Thursday, May 26, 2016

Smokeless Tobacco is harmful to health, highly addictive and holds special appeal to youth

There are many serious health consequences of using smokeless tobacco, including various types of cancer.  Using smokeless tobacco can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence. Compared to cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products like chew and dip can contain more nicotine.  Since 1988, nicotine has been established to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine, Adolescents’ bodies are more sensitive to nicotine, and adolescents are more easily addicted than adults.  Because the adolescent brain is still developing, nicotine use of any kind during adolescence can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction.  There is no scientific or medical evidence that using smokeless tobacco products can help a person quit smoking.  Smokeless tobacco should NOT be used as an alternative to smoking – we encourage all tobacco users to quit.  Tobacco Free Florida has free and evidence-based resources that can help you quit any form of tobacco.

Apart from cancer, other oral health issues include mouth sores, gum recession, tooth decay, and permanent discoloration of teeth.  Spit tobacco causes gum disease, also called gingivitis, which can lead to bone and tooth loss.  The use of some types of smokeless tobacco products is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and fatal stroke.  Smokeless tobacco use can lead to reproductive health problems, such as reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm cells for men.  Women who use smokeless tobacco may be at an increased risk of preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight.  Preeclampsia is a condition that may include high blood pressure, fluid retention, and swelling.  Smokeless tobacco can cause nicotine poisoning in children.

The tobacco industry is attempting to entice young people and non-traditional users with new smokeless products and appealing flavors.  While cigarette use among Florida’s youth reached an all-time low in 2014, smokeless tobacco use has fluctuated but has not decreased compared to a decade ago.  In 2015, 4.9 percent of Florida high school students reported current smokeless tobacco use, compared to 8.5 percent in 2013.  While the statewide smokeless tobacco use rate was 4.9 percent among high school students in 2015, many counties have rates higher than the state average.
  • In 2014, the highest rate was 26.2 percent in Glades County.
  • Many of the highest rates are in rural areas.
  • The county-level data was available in the 2014 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. The 2015 survey was only state-level.
Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine and is highly addictive, especially for youth.  Constant exposure to tobacco juices in these smokeless products can cause oral cancers, which can form within just five years of regular use.  Smokeless tobacco can cause white or gray patches inside the mouth (leukoplakia) that can lead to cancer.  Smokeless tobacco users have an 80 percent higher risk of oral cancer.  Smokeless tobacco users have a 60 percent higher risk of pancreatic and esophageal cancer.

Adults should be aware that many new smokeless tobacco products are easy to conceal and use in areas where smoking is banned. Professional baseball players, who have traditionally had high levels of smokeless tobacco use, serve as role models for impressionable youth.  Other United States jurisdictions like San Francisco and Boston are beginning to pass ordinances that ban smokeless tobacco at sporting venues.

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