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Healthy habits: Smokeless tobacco not a safer tobacco alternative

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 02:29 PM

Some people think that chewing tobacco or dipping snuff is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, but the truth is you don't have to smoke tobacco for it to hurt your body. Smokeless tobacco products are not a safe substitute for tobacco smoking. The American Cancer Society says using smokeless tobacco products can cause harmful health effects including:

Mouth, tongue, and throat cancer.

Cancer in the esophagus (the swallowing tube that goes from your mouth to your stomach).

Stomach cancer.

Pancreatic cancer.

Increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

Addiction to nicotine.

Leukoplakia (white sores in the mouth that can become cancer).

Receding gums (gums slowly shrink from around the teeth).

Smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco and snuff contain nicotine just like tobacco cigarettes do. Because the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream from the mouth or nose, it takes longer to reach the brain. Smokeless tobacco users do not feel the effects of the nicotine as quickly as cigarette users do, but about the same amount of nicotine enters their bloodstreams.

Quitting smokeless tobacco is both a physical and mental process. According to experts, usually within a few hours of your last dip or chew, you will begin to experience the symptoms of nicotine withdraw. But remember that the withdrawal symptoms are only temporary and will begin to fade in just a few days.

To quit successfully you will also need to break your psychological dependency on smokeless tobacco. People often enjoy dip or chew at certain times or during certain activities. Know your triggers and be prepared to make major changes in your behavior to deal with the mental and emotional aspects of the habit.

Healthy Habits 2013 is a partnership among Cabell Huntington Hospital, Marshall University, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and St. Mary's Medical Center. We are a community working together to improve our health. Check out a "Healthy Habits" tip every Friday in The Herald-Dispatch.

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