Smokeless tobacco is sometimes known as chewing tobacco or spitting tobacco. It is available in two forms, snuff and chewing tobacco. Both types of smokeless tobacco are held in the mouth inside the cheek or between the cheek and gum.
Smokeless tobacco is known to contain at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals, medically known as carcinogens. The main carcinogens in smokeless tobacco are the tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). Some of the other cancer-causing agents found in smokeless tobacco are formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, arsenic, benzopyrene, nickel, and cadmium.
Nicotine is also found in smokeless tobacco, like all tobacco products. Although nicotine is absorbed more slowly from smokeless tobacco than from cigarettes, 3 to 4 times more nicotine is absorbed from smokeless tobacco than from a cigarette, and the nicotine from smokeless tobacco remains longer in the bloodstream. Nicotine is the substance responsible for tobacco addiction.
- In 2007, about 3% of U.S. adults aged 26 and older were users of smokeless tobacco, while around 5% of people aged 18 to 25 reported using smokeless tobacco. Rates of use among young people (under the age of 18) are higher than those of adults.
- In 2007, more than 13% of male high school students and more than 2% of female high school students reported using smokeless tobacco.
Smokeless tobacco is not the same thing as smokeless cigarettes. Smokeless cigarettes (also termed e-cigarettes) are designed to provide nicotine in vapor to the user without burning tobacco. However, the smokeless cigarettes still provide addictive nicotine to the user and secondhand nicotine to others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. The CDC reports that, on average, a smoker dies 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers; they die from cancer, heart disease, and lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic airway obstruction and bronchitis. Beyond health effects, there are negative effects including financial and social factors. Furthermore, smoking does not just affect the smoker; secondhand smoke negatively affects family, friends and associates.
Cigarette smoke and secondhand smoke, not surprisingly, have negative effects on one’s health. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that 438,000 deaths are attributed to cigarette smoking each year; an additional 38,000 deaths are caused by secondhand smoke. According to MedlinePlus, an online medical encyclopedia associated with the National Institutes of Health, cigarette smoke has the potential to harm nearly every organ in the body. A staggering 87 percent of lung cancers would disappear if every person in the U.S. stopped smoking. The NCI reports that smoking is linked to multiple other types of cancer, including cervix, bladder, kidney, pancreas, mouth and throat. Cigarette smoking also causes severe damage to the heart and the cardiovascular system. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that smokers are two to three time more likely to die from coronary heart disease compared with nonsmokers. Smoking and secondhand smoke puts the birth of healthy children at risk by causing infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the CDC. Smoking also has negative cosmetic effects, such as tar-stained teeth and yellow-tinted skin.
Smoking can have negative social effects as well. Non-smokers generally try to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke; thus smoking may serve as a social barrier. Smoking is also banned indoors in many places. An article published by CNNhealth.com by Theresa Tamkins in September 2009 indicates that 32 states have some type of smoking ban that prohibits smoking in public places and/or buildings. Many European countries have similar bans, including England, Scotland, France, Ireland, and Norway, according to the CNNhealth.com article. These types of bans can have pervading negative social effects, isolating the smokers outside and away from the group.
The negative effects of cigarette smoke have a detrimental financial effect, both on the smoker and the family. The high price of cigarettes these days make a significant dent in the family’s finances. Additionally, smokers tend to have more health problems that cost money to medically treat. Smoking also costs the general public money: the CDC estimates that cigarette smoking costs the U.S. more than $193 billion, including money in lost productivity (due to illness and death), and money used for health care that the smoker is unable to pay for himself. Secondhand smoke also has negative financial effects: the health costs for secondhand smoke-related illnesses cost an estimated $10, according to the CDC.