Smokeless tobacco—with snuff and chewing tobacco being the most popular forms— is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. While older men were once the primary users of these products, today young men and teenage boys make up 92 percent of smokeless tobacco consumers, according to an article in the Daily Herald.
Writing for the suburban Chicago newspaper, Pediatrician Helen Minciotti, pointed out several other facts, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, about these products and their usage.
- Smokeless tobacco use among high school boys is up from 11 percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2009.
- Smokeless tobacco users have an average start age of 12 years compared to 14 years for cigarette smoking.
- Smokeless tobacco contains 28 known carcinogens.
- Research shows that smokeless tobacco use causes oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancers, and has been linked to the development of precancerous white patches in the mouth (leukoplakia), gum disease and heart disease.
- Studies show that users of smokeless tobacco products have blood nicotine levels similar to cigarette smokers, and that these blood levels linger longer in smokeless users than in smokers.
“There is no safe tobacco product, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” the cancer institute states on its website.
For more information about drug and alcohol use by youth, see the resources from JJIE.
If you are concerned about your health, step away from the hookah. The belief that the ornate water pipes are far safer than cigarettes may be going up in smoke. Researchers found that the water in the hookah only filters 5 percent of the nicotine contained in the smoke.
Hookahs are gaining in popularity on college campuses across the country and the American Lung Association is making anti-hookah legislation a top priority.
“Teens and young adults are initiating tobacco use through these hookahs with the mistaken perception that the products are somehow safer or less harmful than cigarettes,” Paul G. Billings, a vice president of the American Lung Association, told the New York Times. “Clearly that’s not the case.”
The danger lies in how hookahs are smoked. Hookah sessions usually last about an hour as hoses attached to the pipe are passed around. In a typical session a smoker could inhale the equivalent of 100 cigarettes while also exposing themselves to tuberculosis and herpes through the communal hoses.
Cities are beginning to take notice, passing ordinances to limit the amount of new hookah bars opening and college campuses are rewriting anti-smoking rules to outlaw hookahs.
To fight the bans, pro-hookah organizations have sprung up on Facebook and former other interest groups.