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Smoking and Tobacco

Chewing Tobacco

11/03/2005

Question:

My boyfriend is 21 years old and has been chewing tobacco since he was a teenager. He has been gradually quitting for at least a couple years. He probobly chews 5 times a week, a total of maybe a tin a week. I`m worried about cancer risk, because I`ve read lots of stuff about how dangerous it is. But I`m not sure how high the risk is for him, since he is a reletively light user. He has no other symptoms- bad breath, bad teeth, the white patches in his mouth- he has perfect oral health. I hate that he does it, and would like to know how much tobacco you have to chew and for how long in order for it to be seriously bad for your health.

Answer:

It is important that you are concerned about the health of your boyfriend. It is not possible to say the specific health changes that will occur with a certain amount or length of tobacco use. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association calculated that smokeless tobacco users ". . . who use dip or chew 8-10 times a day might be exposed to the same amount of nicotine as people who smoke 30-40 cigarettes a day." The American Cancer Society reports that oral cancer occurs several times more frequently among snuff dippers compared with non-tobacco users, and the risk of cancer of the cheek and gums may increase nearly 50-fold among long-term snuff users.

Stopping spit tobacco use causes symptoms of nicotine withdrawal that are similar to those smokers get when they quit. There are some services available for persons seriously trying to quit tobacco use. Most states have some type of free telephone "Quitline," which links callers with trained counselors who can help plan a quit method that fits each person's unique pattern of tobacco use. With guidance from a counselor, quitters can avoid common mistakes that may hurt a quit attempt. Tobacco users can get help finding a Quitline in their area by calling ACS at 1-800-ACS-2345.

In addition, the mission of the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) is to prevent people from starting to use tobacco and to help users to quit. NSTEP offers information and materials on spit tobacco use, prevention, and cessation. Their website is http://www.nstep.org.

It is important to let one's family and friends know that you will be supportive in their tobacco use quit attempts and that you want them to stay healthy.

For more information:

Go to the Smoking and Tobacco health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor Emeritus
College of Public Health
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University