How Smokeless Tobacco Damages Your Body
The use of smokeless tobacco, including snuff and chewing tobacco, increases each year, mainly among adolescent boys. Snuff consists of moist, shredded tobacco leaves that come in packages resembling tea bags. The user places the snuff between his lip and gum. Chewing tobacco is made of shredded or com- pressed tobacco and is placed inside the cheek and chewed. The average quan- tity of chewing tobacco contains the nicotine found in two cigarettes, but the nicotine in chewing tobacco is more addictive because it is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Although made fashionable by professional baseball players, smokeless tobacco is not a harmless alternative to cigarettes. It wears away tooth enamel, causes the gums to recede and the teeth to loosen, and contributes to tooth decay and discoloration as well as bad breath. Most important, smokeless tobacco use has been linked to development of cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus. When the irritating tobacco is left in contact with the cheeks, gums, or lips for long periods, it produces sores or white patches that do not heal and can eventually become cancerous. Other early signs of oral cancer from smokeless tobacco include a prolonged sore throat and difﬁculty chewing or swallowing. Cancerous changes can occur after only 4 years of smokeless tobacco use. Disﬁguring oral surgery may have to be performed to remove can- cerous tissue.
Men who use smokeless tobacco need regular dental cleanings and checkups to look for the early signs of oral cancer, but the best approach is to stop using smokeless tobacco products. Pick a date to quit, cut back on your use before then, and stay tobacco-free for life.