Smokeless Tobacco: Not only gross….it’s a killer!

Last weekend there was a guy dipping (AKA using chewing tobacco), and I was completely horrified.  Me, being me, of course felt the need to chastise this poor man for chewing tobacco, spitting all over the ground, and it was not the right time or place for “thoughtful” education.  So, it was a swing and a miss as far as a PSA goes, but I thought this forum might be a little more appropriate because there is more to the dangers of tobacco than just smoking it.

What is smokeless tobacco? 

Usually that means chewing tobacco (AKA dip, chaw, snuff, chew, and plug).  Chewing tobacco is usually shredded tobacco leaves (chunkier) whereas snuff is a finer tobacco that is in almost little teabags; with both, people put the tobacco between their gum and lip/cheek, swirl around their saliva, mixed with the tobacco then spit it out. Sounds appetizing, right? The nicotine that is present in the tobacco, mixes with your saliva, and enters your blood stream through the capillaries (the small blood vessels) in your oral mucosa (mouth tissues).  So, you get the buzz from the nicotine, just like smoking, and maybe even stronger, then you also get that addiction from the nicotine.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates around 14 million users in the US alone….that is a LOT of dipping going on, and I had no idea how wide-spread the problem is, because it is mostly used by adolescents and teens under the age of 20.

What are the dangers?

Well there are immediate things that occur:

-yellowing of the teeth

-gingivitis (gum disease)

-cavities (the acidity creates holes in your teeth)

-bad breath due to a build up of bacteria and tobacco

-canker sores (almost all dip users get them continuously because of the irritation to your oral tissues)

And with chronic use:

-bleeding lips and gums (from irritation)

-receding gum lines (which leads to tooth decay and teeth falling out)

-cancer (oral/throat/esophageal/lips/gums/tongue/cheeks…and pancreatic and kidney cancer rates increase too!)

-heart disease: dip increases your heart rate and blood pressure and puts a strain on your heart increasing your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

What should I do?

QUIT!!!! Chewing tobacco is bad news.  It’s not better for you just because you don’t inhale it, it may actually even be worse for you. Chewing tobacco has 30 different cancer causing agents in it…and you just sit there sucking on it; there is nothing else that people KNOW causes cancer and sit there and suck on without a care in the world.  Your risk of cancer is just as high, and it is just SO gross looking.  You can try to quit with nicotine patches or gums (like quitting cigarettes), talk to your HCP and see what they suggest, and there are tons of support lines to help if you are having trouble quitting: 1-800-QUIT-NOW is a free tobacco cessation line, funded by the government to help people quit smoking.  You can learn new tips, talk to a therapist, and find help near you.  You CAN quit.  You NEED to quit.  It’s just a matter of freeing yourself from the addiction of nicotine.  You can do it.  I know it!

Yours in Good Health


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