket.
Click HERE for CDC information and pictures of smokeless tobacco.
Click HERE for Important Facts About Smokeless Tobacco.
Dissolvables pictures from the FDA website.
Gum damage picture from National Cancer Institute off the Smokeless Tobacco awareness in Florida article.
Leukoplakia picture from the American Academy of Oral Medicine site: Oral Changes Associated with Tobacco Use.