Smokeless Tobacco Risks and Oral Cancer Screening Options

Whatever you call it — chew, dip, snuff, spit, plug, wad, pinch— it’s not a safe alternative to cigarettes. The tobacco industry markets the product “smokeless tobacco” as safer than cigarettes because you are not lighting up. But, smokeless tobacco is harmful and is every bit as addictive. In recent years, the tobacco industry has increased promotion of smokeless products. In an effort to make us think these products are safe alternatives, they are flavored like candy and packaged in shiny colorful wrappers; sometimes even placed near their look-a-like candy counterparts. These marketing strategies give the perception tobacco is fun and harmless. In fact, small children have been known to reach for these products at conveniences stores, thinking they are candy products. Consequently, as of 2015, over 1 in 5 Montana high school senior boys have become regular smokeless tobacco users (MT Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2015). Smokeless tobacco is a health concern here, in Gallatin County. According to the 2014 PRC Community Health Assessment, local smokeless rates are nearly 2X higher than the national average.

Contrary to some beliefs, smokeless tobacco is not safe.

  • The amount of nicotine absorbed from chewing tobacco is 3 to 4 times the amount delivered by a cigarette. Because they deliver higher concentrations of nicotine, chewing tobacco is more habit forming, and likely to leads greater nicotine dependence.
  • There are 28 chemicals known to cause cancer in chew/snuff. These include formaldehyde, arsenic, acetaldehyde, hydrazine, cadmium, polonium, cyanide and lead.
  • Previous studies show that for teen boys who use smokeless, the odds of becoming a smoker are 3X higher.

On top of craving and dependence, our friends and family who use smokeless tobacco drastically increase their risks of oral cancers of the lip, tongue, cheeks, gums, floor and roof of the mouth, throat, larynx and esophagus. It also can cause cancers of the stomach, pancreas, prostate and is linked to increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Smokeless can also lead to other painful oral problems, such as mouth sores, gum recession, and tooth decay. Don’t forget about bad breath, and permanent discoloration of teeth, YUCK!

Spit tobacco users should check monthly damage to teeth, gums, the tongue and surrounding tissue, which may indicate early warning signs of cancer. As deadly as mouth cancer is, your chances of surviving are much better when found early.

Sager Dental in Four Corners, Three Forks Family Dentistry, Suite Dental, and Mint Dental Studio of Bozeman will be providing FREE Oral Cancer Screenings and Quit Spit Kits during “Through with Chew Week” February 14-20, 2016. Smokeless tobacco users are challenged to try quitting for one day – the Great American Spit-Out on Feb. 18th. It may be a stepping stone for quitting smokeless tobacco for good.

Smokeless users are also encouraged to call the Montana QUIT Line 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669), or visit quitnowmontana.com. Remember, the Montana Tobacco Quit Line is a proven, evidence based solution to tobacco addiction and is FREE to all Montana citizens. Tobacco users who utilize the Quit Line are 7-10 times more likely to succeed than those who try without support.
To make an appointment for a FREE Oral Cancer Screening:

Sager Dental
380 Ice Center Lane #B
Bozeman, MT 59718 (Four Corners)
(406) 586-9871

Three Forks Family Dentistry
123 Main Street, Suite 1
Three Forks, MT 59752
(406) 285-5234

Suite Dental
#822 Stoneridge Dr
Suite #3
Bozeman, MT 59718
(406) 601-4100

Mint Dental Studio
40 East Mendenhall Street
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 586-5880