Is chewing tobacco as harmful as smoking?â€¦
Chewing tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking, and is as harmful to health. But it is very difficult to give up. Just like cigarettes, chewing tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. In fact you get more nicotine from chewing tobacco
Full of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals
Chew tobacco is made of leafy tobacco with added sugar, flavourings and scents. But like cigarette tobacco, it also contains hundreds of different chemicals which are highly toxic to the body, including nicotine, formaldehyde (embalming fluid), polonium 210 (a radioactive chemical which is a type of nuclear waste) and many other cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). For example, one group of carcinogen known as nitrosamines are found in chew tobacco at levels hundreds of times higher than the maximum permitted for food.
The main health problems with chewing tobacco are:
Cancer: the risk of oral cancer (cancer of the mouth) is increased by as much as 5 times. Studies suggest there may also be an increased risk of cancer of the nose, trachea, oesophagus (gullet) and liver.
Gum problems: inflammation (gingivitis) and receding gums.
Damage to teeth: The risk of dental decay, especially on the root part of the tooth, is increased 4 fold, probably because chew tobacco has a high sugar content. This type of decay is more difficult to treat.
Heart disease: nicotine increases the heart rate, puts up blood pressure, changes levels of fat in the blood and may cause heart disease.
Risk to pregnant women. Chew tobacco may contain high levels of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium which could harm the unborn child.
Cancers can develop quite rapidly and spread very fast. Oral cancer can develop within 6-7 years, and can be very difficult to treat, requiring major surgery to remove parts of the head or neck.
Chewers should get regular dental checks
People who chew tobacco should make sure they have regular checks with their dentist (every 3 months) to keep an eye out for oral cancer. The earlier it is caught the greater the chance of cure. Early signs might include:
Mouth sores or ulcers which bleed easily and don't heal.
White patches or plaques inside the mouth.
A swelling, lump or thickening anywhere in the mouth or in your neck.
Problems with pain or stiffness when chewing, eating, swallowing or talking.
Even better, talk to your doctor about how to give up.