Though with Chew Week Offers Help to Quit Spit for Good

You can call chewing tobacco by whatever name you want — smokeless tobacco, spit tobacco, chew, snuff, pinch or dip — but don′t call it harmless. Whether you use chewing tobacco or other types of smokeless tobacco because you like it or because you think smokeless is safer than cigarettes, be forewarned — chewing tobacco can cause serious health problems.
Health risks of chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco.
While the available evidence shows that smokeless tobacco may be less dangerous than cigarettes are, long–term use of chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products can cause serious health problems. That′s because they can contain about 30 cancer–causing substances. Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco also contains nicotine, which can cause you to become addicted. Here′s a look at some of the health problems related to smokeless tobacco:
  • Addiction: Because smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, you can get addicted, just as you can with cigarettes and other tobacco products. Your body may actually absorb more nicotine from chewing tobacco or snuff than it does from a cigarette. Just as with smoking, withdrawal from smokeless tobacco causes signs and symptoms such as intense cravings, increased appetite, irritability and depressed mood. Also, over time, you develop a tolerance for the nicotine in chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products, and you need more to feel the desired effects. This may lead you to even more dangerous habits — such as using brands with more nicotine, using them more often.
  • Cancer: Your risk of certain types of cancer increases if you use chewing tobacco or other types of smokeless tobacco. This includes esophageal cancer and various types of oral cancer, including cancers of your mouth, throat, cheek, gums, lips and tongue. Surgery to remove cancer from any of these areas can leave your jaw, chin, neck or face disfigured, and the cancer may be life–threatening. You also face increased risks related to pancreatic cancer and kidney cancer.
  • Cavities: Chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco cause tooth decay. That′s because chewing tobacco contains high amounts of sugar, which contributes to cavities. Chewing tobacco also contains coarse particles that can irritate your gums and scratch away at the enamel on your teeth, making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities.
  • Gum disease: The sugar and irritants in chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth in the area of your mouth where you place the chew. Over time you can develop gum disease (gingivitis), which can lead to periodontitis and tooth loss. And like cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other smokeless products can stain your teeth and cause bad breath.
  • Heart Disease: Smokeless tobacco increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Some evidence suggests that long–term use of smokeless tobacco increases your risk of dying of certain types of heart disease and stroke.
  • Precancerous mouth lesions: Smokeless tobacco increases your risk of developing small white patches called leukoplakia inside your mouth where the chew is most often placed. These mouth lesions are precancerous — meaning that the lesions could one day become cancer. If you stop using smokeless tobacco products, the lesions usually go away within a few months.
Quitting chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco.
This year, Through with Chew Week is observed in Montana on February 20–24. Bullhook Dental Clinic in Havre and Dr. Harry7prime;s office in Chinook will provide free oral cancer screenings to spit tobacco users this week. The staff will also provide you with assistance with making a plan to quit spit for good. This plan may include using the Montana Quit Line to help you quit tobacco use. The Quit Line can help you pick a quit date that is best for you and will provide you with clinical counseling. In many cases, Quit Line can provide free nicotine replacement aids (patches, gun, lozenges) or prescription medications (such as Chantix) at a reduced price. Your path to a healthier life can begin today with a visit to Bullhook Dental or Dr. Harry, or with a call to 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The service is free, and so is the call. Make your visit or call today.
Jay Schuschke is a Prevention Specialist with the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program & Havre′s HELP Committee. For more information, call the HELP Committee at 265-6206.