Tobacco and lung cancer
What's the difference between chewing and spit (or snuff) tobacco?
Chewing tobacco ("chaw") is usually sold as leaf tobacco, and users place a large wad of it inside their cheek. Users, who tend to be older men, keep chewing tobacco in their mouths for several hours (the tell-tale bulge often gives them away). Snuff, which is much more common today, is a powdered tobacco that's usually sold in cans. Users place a pinch of the tobacco between the lower lip and the gum, usually under the canine teeth.
What are the health risks of using smokeless tobacco?
Oral cancer. This disease, which affects the mouth, tongue, cheek, gums and lips, is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate is only 59 percent.
Other cancers. Carcinogens in the tobacco also increase a user's risk for cancers of the pharynx, larynx, and esophagus. Breast cancer and cardiovascular disease have been linked to chewing tobacco.
Nicotine dependence. Nicotine levels in smokeless tobacco are even higher than cigarette tobacco. Nicotine addition can lead to an artificially increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Tooth abrasion. Grit and sand found in smokeless tobacco products scratch teeth and wear away the enamel.
Gum recession. Constant irritation to the spot in the mouth where a small wad of chewing tobacco is placed can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, exposing root surfaces and leaving teeth sensitive to heat and cold.
Increased tooth decay. Sugar is added to smokeless tobacco during the curing and processing to improve its taste. (Also, when the gums pull away from the teeth, food can become trapped in the pockets between the teeth and the gums causing both tooth decay and gum infections.)
Tooth discoloration and bad breath. People who stop using snuff may notice a marked change in the latter.
Unhealthy eating habits. Chewing tobacco lessens a person's sense of taste and ability to smell. As a result, users tend to eat more salty and sweet foods.
But isn't smokeless tobacco better for you than cigarettes?
Not really. While smokeless tobacco users run a lower risk of lung cancer than smokers do, they run a much higher risk of oral cancer.