‘Drop the Dip & Drop Your Risk’ campaign begins

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — On Feb. 23, the Great American Spit Out 2017 will provide those wanting to give up smokeless tobacco a pressure-free opportunity to quit for good.

There are many reasons to quit with health being a primary consideration. The American Cancer Society provided the following: 

Health Risks of Smokeless Tobacco

Spit or smokeless tobacco is a less lethal, but still unsafe, alternative to smoking.

Types of smokeless tobacco:

• Chewing, oral, or spit tobacco comes as loose leaves, plugs, or twists of dried tobacco that may be flavored. It’s chewed or placed between the cheek and gum or teeth. The nicotine in the tobacco is absorbed through the mouth tissues. The user spits out (or swallows) the brown saliva that has soaked through the tobacco.

• Snuff is finely ground tobacco packaged in cans or pouches. It’s sold as dry or moist and may have flavorings added. 

• Moist snuff is used by putting it between the lower lip or cheek and gum. The nicotine in the snuff is absorbed through the tissues of the mouth. Moist snuff also comes in small, teabag-like pouches or sachets that can be placed between the cheek and gum. These are designed to be both “smoke-free” and “spit-free” and are marketed as a discreet way to use tobacco.

• Dry snuff is sold in a powdered form and is used by sniffing or inhaling the powder up the nose.

• Dissolvable forms of tobacco are available as tobacco lozenges, orbs, or pellets; strips (like melt-away breath strips); and toothpick-sized sticks. Some of these also contain sweeteners or flavoring and look a lot like candy. All have tobacco and nicotine. Depending on the type, they are held in the mouth, chewed, or sucked until they dissolve. The juices are swallowed.

What are the health risks of smokeless tobacco?

Using any kind of spit or smokeless tobacco is a major health risk. It’s less lethal than smoking tobacco, but less lethal is a far cry from safe. No form of smokeless tobacco is a safe substitute for cigarettes. Still, tobacco companies often market these products as alternatives to smoking in places where smoking isn’t allowed.

Smokeless tobacco causes cancer 

Overall, people who dip or chew get about the same amount of nicotine as regular smokers. They also get at least 30 chemicals that are known to cause cancer. The most harmful cancer-causing substances in smokeless tobacco are tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). TSNA levels vary by product, but the higher the level the greater the cancer risk.

Cancers linked to the use of smokeless tobacco include: mouth, tongue, cheek, gum, esophagus and pancreatic cancers.

Smokeless tobacco causes other health problems

• Mouth and tooth problems

Many studies have shown high rates of leukoplakia in the mouth where users place their chew or dip. Leukoplakia is a gray-white patch in the mouth that can become cancer. These patches can’t be scraped off. They’re sometimes called sores but are usually painless. The longer a person uses oral tobacco, the more likely they are to have leukoplakia. Stopping tobacco usually clears the spot, but treatment may be needed if there are signs of early cancer.

Tobacco stains teeth and causes bad breath. It can also irritate or destroy gum tissue. Many regular smokeless tobacco users have receding gums, gum disease, cavities and tooth decay (from the high sugar content in the tobacco), scratching and wearing down (abrasion) of teeth, and bone loss around the teeth. The surface of the tooth root may be exposed where gums have shrunken. All this can cause teeth to loosen and fall out.

• Other harmful health effects of smokeless tobacco include:

✓ Heart disease and high blood pressure

✓ Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

✓ Increased risk of early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy

Smokeless tobacco causes nicotine addiction. This can lead to smoking and using other forms of tobacco. In fact, using both smokeless tobacco and cigarettes is becoming more common, especially in young people. This can lead to even greater future health risks than they would have from using either product alone.

Can smokeless tobacco be used to help quit smoking?

Manufacturers often imply or even claim that spit or smokeless tobacco can help people quit smoking. A lot of people believe and try this. But there’s no proof that any smokeless tobacco products help smokers quit smoking.

For information on quitting tobacco, military beneficiaries can contact Health Promotions at 801-777-1215; civilians can contact Civilian Health Promotions at 801-586-9586.

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