As any baseball fan will tell you, baseball players for years have been using chewing tobacco (also known as smokeless tobacco). Did you know, that the risk of developing oral cancer by using smokeless tobacco products is just as high as from smoking cigarettes?
Smokeless tobacco is tobacco that is not burned. It is also known as chewing tobacco, oral tobacco, spit or spitting tobacco, dip, chew, and snuff. Most people chew or suck (dip) the tobacco in their mouth and spit out the tobacco juices that build up, although a spit less smokeless tobacco has also been developed. Nicotine in the tobacco is absorbed through the lining of the mouth.
People in many countries use smokeless tobacco, but America’s favorite pasttime has been the one that has popularized it for many young Americans. Up until recently, major league baseball players were able to carry it in their back pocket on the field. Generally, you could see the outline of the tin in their back pockets as well as from time to time they would remove it to refill the tobacco in their mouths. Now, under new rules agreed to by the players union and owners, major league baseball players can no longer carry the smokeless tobacco tins in their pockets onto the field. They are also banned from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews, team or league sponsored appearances, autograph signings and other events where fans are present. They can, however, continue to chew it while they play as long as those familiar round tins are not visible in their back pockets.
How Does Smokeless Tobacco Differ From Smoking?
Smokeless tobacco contains at least three known carcinogenic agents: N-nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and the radioactive polonium 210. Also, abrasive ingredients are added to the chewing tobacco that inflict tiny nicks in the gums and thin epithelial lining of the cheeks in order to more quickly transport nicotine (and carcinogenic additives) into the bloodstream. Prompted by the irritating juices from smokeless tobacco left in the mouth for prolonged periods of time, precancerous leukoplakias (white areas) develop into cancers in 3-5% of smokeless tobacco users.
Unlike lung cancer from smoking tobacco, which typically develops after decades of use, these precancerous lesions can come on very quickly.
Celebrities promoting chew are very influential. About 12-15 million in the United States will use a chewing tobacco product this year alone. Six million Americans use it every day. And according to the National Cancer Institute, between 35-40% of professional baseball players use smokeless or “spitting” tobacco.
Approximately 40,000 Americans will develop oral cancers this year. Between 80%-90% of these oral cancer cases will be directly related to the use of some form of tobacco, including smokeless
Despite many advances in the treatments options for oral cancer, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, these patients still have only a 60% chance of a five-year survival rate.
Cosmetic Effects of Smokeless Tobacco
The detrimental and readily apparent cosmetic effects can be far greater — and develop far more quickly — with spitting tobacco than with cigarettes.
There are many visible signs of smokeless tobacco use. These can include:
-Tooth abrasion – The gritty abrasives in smokeless tobacco scratch and wear down teeth and gums.
-Loss of Tooth Enamel – Premature loss of tooth enamel can cause teeth sensitivity.
–Gum Recession – Injured gums pull away from the teeth. This can result in permanently damaged periodontal tissue, increased sensitivity to heat and cold, loss or breakdown of supporting bone structure, and accelerated loss of teeth.
-Tooth cavities – Sugar is an additive in smokeless tobacco and stays in the mouth while using chewing tobacco. Thereby, increasing risk of tooth decay.
-Discolored teeth – Stained teeth are the rule in smokeless tobacco users.
–Halitosis or Bad breath – Sticky tobacco residues are a breeding ground for bacteria.
-White corrugated tissue – chronic irritation of the same area of the mouth causes the gum or lip tissue to form a white calloused appearance. This is generally precancerous, but can become cancer.
-A sore that will not heal or go away.
-An unexplained lump or bump in the mouth.
-White, red, or off-color patches on cheeks and gums.
-Prolonged sore throat that never seems to go away.-Difficulty chewing or swallowing.-Restricted movement of the tongue or jaw.-A feeling of something in the throat.-Numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth.
Conclusion on Smokeless Tobacco and Oral Cancer
Smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Using smokeless tobacco may also cause heart disease, gum disease, and oral lesions other than cancer, such as leukoplakia (precancerous white patches in the mouth).
All tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, contain nicotine, which is addictive. Users of smokeless tobacco and users of cigarettes have comparable levels of nicotine in the blood. In users of smokeless tobacco, nicotine is absorbed through the mouth tissues directly into the blood, where it goes to the brain. Even after the tobacco is removed from the mouth, nicotine continues to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Also, the nicotine stays in the blood longer for users of smokeless tobacco than for smokers.
The level of nicotine in the blood depends on the amount of nicotine in the smokeless tobacco product, the tobacco cut size, the product’s pH (a measure of its acidity), and other factors.
Many believe smokeless tobacco is a harmless habit, it most definitely is not. The effects of smokeless tobacco happen very quickly and can affect young people as well as old.
There are many methods available to help with quitting. Remember, it is a habit, albeit a life threatening one, but it can be stopped. If you want to live a healthier life, you’ll need to stop using tobacco products entirely.